D is for… DUNE. In some other alternate universe, DUNE would turn out to be a triumph. Originally it was set to be Ridley Scott’s next film following the remarkable ALIEN, but while Scott was deep in pre-production on DUNE with a lengthy schedule ahead prior to production, Scott’s older brother Frank died. Shaken by the loss of his brother, Scott wanted to get busy filming as soon as possible, so departed the project to work on BLADE RUNNER instead (his loss informing BLADE RUNNER’s themes of defined lifespans, death and mortality), So the tragedy gave us an undisputed classic and my favourite movie. But it’s so tantalising to imagine what might have been, had DUNE had that wonderful legend on the opening credits ‘A Film By Ridley Scott’, back when he was in his prime. Its the kind of movie you can only dream of. Ah, DUNE, how you frustrate.
DUNE seems to be a project surrounded by such what-ifs and maybes. Years before, Alejandro Jodorowsky had planned to make DUNE in the early 1970s, with designs by Chris Foss and H R Giger that even today offer tantalising possibilities, but back then were surely unfilmable. Its considered to be one of the great unmade movies (I think someone has even made a documentary about it), The soundtrack was apparently going to be done by Pink Floyd (curiously, similar thinking along such lines would result in the odd decision to hire TOTO to create the soundtrack of the final film). The collapse of the Jodorowsky project would lead to Foss and Giger being hired to work on ALIEN resulting in much of the unique ‘look’ of that classic Ridley Scott film.
Frank Herbert’s novel remains one of my favourite books, and I am certain that one day DUNE might be a perfect, wonderful epic, were it made under the right conditions (either 3-hour plus or ideally two films shot back to back). But I also think that maybe DUNE had its shot and failed, but at least it gave us two great Ridley Scott movies.