"The best movie never made"? This compelling 2013 documentary by Frank Pavich recounts the sad tale of Alejandro Jodorowsky's Dune, a failed production that swung for the fences before Dino di Laurentiis and David Lynch picked up the pieces. Jodorowsky, previously known for outlandish fare like Fando y Lis, El Topo and The Holy Mountain, seemed like a fascinating candidate to adapt Frank Herbert's 1965 sci-fi novel for the big screen. The success of Jodorowsky's earlier films led to financial backing for whatever the director wanted. It was 1975, and he wanted Dune.
Sure, Jodorowsky hadn't exactly read the book before agreeing to adapt it, but such trivial roadblocks didn't slow down the director's tireless attempts to bring Dune to the big screen. During the next several months, Jodorowsky surrounded himself with those he believed fit his "spiritual vision", forming something of a cult in the process. French artist Jean "Moebius" Giraud was brought in for storyboards. British sci-fi cover artist Chris Foss handled character designs and illustrations. Dan O'Bannon, later known for his screenwriting work on Alien, sold most of his possessions and moved overseas to work on special effects. H.R. Giger, another future Alien contributor, provided additional artwork and designs. Music groups including Pink Floyd, Tangerine Dream and Magma were approached to compose the film's soundtrack. Celebrities and other public figures like Salvador Dali, David Carradine, Orson Welles, and Mick Jagger were even propositioned for acting roles.
In most cases, Jodorowsky's encounters with his "dream team" progressed through pure luck or dogged persuasion: whether enabling Welles' king-sized eating habits or whittling down Dali's outrageous salary demands ($100,000 per hour, which was eventually changed to $100K per minute of screen time), roping in this motley crew of past, present and future standouts was no easy task. Predictably, Jodorowsky's devil-may-care approach to pre-production ate away at the film's proposed $9M budget long before the cameras (never) rolled. Massive, custom-made books filled with storyboards, character designs and other ideas were created for pitch meetings and left as souvenirs (one per studio, including Disney and Warner Bros.). The end result was always the same: "Nice book, but we're not interested."
Soon enough, Jodorowsky's pet project went belly-up. His loyal team scattered, undoubtedly planting the seeds that influenced later films like Star Wars, Alien, Flash Gordon
, and countless others. Many of them return for this feature-length documentary including Giger, Foss, producers Michel Seydoux and Jean-Paul Gibon, Christian Vander (of Magma), Dan O'Bannon's widow Diane, and stunt coordinator Jean-Pierre Vignau. Jodorowsky's son Brontis (featured in several of his films, including El Topo
) even recounts the rigorous two-year training he received for his physically demanding role. Together with the passionate and charismatic director (a vibrant 84, at the the time of filming), they detail the ups and downs of this doomed project's chaotic inception and pre-production; soon enough, it's easy to see why everything crumbled under its own weight. The easy answer is that Hollywood wasn't ready for it, but Jodorowsky's refusal to compromise is ultimately what killed his vision of Dune
Doubling as an inspirational and cautionary tale for young dreamers, Jodorowsky's Dune debuts as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Sony Pictures. New and returning viewers are treated to a predictably strong A/V presentation, but the relative lack of bonus features doesn't exactly soften this release's hefty price tag. Regardless, it's an accessible film and entirely worth watching, even if you're completely new to Jodorowsky, Dune, or both.
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, Jodorowsky's Dune looks quite good from start to finish. This 1080p transfer appears to replicate the intended color palette quite nicely; talking head interviews and the like are unfiltered and natural, while other portions of this documentary careen wildly in different directions. Image detail is relatively strong on this digitally shot production, while the tasteful storyboard animations and other samples of production material have been presented in an attractive, eye-catching manner. Thankfully, no obvious digital manipulation or compression issues hinder the presentation, letting us soak in all the bizarre visuals with minimal distraction. The accompanying DVD does what it can with the source material, but it's undoubtedly destined to be a "loaner copy".
DISCLAIMER: The promotional images featured in this review are strictly decorative and do not represent Blu-ray's native 1080p resolution.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix is clean, crisp and obviously front-loaded during interview segments, although the rear channels are used for added effects and infrequent music cues. Jodorowsky and other participants often switch between English and other languages (sometimes mid-sentence); to compensate, forced English subtitles occasionally appear on-screen. Full English (SDH) and French subtitles are also offered during the entire film...but no Spanish?
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
The menu interface is smartly designed, though several trailers, warning screens and a freakin' Sony commercial must be dealt with beforehand. This one-disc release arrives in a standard keepcase; no slipcover or inserts are included.
Less than you'd think (especially considering the price), and the dearth of additional art/storyboard samples is disappointing. Yet most fans will enjoy the wealth of Deleted Scenes (9 clips, 46:24 total), as any opportunity to hear Jodorowsky and company is time well spent. Presented in 1080p with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (and forced subtitles, for translation purposes only), these deleted scenes include "A Nice Killing", "Costumes of Dune", "Frank Herbert's Novel", "Jodorowsky/Seydoux Reunited", "Dune's Length", "Jodorowsky on Hollywood", "Jodorowsky's Film Philosophy", "Seydoux on Dino De Laurentiis", and "The Conception of Alia", a short storyboard animatic. These are all certainly worth a look and, in some cases, actually warrant that annoying studio "Interview/Commentary" disclaimer.
Aside from that, we only get the Theatrical Trailer (2:03), which is the only weak part of this otherwise perfectly well-rounded release. It's not a deal-breaker by any means, but I wouldn't blame anyone who waited for a price drop.
We may never see a feature-length version of Jodorowsky's Dune, but this whirlwind account of its initial failure might just be the next best thing. Featuring plenty of face time with the director and other participants including artists Chris Foss and H.R. Giger (as well as a collection of designs, sketches, and storyboards), Jodorowsky's Dune plays like some of the best behind-the-scenes documentaries you've seen on DVD and Blu-ray over the years. Sony's A/V presentation, as expected, will not disappoint either. But with a total running time (extras included) of less than 2.5 hours, it's still a tough sell with the inflated price tag. Either way, this is documentary filmmaking at its finest and I'd imagine that most any fan of Jodorowsky, Dune or vintage sci-fi will enjoy every minute. Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs and writing in third person.