Dune (1984) - Illustrated Reference

Dune book cover - art by Bruce Pennington
Dune book cover - art by Bruce Pennington
Director David Lynch with author Frank Herbert
Director David Lynch with author Frank Herbert

Dune was directed by David Lynch and premiered on 14th December 1984. Starring Kyle Maclachlan, Francesca Annis, Jurgen Prochnow, Max Von Sydow, Sean Young, Everett McGill, Patrick Stewart, Freddie Jones, Dean Stockwell, Richard Jordan, Sian Phillips, Jose Ferrer, Virginia Madsen, Kenneth McMillan, Paul Smith, Sting, Brad Dourif, Jack Nance, Linda Hunt and Alicia Witt. Screenplay by David Lynch, based on the novel by Frank Herbert. Music by Toto. 137mins (177mins)

Science Fiction author Frank Herbert (1920-1986) wrote Dune in 1965, it won Hugo and Nebula Awards for best novel of the year. One of the most acclaimed sci-fi novels Dune has sold over 12 million copies making it the biggest selling science fiction novel of all time.

Frank Herbert wrote 5 sequels to Dune before his death in 1986 – Dune Messiah (1969), Children of Dune (1976), God Emperor of Dune (1981), Heretics of Dune (1984) and Chapterhouse: Dune (1985).

Planet of the Apes producer Arthur P. Jacobs first optioned the rights to film Dune in 1973 and died before the project got started, a French company picked up the rights in 1974 and asked Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky if he was interested in filming it, he was enthusiastic and started pre-production on the film.

But after spending nearly $10m on pre-production the project was cancelled due to financial problems, and the script by that stage would have resulted in a 14 hour movie -- “it was the size of a phonebook” according to Herbert.

Kyle MacLachlan
Kyle MacLachlan
David Lynch with Raffaella De Laurentiis
David Lynch with Raffaella De Laurentiis
Sean Young with Kyle MacLachlan
Sean Young with Kyle MacLachlan
Kenneth McMillan
Kenneth McMillan
Francesca Annis with Kyle MacLachlan
Francesca Annis with Kyle MacLachlan
Thufir's Death
Thufir's Death
Sean Young with Kyle MacLachlan
Sean Young with Kyle MacLachlan
Sting
Sting
Patrick Stewart, Kyle MacLachaln and Dean Stockwell
Patrick Stewart, Kyle MacLachaln and Dean Stockwell
Dune Concept Art
Dune Concept Art
Kyle MacLachlan with David Lynch
Kyle MacLachlan with David Lynch

Paul: Some thoughts have a certain sound, that being the equivalent to a form. Through sound and motion you will be able to paralyze nerves, shatter bones, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs. We will kill until no Harkonnen breathes Arakeen air.

Kyle MacLachlan (1959-) / Paul Atreides

Born in Yakima, Washington, Kyle MacLachlan’s films include – Blue Velvet (1986), The Hidden (1987), The Doors (1991), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), The Flintstones (1994), Showgirls (1995), Hamlet (2000), Timecode (2000) and The Smell of Success (2009). TV series – Twin Peaks (1990-1991), Desperate Housewives (2006-2012).

Francesca Annis (1945-) / Lady Jessica

Born in London, England, Francesca Annis films include – Cleopatra (1963), Macbeth (1971), Krull (1983) and Revolver (2005).

Duke Leto Atreides: Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.

Jurgen Prochnow (1941-) / Duke Leto Atreides

Born in Berlin, Germany, Jurgen Prochnow’s films include – Das Boot (1981), The Keep (1983), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), The Seventh Sign (1988), The Fourth War (1990), Body of Evidence (1993), In the Mouth of Madness (1994), Judge Dredd (1995), The English Patient (1996), Air Force One (1997), The Replacement Killers (1998), Wing Commander (1999) and The Da Vinci Code (2006).

Max Von Sydow (1929-) / Dr. Kynes

Born in Lund, Sweden, Max von Sydow’s films include – The Seventh Seal (1957), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965 as Jesus), The Exorcist (1973 as Father Merrin), Three Days of the Condor (1975), Flash Gordon (1980 as Ming the Merciless), Victory (1981), Conan the Barbarian (1982), Never Say Never Again (1983 as Blofeld), Dreamscape (1984), Needful Things (1993), Judge Dredd (1995), Minority Report (2002), Shutter Island (2010), Robin Hood (2010) and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011).

Chani: Tell me of your homeworld, Usul.

Sean Young (1959-) / Chani

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Sean Young’s films include – Stripes (1981), Young Doctors in Love (1982), Blade Runner (1982), No Way Out (1987), Wall Street (1987), Fire Birds (1990), A Kiss Before Dying (1991), Love Crimes (1992), Fatal Instinct (1993), Ace Ventura Pet Detective (1994), Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde (1995) and The Man Who Came Back (1998).

Paul: Stilgar, do we have wormsign?
Stilgar: Usul, we have wormsign the likes of which even God has never seen.

Everett McGill (1945-) / Stilgar

Born in Miami Beach, Florida, Everett McGill’s films include – Brubaker (1980), Quest for Fire (1981), Silver Bullet (1985), Heartbreak Ridge (1986), Licence to Kill (1989), The People Under the Stairs (1991), Under Siege 2 (1995) and The Straight Story (1999). TV series – Twin Peaks (1990-1991).

Patrick Stewart (1940-) / Gurney Halleck

Born in Yorkshire, England, Patrick Stewart’s films include - Excalibur (1981), Lifeforce (1985), The Doctor and the Devils (1985), Star Trek Generations (1994), Star Trek First Contact (1996), Conspiracy Theory (1997), Star Trek Insurrection (1998), Moby Dick (1998), The Prince of Egypt (1998), A Christmas Carol (1999), X-Men (2000), Star Trek Nemesis (2002), X-Men 2 (2003), The Lion in Winter (2003) and X-Men 3 (2006).

Freddie Jones (1927-) / Thufir Hawat

Born in Staffordshire, England, Freddie Jones films include – Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1969), Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973), The Elephant Man (1980), Firefox (1982), Krull (1983), Firestarter (1984), Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), Erik the Viking (1989), Wild at Heart (1990) and The Count of Monte Cristo (2002).

Dean Stockwell (1936-) / Dr. Wellington Yueh

Born in Hollywood, California, Dean Stockwell’s films include – Anchors Aweigh (1945), Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), Kim (1950), Sons and Lovers (1960), The Dunwich Horror (1970), The Werewolf of Washington (1973), Paris, Texas (1984), To Live and Die in LA (1985), Blue Velvet (1986), Beverly Hills Cop II (1987), Tucker: The Man and his Dreams (1988), Married to the Mob (1988), Catchfire (1990), Air Force One (1997), The Rainmaker (1997) and The Manchurian Candidate (2004). TV series – Quantum Leap (1989-1993).

Richard Jordan (1937-1993) / Duncan Idaho

Born in New York City, Richard Jordan’s films include – Lawman (1971), Chato’s Land (1972), The Yakuza (1974), Logan’s Run (1976), Raise the Titanic (1980), The Secret of my Success (1987), The Hunt for Red October (1990) and Gettysburg (1993).

Jose Ferrer (1912-1992) / Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV

Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Jose Ferrer’s films include – Joan of Arc (1948), Cyrano de Bergerac (1950), Moulin Rouge (1952), The Caine Mutiny (1954), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Ship of Fools (1965), The Big Brawl (1980), To Be or Not to Be (1983) and The Evil That Men Do (1984).

Virginia Madsen (1961-) / Princess Irulan

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Virginia Madsen is the sister of Michael Madsen, her films include – Electric Dreams (1984), Creator (1985), Mr. North (1988), The Hot Spot (1990), Highlander II The Quickening (1991), Candyman (1992), The Prophecy (1995), The Rainmaker (1997), The Haunting (1999), Sideways (2004), Firewall (2006) and The Haunting in Connecticut (2009).

Baron Harkonnen: I will have Arrakis back for myself! He who controls the Spice controls the universe and what Piter did not tell you is we have control of someone who is very close, very close, to Duke Leto! This person, this traitor, will be worth more to us than ten legions of Sardaukar!
Feyd-Rautha: And who is this, traitor?
Baron Harkonnen: I won't tell you who the traitor is, or when we'll attack. However, the Duke will die before these eyes and he'll know, he'll know, that it is I, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, who encompasses his doom!

Kenneth McMillan (1932-1989) / Baron Vladimir Harkonnen

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Kenneth McMillan’s films include – The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Borderline (1980), Ragtime (1981), Cat’s Eye (1985), Runaway Train (1985) and Three Fugitives (1989).

Paul Smith (1939-) / The Beast Rabban

Born in Everett, Massachusetts, Paul Smith’s films include – Midnight Express (1978), Popeye (1980 as Bluto), Red Sonja (1985), Crimewave (1985), Haunted Honeymoon (1986) and Maverick (1994).

Piter De Vries: It is by will alone I set my mind in motion. It is by the juice of Sapho that thoughts acquire speed, the lips acquire stains, stains become a warning. It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.

Brad Dourif (1950) / Piter De Vries

Born in Huntington, West Virginia, Brad Dourif's films include - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978), Blue Velvet (1986), Child's Play (1988), Mississippi Burning (1988), The Exorcist III (1990), Color of Night (1994), Alien Resurrection (1997), Lord of the Rings II The Two Towers (2002 as Grima Wormtongue) and Halloween (2007).

Sting (1951-) / Feyd Rautha

Born in Newcastle, England, Sting’s films include - Quadrophenia (1979), Brimstone & Treacle (1982), The Bride (1985 as Dr.Frankenstein), Julia and Julia (1987) and Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels (1998).

Alia: And how can this be? For he is the Kwisatz Haderach!

Alicia Witt (1975-) / Alia

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Alica Witt's films include - Mr. Holland's Opus (1995), Urban Legend (1998), Cecil B. DeMented (2000), Vanilla Sky (2001), Two Weeks Notice (2002) and 88 Minutes (2007).

"The beginning is a very delicate time. Know then that it is the year 10191. The Known Universe is ruled by the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, my father. In this time, the most precious substance in the universe is the spice Melange.

The spice extends life. The spice expands consciousness. The spice is vital to space travel. The Spacing Guild and its navigators, who the spice has mutated over 4,000 years, use the orange spice gas, which gives them the ability to fold space. That is, travel to any part of universe without moving.

Oh, yes. I forgot to tell you — the spice exists on only one planet in the entire universe. A desolate, dry planet with vast deserts. Hidden away within the rocks of these deserts are a people known as the Fremen, who have long held a prophecy that a man would come, a messiah who would lead them to true freedom. The planet is Arrakis, also known as Dune.

- Opening Introduction -

Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis bought the rights to Dune in 1978 and hired Ridley Scott to direct. After much planning Scott realised it would take years to finish the film and walked away from the project.

After seeing The Elephant Man Dino’s daughter Raffaella De Laurentiis suggested David Lynch as director of Dune. Lynch accepted the job turning down an offer from George Lucas to direct Return of the Jedi.

David Lynch (1946-) worked on the film for 3 years, writing the screenplay as well as directing. Raffaella De Laurentiis was producer.

Dune was filmed at Churubusco Studios in Mexico City, 80 sets were built, 200 workers spent months clearing miles of Mexican desert for location shooting. The production crew numbered 1,700.

Filming began on 30 March 1983 and finished on 27 January 1984.

Michelle Pfeiffer was considered for the role of Princess Irulan.

John Hurt was considered for Dr. Yueh.

David Lynch has a cameo as a radio operator in the scene where Duke Leto and Paul rescue spice miners from an approaching sandworm.

Lynch had intended the film to be about 3 hours long but Universal studios demanded a cut of around 2 hours to maximise cinema showings. The film was cut down to 137mins and many scenes, some important, were removed.

Preview audiences were confused by the film and new scenes were filmed to clarify plot developments, an opening introduction by Virginia Madsen was added and voice over narration was included where necessary.

A 3-hour extended cut of Dune was prepared for American TV without David Lynch’s participation, he disowned this version taking his name of the credits and the pseudonym Alan Smithee was used.

In the extended version Patrick Stewart as Gurney Halleck is seen playing a musical instrument, the baliset, this is a customised version of a real instrument called a Chapman Stick created in the early 70’s by Emmett Chapman.

Thufir Hawat’s death was filmed but edited out of the theatrical version and not included in the extended version either. It can be seen as a deleted scene on the DVD.

American rock group Toto composed the music for Dune, one of the best soundtracks of 1984. It was their first and only film score. One of the tracks – Prophecy theme – was composed by English musician Brian Eno.

Dune received one Oscar nomination, for Best Sound.

Dune was nominated for 4 Saturn awards – Best Science Fiction Film, Best Make-Up, Best Special Effects and winning for Best Costumes.

Dune cost $40m and grossed $30.9m in North America, the numbers for worldwide grosses unavailable.

Two sequels were planned for the film presumably based on Frank Herbert’s Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, but when the film failed to ignite at the box office hopes for sequels were dashed.

Despite being a financial flop Dune is still David Lynch’s biggest grossing film to date. His second biggest hit is The Elephant Man (1980) which was nominated for Best Picture and Best Director.

Dune was adapted as a TV mini-series in 2000 premiering on the Sci-fi Channel, directed by John Harrison and starring William Hurt as Duke Leto, Alec Newman as Paul Atreides, Saskia Reeves as the Lady Jessica, Julie Cox as Princess Irulan and Ian McNeice played the floating fat man Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.

A sequel to the mini-series appeared in 2003 – Children of Dune – also directed by John Harrison, it was one of the highest rated programs shown on the Sci-fi Channel. James McAvoy starred as the son of Paul Atreides.

While most critics hated the 1984 film Dune author Frank Herbert reacted more positively saying "It begins as Dune begins, it ends as Dune ends and I hear my dialogue throughout. How much more could a writer want? Even though I have quibbles – I would've loved to have had David Lynch realize the banquet scene – do I like it? I do. I like it very much.”


The Critics Wrote –

"Dune is a huge, hollow, imaginative and cold sci-fi epic. Visually unique and teeming with incident, David Lynch's film holds the interest due to its abundant surface attractions but won't, of its own accord, create the sort of fanaticism which has made Frank Herbert's 1965 novel one of the all-time favorites in its genre." (Variety)

"Several of the characters in ''Dune'' are psychic, which puts them in the unique position of being able to understand what goes on in the movie. The plot of ''Dune'' is perilously overloaded, as is virtually everything else about it. As the first king-sized, Italian-produced science-fiction epic, ''Dune'' is an ornate affair, awash in the kind of marble, mosaics, wood paneling, leather tufting and gilt trim more suitable to moguls' offices than to far-flung planets in the year 10,191." (Janet Maslin, New York Times)

"A gorgeous intergalactic pantomime." (Daily Express)

"An almost mythic, semi-religious fable with a true sense of grandeur, the like of which the screen has not felt since the heady days of The Ten Commandments, Spartacus, and Ben-Hur, an epic in the true sense. The cast is immaculate Lynch tells his tale with a born romantic's sense of the epic." (Films & Filming)

"Even if the plot has a serpentine complexity, the visual impact of David Lynch's direction is never less than dazzling." (Evening Standard)

"it's physically ugly, it contains at least a dozen gory gross-out scenes, some of its special effects are cheap, surprisingly cheap because this film cost a reported $40-45 million and its story is confusing beyond belief. In case I haven't made myself clear, I hated watching this film." (Gene Siskel)

"A real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time." (Roger Ebert)

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Comments 10 comments

Sarah Christina profile image

Sarah Christina 4 years ago from Fresno, CA

I haven't watched Dune in years, but I remember liking it a lot when I was young. It was unlike anything I had ever seen, and had a very different "feel" to it than other films. Plus, I have always been a big fan of sci-fiction, something that my mom fostered in me. I remember her telling me that she went to see it when it first came out in theater and that it was a very big event. She told me that when you arrived at the theater, they handed out pamphlets for the audience to read--back story for the movie that explained all the history. My mom, having always been a big fan of sci-fiction, was very impressed. The story was deep, complex and had very original elements, in her opinion. She said it was one of the best movie-viewing moments she had ever experienced.


cabmgmnt profile image

cabmgmnt 4 years ago from Northfield, MA

My favorite book of all time. I love to watch the movie and think about how wonderfully they captured certain scenes from the book. Blue eyes from the spice, the Fremen, amazing stuff! Nice hub.Thanks.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Sarah, Corey, thank you both for commenting on my Dune hub, much appreciated.

Along with Arthur C. Clarke's Childhoods End and Isaac Asimov's Foundation series, Frank Herbert's Dune was a big favourite of mine in my youth. I must have read it at least a half dozen times. My initial reaction to the film was disappointment, the book was 500 pages thick the film was 137mins, a lot was missing. But on subsequent viewings I became a huge fan of the film and have watched it many times. The extended version is definitely worth a look.

Thanks for posting.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Excellent job and very informative. Somehow I have managed to not see this movie in the 28 years it has been available for viewing. I have seen bits and pieces of it on HBO back in the 1980s...but it was not a movie you could easily figure out what was going on...when you start in the middle.

But reading your hub has me very interested in watching the movie....I did not realize that Patrick Stewart was in the movie....and it is good to see Kyle M. and Dean Stockwell in a movie before they made the great Blue Velvet...also with the same director.

Awesome photos as usual....was the tv movie a good companion piece to this movie? Voted up and across the board.

You have a "This does not appear to be a valid RSS feed." near the bottom of your hub...just in case you wanted.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 4 years ago from London, England Author

Hello Bruce, thanks for commenting amigo.

Hmmm that RSS feed problem has happened before, the word 'hot' is the problem, I replaced it with 'best' and it should be showing now. My other 'hot' feeds will be affected to. I have to stay away from hot feeds from now on, only cold feeds. :)

Thanks for letting me know.

Dune is not an easy film to watch, I know people who don't like it and people who like it and haven't got a clue what is happening in the film.

I was lucky in that I had read the novel and knew all the characters and what they were up to.

It's David Lynch's least favourite of his films and refuses to discuss the film. Universal have begged him to go back to the film and produce a directors cut but he refuses. But we have the imperfect extended cut which is fascinating for us fans.

I liked the TV mini series too, I have them on DVD. Thanks to the length of the series more of the story gets fleshed out. But the production values are low and you can tell its all filmed on a couple of sound stages.

The 1984 movie is worth a watch Bruce just to see all those actors together in one movie, a sort of Lawrence of Arabia in space.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

As always your hub is comprehensive and interesting. You include so much it really takes two readings to take it all in. Your photos are a great addition as well.

I do have to say I think I need to see it again. I loved the book (read all of them) but just couldn't say the same about the movie. Maybe if I see it a second time I will appreciate it more.

Voted up, useful, and interesting. Great hub and review!


reidmorgan201 3 years ago

Thanks for this article and for the beautiful large photos. I love the film's visuals - the set design, costumes, and cinematography are all stunning. They are captivating to watch even if you are not familiar with, or even dislike, the story. While the novel uses the characters more to explore political and social themes, I love the 1984 film because it focuses on the heroes' journey of the protagonists. Its an epic and inspiring movie, and I was happy to read that Herbert himself enjoyed it.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks reidmorgan201, appreciate the comment. I'm a big fan of the movie Dune as you can tell. And it's one of my top favourite sci-fi novels, up there with Clarke's Childhood's End and Asimov's Foundation series.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 3 years ago from Virginia

I finally watched Dune from start to finish tonight. About 7 months after I read your hub the first time. I think I saw scene many scenes back in the 1980s when it seemed to play on HBO all the time....but it never made much sense to me when I only caught certain scenes.

I would say it is aging much better than Flash Gordon which was roughly made around the same time period. I read on IMDB that David Lynch is still to this day will not talk about the production history of this movie....which is very sad to spend that much time(3 years of his life) and have such bitter feelings.

I liked Patrick Stewart's part....reminded me of his role in Excalibur....Sting seemed out of place....I think he did his silly smile more times than actually spoke.

I watched it on regular DVD....thinking it might be worth a look to see it on Blu-Ray. Found your hub very informative especially after finally watching the movie. Voted up and across the board again.


Steve Lensman profile image

Steve Lensman 3 years ago from London, England Author

Thanks for commenting Bruce, I'm glad you finally got the chance to see the film. There's a longer 3 hour version which adds in more detail though some of the violence was taken out. I have several fan edits of the film which include every bit of footage, good bad and fuzzy, edited into it.

I was a huge fan of the novel which might explain why I like the film so much, and I thought it had an incredible cast.

Looking at the hub, my screenshots no longer fit well with the text because the margins between images has been reduced by HP. Not worth fixing it because it may change again.

Thanks for posting!

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