Alejandro Jodorowsky’s films can sometimes leave you with the impression that you still weren’t quite the same as you were before watching it. Creative, colorful, sometimes confounding, but never boring. El Topo is considered to be the movie that started the midnight movie phenomenon, with underground films playing late nights and creating their own cult followings by nothing more than enthusiastic word of mouth.
So imagine my surprise and insatiable curiosity a few years ago at discovering that he almost made a theatrical version of Dune — in 1975. Two years before Star Wars changed the game for science fiction movies, and this Dune truly could have been the first game changer, in more ways than one.
Jodorowsky had lined up an impressive array of talent, brought together for two years to put together what would have been the blueprint for making the movie — Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, Salvador Dali, David Carradine, Dan O’Bannon, H. R. Giger, Chris Foss, Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Pink Floyd. Outlining the scifi projects many of these talents would work on in the future, taking with them what they learned and experienced in putting together a Dune products, is impressive.
The movie is interspersed with interview clips with Jodorowsky, his producer Michel Seydoux, director Nicholas Winding Refn, Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz, Giger, Foss, Diane O’Bannon (Dan O’Bannon’s wife), and contains new animations by Syd Garon from some of the sketches and storyboards of how some scenes might have looked on film.
This documentary is fascinating, both in exploring this labor of love, the lengths that everyone involved in preparing to make this movie went through before the project was finally shut down, and in trying to imagine what Jodorowsky’s particular vision for this scifi classic would have looked like on the big screen 40 years ago. Even the glimpses into the “book” for the production are amazing. Full of sketches and designs by Moebius & Giger, illustrations by Foss, over 3000 storyboards, costume designs, the depth of detail put into preparing to make this movie helps define the scope and scale Jodorowsky was aiming for, and even adds to the confusion felt by many of those who came together to build it when no studio would consider going ahead with the movie.
I am curious to know if there were any commentary or opinions from Frank Herbert, if there were any at the time. He was still alive in 1975, and I would have enjoyed finding out what he thought of that version of the project as it progressed, how much he knew and what his thoughts on it might have been. Even a comment from his son Brian Herbert on what he knew or remembered from then might have provided some fascinating viewpoints and insights.
Still, I think every scifi fan with a taste for documentaries, or an interest in Dune, or in the extensive challenges of making a movie on an epic scale will enjoy this film. Filmmaker Frank Pavich has brought to light the story behind “The Greatest Movie Never Made”, and scifi fans who’ve seen this happen time and again to other stories near and dear to their hearts will enjoy this story behind the saga.
Jodorowsky’s Dune opens in theaters April 11th.