Archive for the ‘1980s films’ Tag

Thief (1981)   4 comments

thief

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

 Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, (1624) by John Donne

Frank (James Caan) works alone.  He and his partner, Barry (James Belushi) case the joints, research the electronics, have the proper equipment made, and pick up the ice themselves.  They’re professional, sharp, and technically adept.  They’re also thieves. After each robbery, Frank assesses the worth of the stolen diamonds and negotiates with a fence for a percentage of the street value.  It’s a tidy operation.  Frank funnels his end into a car dealership, a bar, and other businesses.  Frank and Barry keep a low-key profile. Neither is flamboyant, violent, or prone to criminal outbursts.  It’s the ideal set-up for a guy who likes control.

caan

All these successful, high-end heists attract the attention of Leo (Robert Prosky), a crime boss with connections.  At first, Frank declines Leo’s offer to work for him.  Frank likes running the show.  Leo’s offer to provide Frank with organized jobs, equipment, and backing proves too tempting though and Frank throws in with the syndicate.  The avuncular Leo charms Frank, who lives a solitary life, but longs for something more.  Frank’s desire to have a family and join the human race allow him to make moves that will connect him to people.  For a man who understands the power that caring about nothing provides, these actions are risky.  When Leo’s true nature comes to light, Frank has to decide how to extricate himself from his problems.

pro
“Let’s do it to them before they do it to us.”  Oops, wrong show.

The underdog concept has always made entertaining films, but in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, the lone man fighting the system became a genre.  Somewhere along the line, the establishment changed from comforting father figure to micromanaging bureaucrat and often the little guy got stomped on.  LONELY ARE THE BRAVE shows Kirk Douglas tilting at windmills he doesn’t understand just because he won’t live the way everyone else does.  In BULLITT, Steve McQueen solves crimes his way, even if he has to butt heads with crafty superiors like Robert Vaughn.  In the most obvious comparison, CHARLEY VARRICK stars Walter Matthau as “the last of the independents”.  He’s a crop duster and amateur bank robber who has to improvise to escape the wrath of the mob.  Again, like Gary Cooper’s Will Kane, Jack Nicholson’s R.P. McMurphy, and James Caan’s Frank, Varrick has the odds against him and only his wits on his side.  THE CONVERSATION, THE DRIVER, SERPICO, and the futuristic ROLLERBALL pit loners against criminals, police, entrenched corruption, and even John Houseman’s corporation simply because they want to live life on their own terms.  Sean Connery even does his best lone wolf as a sheriff on one of Jupiter’s moons in OUTLAND, the HIGH NOON of space movies.

out1
Sean on Jupiter

Despite the fact that THIEF leans on often-used themes, its take on the independent man breaks ground with the main character.  Frank isn’t a cuddly guy, but he’s sharp and driven and a straight-shooter.  As odd as it sounds, he’s honest.  As an honest thief, he expects others to be square with him.  When they’re not, Frank’s anger is palpable.  He doesn’t lose control. Instead, he’s strong and menacing at times.  In one of the best parts of the film, Frank is underpaid for a job and demands the rest of his cut. “My money in 24 hours or you will wear your ass for a hat.”  James Caan revels in this role.

jam
“Quit calling me Sonny.”

Michael Mann directed, wrote the screenplay, and executive produced THIEF, his first theatrically released film.  The slick, stylized look later became a Mann trademark in the MIAMI VICE and CRIME STORY series and in films like MANHUNTER and HEAT.  More than a simple action film, THIEF touches on larger themes of the connectedness of society and to what lengths a man will go to remain free.  THIEF looks great too.  Much of the film takes place at night, but director of photography Donald Thorin makes it work and the action and nearly wordless heist scenes are choreographed meticulously often with the music of Tangerine Dream adding texture.

th

Not quite a nihilist, Frank believes in nothing but himself and his own abilities.  When he gets to that point, he knows no one can touch him.  He knows he’s free.

fire

This piece appeared originally in the Brattle Film Notes.  Here’s the link.  THIEF  The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts shows an odd assortment of classic, cult, independent, and foreign films in its cozy Harvard Square theatre.  If you’re ever in the Boston area, you owe it to yourself to drop in for a film.  It’s a lovely place.

Advertisements

The Road Warrior or Mad Max and Lord Byron Walk into a Bar…   2 comments

max-and-dog-huddle-on-the-lookout

“I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air”

From the poem, “Darkness” by Lord Byron (1-5).

A world war devastates the earth and reduces the people to their basest selves.  They loot and riot and kill leaving only nomadic scavengers traveling alone or in packs.  Those who thrive on chaos, have a chance.  Lord Byron’s poem speaks of darkness.  The blinding, incessant sun of Australia’s desert belies a darkness of a different sort that has descended on those left alive after the firestorm.  As the narrator says at the beginning of the film, “Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive.”

“And they did live by watchfires—and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings—the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consum’d”

From the poem, “Darkness” (10-13).

In the film, civilization and order fall apart in the aftermath of war.  There are no cities.  Max (Mel Gibson) drives endlessly through the vast Australian desert searching for food, water, and gasoline.  Gas, necessary for the modern Bedouin lifestyle, now holds more value than diamonds or gold.  Without it, there’s no relief from the harsh climate.  Without fuel, to paraphrase the narrator at the start of the film, they’re nothing.  On foot, a man could fall prey to the sun, starvation, or animals, often the two-legged kind.

“the wild birds shriek’d
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl’d
And twin’d themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless—they were slain for food.”

From the poem, “Darkness” (32-37).

With so many souls living only to find food and fuel, the world, in this case, the Australian bush, becomes a mechanized LORD OF THE FLIES, in which everyone else is Piggy.  What keeps THE ROAD WARRIOR from becoming a series of car crashes and bloody melees is the humanity director and co-writer George Miller allows to seep through the twisted wreckage.

THE ROAD WARRIOR has great action sequences which must have kept every Australian stunt man employed for months.  The film has convincingly evil villains who deserve their violent ends, but it’s the virtue in many of the other characters that we remember.  THE ROAD WARRIOR is not just relentless, pounding action with occasional bon mots.  All right, it is relentless, pounding action without many mots at all, bon or otherwise.  Miller doesn’t need them.  He lets us know the characters using minimal dialogue and screen time.  He even allows the bad guys to have some depth before killing them off in spectacular ways.  Because we’ve met these people, we’re drawn into their world.  Their lives matter to us.  In the midst of this chaotic, desolate scenario, we care about a feral child, a quirky pilot in need of dental work, and a fiercely loyal mongrel dog.

“The meagre by the meagre were devour’d,
Even dogs assail’d their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish’d men at bay”

From the poem, “Darkness” (45-49).

Why do we care?  George Miller, along with fellow writers Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant, shows us little glimpses of goodness in his bleak version of the future.  He demonstrates this goodness using a musical toy and a child, an expression of horror while witnessing a senseless murder, a dog’s loyalty, and a leader who keeps his word.

Oddly, that decency in the face of tragedy brought to mind another film about desperate people on a road trip from hell.  As I watched Mohawk-sporting cretins in assless chaps run amok in the Australian desert, I thought of THE GRAPES OF WRATH.  Yes, I mean John Ford’s sweeping chronicle of the Joad family’s trek from their Oklahoma farm to the promised land of California.  The film shows a family forced to scrounge for food and a place to live surviving despite constant assaults by evil brutes and cruel circumstance.  All through their discouraging journey, Ford allows small rays of light to pierce his dark tale.  The nobility of John Carradine’s homespun preacher, Ma Joad’s treatment of starving children in the run down camp, Al’s longing for a girl, and Tom’s dance with Ma as he sings Red River Valley all prove the clan has lost everything but what makes them human.

Miller could have been reading Lord Byron’s poem “Darkness” when he wrote THE ROAD WARRIOR.  The poem’s post-apocalyptic tone fits Miller’s vision of a dark future.  He could also have been reading Steinbeck or Golding.  The point is, despite its reputation as a rollicking action film, THE ROAD WARRIOR is much more.  It’s an uplifting tale full of heroes and villains and hope and enough car wrecks to keep a claims adjuster busy for months.

wreck

This article appeared originally in The Brattle Film Notes.  Brattle Theatre

Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire) (1987)   Leave a comment

fly

“Why is life worth living? It’s a very good question.  Um…well, there are certain things I guess that make it worthwhile.  Uh…like what? Okay…um…For me, uh…ooh…I would say…what? Groucho Marx, to name one thing…uh…um…and Willie Mays…and um…the 2nd movement of the Jupiter Symphony…and um…Louis Armstrong, recording of Potato Head Blues…um…Swedish movies, naturally…Sentimental Education by Flaubert…uh…Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra…um…those incredible Apples and Pears by Cezanne…uh…the crabs at Sam Wo’s…uh…Tracy’s face…”
Woody Allen in Manhattan (1979)

bruno

Damiel (Bruno Ganz) spends his days watching, listening. He hears people’s biggest fears and greatest failures. When they are at their lowest, he is at his best. He soothes them without words or caresses, but with kind thoughts and spiritual clarity. Damiel is an angel. Sent to West Berlin to observe the people there, Damiel discovers something about himself. Listening to stories of love and heartbreak isn’t enough. He’s dissatisfied with his voyeuristic role and longs to be human. In his words, “…it would be nice to come home after a long day and feed the cat like Philip Marlowe.” That simple wish becomes fervent desire after Damiel sees Marion (Solveig Dommartin), a lonely and beautiful trapeze artist working at a ramshackle traveling circus. He empathizes with the lovely woman and longs to be with her. Soon, he can think of little else.

See how she leans her cheek upon her hand.
O, that I were a glove upon that hand
That I might touch that cheek!
  Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

solveig

Despite the apparent simplicity of the plot, Wings of Desire touches on issues director Wim Wenders could only guess about in 1987. Issues like isolation, longing, and empathy mean something entirely different today because of the technological advances we’ve made since 1987. In a way, we have the power to be angels or devils as we watch and compliment or insult or simply acknowledge the work or opinions of others. We fly anonymously from one country to another in an instant and hear the thoughts and hopes and prayers of scores of people in the course of a day. Like Damiel, we hear a cacophony of voices in our heads. It’s exhausting.

crowd

Perhaps it’s feeling the weight of so many regrets and so much sadness that makes Damiel want to chuck the wings, join the human race, and hear just one voice echoing in his head — his own. Maybe he wants to taste streusel or kiss a baby or pet a dog. The fact that he wants to give up his wings at all based on what he hears speaks volumes about his capacity for hope and his desire to, as he puts it, “for once just to guess instead of always knowing.”

mirror

Maybe he’s pushed over the edge by his friend, his compañero, Peter Falk. Falk plays himself, an actor in Berlin to shoot a WWII movie. Falk feels the presence of Damiel and his angel friend, Cassiel (Otto Sander). That’s odd because as a rule, the only ones who see the pair are children. Falk even encourages Damiel to become human when he says, “There’s so many good things.” He describes some simple pleasures. “To smoke and have coffee — and if you do it together, it’s fantastic.”

peter
Just one more thing…

Wim Wenders’ bleak vision of life without contact, surprise, or change is made real by the grays of Henri Alekan’s cinematography interspersed with stark WWII footage and by the hangdog expressions of most of the people Damiel and Cassiel encounter. In fact, the only people who appear to enjoy themselves are children and Marion’s circus-performer friends. Later, color explodes onto the screen, Wizard of Oz-like. Music plays a big part in Wings of Desire as well. Early in the film, the music is spare. We hear strings and short bursts of an angelic choir. As the film progresses, we’re treated to a song by Crime & the City Solution and nightclub performances by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

nick
Nick Cave and Cassiel.

Now I’ll wax poetic about Bruno Ganz. I watched Wings of Desire in German with English subtitles so I know I missed some nuances of language, but I didn’t miss a single emotion because Ganz communicates so well with his eyes. I could feel his yearning to touch Marion, to be a part of her life. I could feel his childlike glee as he sat with the little ones and watched the circus. I could feel how much he wanted to feed Philip Marlowe’s cat. Otto Sander as Cassiel was all restraint and pent up emotions and the entire cast was full of faces. They weren’t shined up for filming. They were expressive and real.

ganz
Those eyes

In many ways, Damiel’s need to be human rings a bell. Like Damiel, we long for simple things; a crisp fall day, a good meal, a friend’s smile. Instead we get a close-up picture of a leaf on Instagram, a website full of recipes, and a former classmate’s wedding photo on Facebook. Are we angels? Hardly. We do a lot more observing than joining in though so maybe making a list of things that make life worth living isn’t a bad idea. I’ll start. Hugging my daughter, scratching my dog’s head, eating a Macoun apple, singing a song, picking up rocks at the beach, drawing a picture…all do it for me. I smiled just making the list.

bike
This piece appears in a slightly different form on the Brattle Theatre Film Notes.

Attack of the Beast Creatures (1985)   7 comments

attack

In 1920, a group of people we care nothing about abandon their sinking ocean liner in the North Atlantic and hit the lifeboats.  They end up on a thickly forested, warm island.  Lifeboats drift, after all.  They have to find water and food to survive, but spend most of their time standing around complaining about Morgan, the grumpy, rich guy you love to hate.  Morgan is obnoxious, but at least he has a personality.

morgan

“Morgan, are you drooling again?!”

A guy who looks like George Peppard’s son, finds a creek and boy is he thrilled.  Unfortunately, it turns out to be filled with acid.  The corrosive brook melts his face and he’s toast.

peppard

“I love it when a plan comes toaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!!!”

After the Peppard-melting incident, the group begin to feel a bit homesick and we learn that one of the women comes from an Iowa farm and she digs sailors.  Mrs. Gordon, the only character we might have even mild feelings for, says dreamy, yet practical things that boost the troops’ morale.

As the gang sleep peacefully around the fire, crazed, toothy, 16-inch natives jump them and begin to snack on the castaways.  Instead of running full speed to the shore to build a huge fire and survivalist junk like that, the crew do a kind of Bataan Death March through a forest in Connecticut…I mean, some foreign land.

not

Not Connecticut or anything.

Their pokey speed means they’re constantly at the mercy of these nasty little dolls.  Many don’t make it.  It would be tragic if you cared about any of these people, but the wooden acting, prosaic dialogue, and just lack of suspension of belief make that impossible.  Will they make it?  Who cares?

island

“I sure wish we weren’t on this island.”
“Yeah.”
“Do you like crullers?”

The horrendous earworm theme killed any possible drama and the director, Michael Stanley, was out of his element.

donny

“Shut up, Michael.”

Then came the moonlit beast creature attacks.  Ferocious, ankle-biting crazies with glow-in-the-dark eyes launch themselves toward our heroes with reckless abandon.  People scream, wrestle dolls, and flail about helplessly as the little buggers screech and bite.

do the

“Let’s do the beast creature tonight!”

It’s fun to watch.  In fact, it’s odd that there’s no beast creature wrangler credit because the people who chuck the little beasties onto the victims are talented.  The diminutive critters have voracious appetites and grip like pitbulls.  There’s even an homage. Really?  Yes, it’s a tribute, of sorts, to Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS.  At one point, Mrs. Gordon, lost in thought, turns around to see dozens of the little bloodsuckers staring at her from the trees.  A moment later, they’re hurling themselves at her and there’s no escape.

tree

“Ready…set…hurl!”

Amazingly low production values and a sound crew who phoned it in knock the wind out of ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES and it was winded to start with.  During a night scene, I swear they miked the fire.  I could see mouths moving, but all I heard was crackle crackle.  I recommend watching this with a group of like-minded friends as I did.  If you can slog through the dull conversations, you’ll enjoy the Olympic beast creature toss.

bc

“I’m coming to get you, Barbara.”

I watched ATTACK OF THE BEAST CREATURES with the #Riffotronic crew on Twitter.  Thanks, @adw1661 and @DmathchesLive who allow me and other weirdos to watch strange and wonderful films with them every Saturday night.  I may never forgive you.

haunty

 

The Deliberate Stranger (1986)   2 comments

harmon tv ad

Ted Bundy admitted to killing thirty women in seven states between 1974-1978.  Police believe, but cannot confirm, that he killed many more starting years earlier.  Ted Bundy fooled everyone.  No one knew the charming, handsome man who picked them up hitchhiking or asked for help putting a sailboat on his car rack was a serial rapist/killer and necrophile.  His carefully constructed front worked until it didn’t.  At some point his compulsions and arrogance and disdain for humanity showed through the facade of this golden boy with a great future.  People who had known Bundy for years were stunned that the friendly, capable legal student was really a twisted psychopath.

bundybeach

“Want to try my candy handcuffs?”

THE DELIBERATE STRANGER, a made-for-television movie aired, in two parts, in 1986.  Mark Harmon plays Bundy as a smart sociopath who knows the right things to say, but has none of the real feelings behind them.  The film begins right before Bundy’s move from Washington to Utah to attend law school.  Similarities in the disappearances of several young women convince police to look for one perpetrator.  Since these murders happened in the 1970s, before national criminal databases existed, police in different jurisdictions have no idea that their neighbors might be dealing with the same criminal.  This lack of communication helps Bundy and he’s able to kill women all over several western states without notice.  Detectives in Washington, played wonderfully by Frederic Forrest, John Ashton, and M. Emmet Walsh start hearing about other, similar crimes in Utah and Colorado and soon those departments are sharing information.  Well, most share.  Some think their missing women are unrelated which makes the process move more slowly.  Bundy disposed of his victims in wooded areas as well so it could take years to find them.

found

“She had more hair in the photos.”

I’ve always liked this film.  It’s told as a police procedural and I love those.  You get to learn what detectives were thinking at the time of the murders.  For instance, the term deliberate stranger implies a criminal who has never met his victim, but chooses her just the same.  Bundy often stalked his prey for weeks until he found an opportunity to strike.  It seemed to many victims’ friends and family that their loved one simply vanished.  One minute they saw her, then she walked out of sight and was never heard from again.

bundybad

“Would you like to take a ride?  I have duct tape.”

George Grizzard plays Richard Larsen who later wrote Bundy: The Deliberate Stranger.  Larsen, a Seattle Times reporter,  knew Bundy in Washington before he was suspected in the murders.  Grizzard does a nice job showing his change of heart on Bundy.  At first, he’s a fan and supports Bundy.  After it becomes obvious that Bundy is the killer, Larsen tries to learn more about him and why he became such a sicko.  Then there are the women in Bundy’s life.  Glynnis O’Connor and Deborah Goodrich play women romantically involved with the killer.  O’Connor drops him when she realizes he’s murdered 30 women. Nice move, G!  Goodrich, not so much.  Her character might be modeled after Carole Ann Boone, who moved from Washington to Florida to be near Bundy and later married him in court.  Ahhh love.

notdead

“Not tonight, honey.  You’re not dead enough.”

Now, a word about Mark Harmon.  Yes, I know.  I remember SUMMER SCHOOL.  Trust me.  Harmon’s good.  He pulls it off. You see the wheels turning behind that handsome face.  Harmon was a sharp casting choice.  He has the looks and the chops.

jail

“Don’t forget the profile, Ed!”

Anyway, I realize THE DELIBERATE STRANGER isn’t a typical Halloween choice, but I can’t think of anything scarier than an attractive face that smiles at you while he plans your death.  Boo.

national-museum-of-crime & pun

Ted Bundy’s VW on display at the National Museum of Crime & Punishment in Washington, D.C.

haunty

 

Roar (1981)   Leave a comment

1427836458-roar-injury-poster-1

Tippi Hedren starred in THE BIRDS and MARNIE for Alfred Hitchcock before getting on his bad side.  Now instead of acting, she runs Shambala, a wildlife preserve in southern California specializing in lions, tigers, and other predators.  ROAR helps explain how Hedren made the leap from actress to cat fancier. The film shows Hedren’s then husband, Noel Marshall who lives with big cats on an African preserve.  When I say lives with, I mean it.  Lions tigers, leopards, and panthers roam freely on the grounds and through his house.

gang

“Whoa whoa!  Not EAT the Press!”

In one scene, Marshall takes a bath surrounded by huge lions who drink from the tub.  They stand on their back legs to hug him and seem to listen when he tells them what to do.  He even breaks up bloody fights between two alpha male lions.  In the film, Hedren and the couple’s three young adult children (including a teenage Melanie Griffith) come to Africa to live with Dad.  They arrive at his home early and meet his feline pals.  Of course they don’t know how to act around the creatures and hijinks of the ‘almost being eaten’ variety ensue.  Filmed using real wild animals who really get hungry and playful and mad, ROAR makes Marshall look both brilliant and foolish.  He has a way with these wild beasts, but he also takes a lot of chances.  It’s a weird mix of documentary and narrative fiction that did horribly at the box office when it came out in 1981.  It cost $17 million to make and made a whopping $2 million.  ROAR is a weird one.  Two weeks after seeing it, I’m still not sure if I liked it.  It was like a car accident.  I felt compelled to watch, but found it fascinating because I got to see professionals at work.  In this case, the professionals were lions.  Marshall comes off as a goofy, but dedicated naturalist who fell in love with jungle cats.  It’s an odd slice of life semi-rehearsed documentary.

still

As for the injuries sustained during the eleven years of shooting on Shambala, stories vary.  Melanie Griffith got 50 stitches on her face, an assistant director was bitten on the throat and jaw and narrowly escaped losing an ear.  Noel Marshall was clawed so many times, he got gangrene.  Noel’s sons were bitten and clawed many times, and cinematographer Jan de Bont got 220 stitches when a lion lifted his scalp.

jan de bont

Jan sports his new look

As you might have guessed, employee turnover was high and Hedren and Marshall’s marriage didn’t weather the stormy set either.

bed

“I think we need a new alarm clock.”

I watched ROAR at the Wellfleet Drive-In in Wellfleet, Massachusetts as part of the Provincetown International Film Festival.

Dune (1984): Now with More Spice   2 comments

german dune

Dark, alien, and plagued by a period in development Hell that would make Terry Gilliam shudder, David Lynch’s 1984 film Dune endured a lot of false starts before making it to a theatre near you. The film tells the story of two warring factions: House Atreides and House Harkonnen. House Atreides (Jürgen Prochnow, Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis) rule the beautiful ocean planet Caladan. They’re attractive, intelligent, and noble. House Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan, Paul Smith, Sting) dominate the desert planet Arrakis. They’re ugly, barbaric, and cruel. OK, Sting’s not ugly, but he’s so nasty you think he is. Filled with political intrigue, spirituality, and even references to the Middle East’s control of oil, Dune is an ambitious film. It aims high, and while it doesn’t hit all of its targets, it hits enough to make for a bizarre and entertaining experience.

close
Don’t stand so close to me.

Though Lynch’s Dune premiered in 1984, attempts to film it started in 1971. Arthur Jacobs, who produced Planet of the Apes and Play It Again, Sam, gave it a shot first. He asked David Lean to direct. Lean said no. Jacobs searched for a director and worked on other projects. He died in 1973 before production began.

computer says
Computer says no.

Jean-Paul Gibon’s company took over after buying the rights from Jacobs’ estate. They hired Alejandro Jodorowsky, who brought in the dream team of Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Dan O’Bannon, Mick Jagger, H.R. Giger, Moebius, Pink Floyd, and Shirley Temple Black. All right, not Black; I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. Cost overruns abounded, and the producers, afraid of what would have been a 10-14 hour film, wrestled the script from Jodorowsky’s hands.

japanese dune
Japanese poster for Jodorowsky’s Dune

Producer Dino De Laurentiis bought the rights, asked Dune author, Frank Herbert, to write a screenplay, and hired Ridley Scott to direct. Now the film would be made in two parts and last a more manageable four hours. The death of Scott’s brother Frank caused him to reassess his life and career. He left the production to make Blade Runner.

sean
Either way, Ridley, you’re stuck with me.

De Laurentiis scrambled to secure the rights again, and his daughter, producer Rafaella De Laurentiis, hired David Lynch to direct Dune. Fresh from the critical success of The Elephant Man, but with no science fiction background or knowledge of the Dune series, Lynch began writing a screenplay. He wrote another screenplay. And another. Lynch wrote a whole bunch of screenplays; then he made the film we know and love. Well, some of us love it. Some lump Dune in the same category as Cimino’s 1980 film Heaven’s Gate: an expensive, rudderless epic. I don’t. For me, Dune has everything a good science fiction film needs.

heaven
Enough already with the abuse.

First, it has space. The two feuding houses don’t live on either side of the Adige in Verona. They live on different planets. It’s the year 10,192 and space travel is a snap. This is especially true if you’re in the Spacing Guild. Spacing Guild members travel the same way Carlos Castaneda did. They drop a little spice and fold space. It beats walking.

spice ad

guild
Hey man, come over and we’ll fold space. It’ll be epic.

Next, it has cool futuristic weapons. House Atreides invents these awesome weirding modules that can kill a guy with the right wavelength. Also, Patrick Stewart and Richard Jordan, clad in transparent armor, train Kyle MacLachlan in hand-to-hand knife fighting. Stewart and others refer to atomic weapons, and remote-controlled hunter seekers armed with poison darts float from room to room.

weird
Pew pew pew!

Then, it has nomadic desert troops waging jihad against their Harkonnen oppressors. The allusions to Arabic culture don’t end there. The character name Thufir means victory in Arabic and Kyle MacLachlan’s tribal name, Mu’adib, translates to teacher. Herbert made comparisons to the Middle East oil crisis and environmental issues throughout his Dune series.

sun
I hope they’re wearing sunscreen.

Then, it has worms and spice. Is there a relationship? The worms are rather large and have accompanying lightning. People fear and worship them. The spice mélange expands consciousness, changes eye color, and helps with that space folding thing.

worm
I don’t think the heavy stuff’s gonna come down for quite a while.

Last, it has an alien aura like no other film. Dune looks like a post-apocalyptic steampunk S&M club’s rendition of Lawrence of Arabia. Vast deserts, steam-powered weaponry, red mohawks, burqas, goggles, leather Speedos, and dimly lit rooms contribute to the overall atmosphere of Victorian future space Bedouin chic. The sweeping theme by Brian Eno and Toto reinforces Dune’s epic status. With a supporting cast that includes the Lynch repertory company of Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif, and Jack Nance, Dune is well acted and fun to watch. I even like Alan Smithee’s two-part televised version even if David Lynch doesn’t. I’m not alone either. Quite a few of us find the strangeness of Lynch’s vision appealing. Recently, the topic of guilty pleasure films came up on Twitter and I named Dune as one of mine. Immediately, people came out of the woodwork expressing their love for the much maligned film. The praise for Lynch’s odd science fiction gem surprised and delighted me. I guess I’m not the only fan of worms.

A version of this essay appeared first in the Brattle Film Notes, the blog for the Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts and my favorite theatre in the world. Here’s a link to that piece. http://www.brattleblog.brattlefilm.org/2015/02/25/dune-now-with-more-spice-2654/#more-2654

baron
What’s up, Baron?

This post brought to you by…

melange

30 Years On: 1984 a Great Year for Movies

A Review of one of the Great Years in American Cinema

Atomic Flash Deluxe

Scout's 20th Century Flash

Paula's Cinema Club

"Tiny little pieces of time they'll never forget"

Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

You can take the girl out of Glasgow. Entertainment Reviews from a Wee Scottish Wife and Stepmum living in Finland.

CrazyDiscoStu - A nerd blog

Reviews, film/tv, gaming, tech, music, opinions, observations, nerd culture, musings and general fan-boy geekery.

ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

Our opinions don't stink!

Fade To Black

Movie & TV Reviews - Because everyone is entitled to my opinion.