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4K UHD Review: Arrow Video’s Dune (Collector’s Edition)

Dune

David Lynch’s wild adaptation of Dune makes its Debut in glorious 4K UHD (encoded with Dolby Vision).  Arrow Video has packed this with all the Spice you could ask for. 

The Film

The 1980s were both a strange and wonderful time to be a kid watching movies.  The internet was a dream in War Games.  AOL and Prodigy were still a decade away from being a thing.  The way you took in films and knew about films was very limited.  This was a time where Box Art was so important.  Films like Flash GordonBuckaroo BonzaiStreets of Fire were mentioned in the same breath as Star WarsIndiana JonesAlien.  There wasn’t mention of Box Office Failure or Success.  Only the film’s worthiness of rewatchability.   This brings us to the strange and curious case of David Lynch’s Dune

Lynch’s abject freakshow slimy gross-out weird adaptation of Frank Herbert’s monumental work of speculative fiction is not only watchable but rewatchable to the nth degree.  As a kid, I never understood what a failure it was at the box office.  It was in the steady rotation of films that I loved to watch.  The very fact that Lynch dove deeply into the grotesque and weird was what made it so compelling.  

Thirty years later that Lynch touch is still what keeps it a film that is as compelling a watch as it was back then.  The way that the voice-over barely above a whisper is direct quotes from Herbert’s text and the director’s ardent almost religious faithfulness to the language that the author was widely acclaimed for is ingenious.  Even the edited of the book’s plot is a bit of nervy genius by Lynch who condenses much of the political intrigue for the spectacle and the main meat of the story.  

The visuals that Lynch was able to produce in 1983/1984 are still astounding as their analog nature allows them to feel tactile in a way that CGI could never.  There is a distinct flavor and vibe that Lynch with his visual team of cinematographer Freddy Francis, production designer Anthony Masters, and costume designer Bob Ringwood concoct that feels both very 1980’s and very otherworldly.  One can watch Jodorowsky’s Dune the fabulous documentary on the what-if film and see how Lynch’s Dune visually borrowed from Jodorowsky’s initial vision.  That is not to say that it was a 1 to 1 or Lynch only using those visuals from development.  

Ultimately the question of if Lynch’s Dune is a good film comes up.  To this reviewer’s estimation, it is.  Audiences at the time-proven wrong and its rise as a cult entity during the Cable/VHS era only verifies this fact.  Though without Dune’s failure we live in a world without Blue Velvet or even possibly Wild at Heart or Twin Peaks.  Something that this reviewer would not be able to tolerate.  

The Transfer 

The Brand new 4K restoration from the original camera negative is nothing short of perfect.  The image is sharp, the color reproduction vibrant, the black and contrast levels are reference level great.  Even on Blu-Ray Dune has been a trouble proposition.  Universal Home Video has never done the film any favors with its patented DNR grain to death way of transferring films.  That overly clean video game-style image from the Blu-Ray is a thing of the past.  Arrow Video has given us a beautiful filmic like transfer.  

The Extras

They include the following;

NOTE: The 4K UHD does not come with a BLU-RAY copy of the film. 

DISC ONE – FEATURE & EXTRAS (4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY)

  • Brand new audio commentary by film historian Paul M. Sammon
  • Brand new audio commentary by Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast
    • Impressions of Dune
  • Designing Dune
  • Dune FX
  • Dune Models & Miniatures
  • Dune Costumes
  • Eleven deleted scenes 
  • Destination Dune
  • Theatrical trailers and TV spots
  • Extensive image galleries, including hundreds of still photos

DISC TWO – BONUS DISC (BLU-RAY)

  • Beyond Imagination: Merchandising Dune, a brand-new featurette exploring the merchandise created to promote the film, featuring toy collector/producer Brian Sillman (The Toys That Made Us)
  • Prophecy Fulfilled: Scoring Dune, a brand-new featurette on the film’s music score, featuring interviews with Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro, and film music historian Tim Greiving
  • Tnterview with make-up effects artist Giannetto de Rossi
  • Interview with production coordinator Golda Offenheim
  • Interview with star Paul Smith
  • Interview with make-up effects artist Christopher Tucker

DISC ONE

The all-new commentary featuring by Paul M Sammon.  The now-author begins with his work throughout the years on various classic titles during his years as an executive, and other jobs within the studio system.  Sammon is also upfront about his commentary track being more impressionistic.  Details include his introduction to the world of Dune and author Frank Herbert, a great comparative of Dune to the world of Game of Thrones, how David Lynch became involved with this massive project, how Sammon himself got involved with the project, how the Jodorowsky’s version of Dune influenced the production, Ridley Scott’s involvement post-Alien, the restrictions that were imposed on Lynch (specifically the lack of Final Cut) that basically ruined the production, the reason why Mexico City was chosen for the production, how his work as a publicist for the film was met against resistance by the studio and their own PR Unit, the original plan of Lynch’s hiring of a documentary crew to film every day of the production, Universal’s hope Dune would turn into a franchise ala Star Wars, his personal thoughts and accounts of working with David Lynch including some great anecdotes, how studio interference with the script and making sure that everything was “explained away” where Lynch’s initial vision was far less “wordy”, his meeting and getting to know Frank Herbert (the author of Dune for those not in the know), a great story from Conan: The Barbarian, how Toto came on to the score for the film, the work and getting to know Sting at the time, the various actors in the cast, how things began to go wrong after tragedy struck the De Laurentiis family, Lynch’s relationship with Dino De Laurentiis during the production of Dune and post release and how that begat Blue Velvet (which Dino produced), the marketing disasters that ensued, his own firing, some really great encounters during the production with some great artists, the “truth” of the “director’s cut”, a screening of “first cut” of the film in December of 1983, the 3-hour Alan Smithee TV Cut, and much more.  This is more of an oral history from Sammon which is a welcome change though the track gives some wonderful deep dive accounts to the production.

The second all-new commentary track featuring film critic Mike White deep dive into the making and film’s thematics.  Details include the opening of the film, the Herbert text and its parallels to Religions, casting of Dean Stockwell, the importance of fathers in Herbert’s and Lynch’s work, the fact sheet given to audiences during the opening weeks of Dune’s theatrical release, the obsession of the film and Lynch of mouths, the addition of dogs of Dune, White does discuss many of the deleted scenes, the Stillsuit designs and their close resemblance to the Borg outfits in Star Trek, Spice and its allegorical similarities to LSD, Herbert’s criticisms Star Wars similarity to his literary work, White’s discussion of these similarities, the white-washing of Dune 1984, the current 2021 upcoming Dune and its white-washing, the film’s sampling in various songs some very popular, the parodies from National Lampoon and Mad Magazine, Herbert’s intent from interviews of Dune with criticizing societal leaning on religious fervor, a funny aside about Herbert’s creation of Dune from another author, the lack of romance in the film, Patrick Stewart’s “skullet” (a great moment), Dune coloring “activity books” (back in the day when adults did NOT color), the marketing for kids (not teenagers but children), the music specifically work of Toto, Daniel Lanios and Brian Eno, a very interesting account of Alicia Witt’s early childhood, Janet Maslen’s review from the New York Times, and much more.  Where Sammon’s track was reflective of his own experience on the production White’s commentary discusses the film more in-depth from a critical point of view with quite a few sections of historical, literary context.  

Impressions of Dune (39:39) – is an archival making-of documentary from the 2003 DVD release.  The handsomely made featurette covers the making of Dune by people involved.  The documentary covers the hiring of Lynch, the development and issues with adapting a massively internal work like Dune, the striking visuals, the casting of the film, Frank Herbert on set during the production, preproduction, and budgeting where Mexico City was chosen, the FX work both large and small, the post-production and the troubles within, and much more.  Featuring interviews with star Kyle MacLachlan, producer Raffaella de Laurentiis, cinematographer Freddie Francis, editor Antony Gibbs, Film Critic David Ansen, writer Harlan Ellison, production supervisor Golda Oppenheim, cinematographer Fredrick Elmes, camera operator Gordon Hayman, and others.

Designing Dune (8:55) – is an archival feature looking at the work of production designer Anthony Masters (who had since passed).  The featurette is fascinating is how much work Lynch added to the art and design. The featurette has some great behind-the-scenes photos including some good shots of props that you don’t see in detail in the film, b-roll footage from the making of the film, and sketches from not just the artist but David Lynch himself. 

Featuring interviews with set designer Giles Masters, illustrator Ron Miller, set designer Kevin Phipps, art director Benjamin Fernandez, and Steve Coper. 

Dune FX (6:01) – is an archival featurette exploring the various techniques they used to achieve the special effects in the film.  It’s a great look at the work they did to achieve a lot in-camera techniques and the challenges of that.  The featurette has some great behind-the-scenes photos, b-roll footage from the making of the film, and raw FX camera footage.  Comments by mechanical effect supervisor Kit West, special effects floor chief John Baker, and others.  

Dune Models & Miniatures (7:03) – is an archival featurette diving into the model effects in the film.  The featurette dives into how the models were developed and the look in the shoots were achieved.  The featurette has some great behind-the-scenes photos, b-roll footage from the making of the film, and raw FX camera footage.  Featuring interviews with producer Raffaella de Laurentiis, special effect coordinator Charles Finance, production supervisor Golda Offenheim, foreground miniatures Emilio Ruiz Del Rio, model unit supervisor Brian Smithies, and motion control supervisor Eric Swenson.

Dune Costumes (4:50) – is an archival featurette exploring the elaborate costume designs (and massive amounts of them) seen in the film done by Bob Ringwood.  Ringwood and the crew give us a great account of how these great and unique costumes were achieved (including using body bags for a series of costumes).  The featurette has some great behind-the-scenes photos from the costumes and people working in costumes and b-roll behind-the-scenes footage.  Featuring interviews with lead costume designer Ringwood, assistant cutter Debbie Phipps, actor Michael Jones, and suit head of construction Mark Siegel. 

Deleted Scenes (14:21) – The deleted scenes begin with producer Raffaella de Laurentiis doing an introduction (2:52) and a bit of damage control discussing why things were cut from Lynch’s initial first pass to the final version.  There are Eleven deleted scenes from the film.  All who have seen the “Alan Smithee” cut of the film will know these very well including all of the Virginia Madsen on-camera narration bits, scenes like the missing fight scene with Paul, and more. 

Destination Dune (6:25) – is an archival featurette from 1983 originally produced to promote the film at conventions and publicity events.  Directed by Paul M Sammon is definitely from the 80s. The video piece includes appearances by author Frank Herbert, director David Lynch, producer Dino de Laurentiis, cinematographer Freddie Francis, costume designer Bob Ringwood, fight coordinator Kiyoshi Yamazaki, and more. This featurette has some of the best b-roll behind-the-scene video footage of making the film on-location.  Such a big featurette they got the original “Trailer Guy” to do the voice-over narration.  

Trailers & TV Spots 

  • Theatrical Trailer 1 (3:09)
  • Theatrical Trailer 2 (1:31)
  • US TV Spots (1:37) – 3 30-second TV Spots 
  • VHS Promo (0:37) 

Image Galleries 

  • Production Stills – this extensive gallery has over 335 stills.  You can let the stills run automatically or navigate with your remote’s Chapter Stop Buttons. 
  • Behind the Scenes – various behind the scenes look at the production this gallery that consists of 85-stills.  You can let stills run automatically or navigate with your remote’s Chapter Stop Buttons.
  • Cast Portraits – cast and crew get their own photos in this gallery that consists of a whopping 261-stills.  You can let stills run automatically or navigate with your remote’s Chapter Stop Buttons.
  • Production Design – Production art that was prepared by production designer Anthony Masters and production illustrator Ron Miller is a stagger 204 pieces of art that show off their unique vision for the film.  You can let art run automatically or navigate with your remote’s Chapter Stop Buttons.
  • Poster & Video Art – the most fun gallery the poster art and home video cover gallery consisting of 49 various pieces from around the world.  You can let art run automatically or navigate with your remote’s Chapter Stop Buttons.

DISC TWO

Beyond Imagination: Merchandising Dune (22:37) – is an all-new featurette exploring the merchandise created to promote the film.  The featurette/interview with producer Brian Sillman (The Toys That Made Us) gives not just a historical context for how the merchandising craze began (thanks to Star Wars) and the Dune products.  To Stillman’s own admission the Dune merchandise was aimed at kids when the film was not.  The featurette is a pared-down episode of The Toys That Made Us with great looks into the various pieces of the merchandise along with a great breakdown of the strangeness of the toys and also the failure of this toy line. The best is the detailed look at puzzles, view masters, the read-a-long books, coloring books, lunch boxes, popup books, and the Kenner toy lines including role playsets, action figures, vehicles, and of course the Sandworm that were going to be produced (which look fantastic).  My favorite part of this featurette is just how much footage of Star Wars (1977) they’re able to use.  

Prophecy Fulfilled: Scoring Dune (24:52) –  is an all-new featurette centering on the film’s music score. Film music historian Tim Greiving guides us through the history of Band’s creating scores for films (including Queen’s Flash Gordon and Vangelis’ Bladerunner), the history of Toto, and at the apex of their success and also losing their lead singer.  Details include being offered both Footloose and Dune, the Porcaro family’s history being tied to film not just musically but also in production, how the score was put together, the score construction, bringing in Brian Eno, the scoring in Vienna, and more.  Additional comments by Toto guitarist Steve Lukather, Toto keyboardist Steve Porcaro. This is more of a visual essay with no talking heads but rather commentary from the interviewees while images play.  The best part is the inclusion of Demo Versions of Dune’s score. 

Additional Interviews 

  • Giannetto de Rossi (17:20) – is an all-new interview with the Speical FX 
  • Golda Offenheim (26:16) – is an archvial interview with the Production Coordinator.  This is her full interview from the Impression of Dune documentary on the set.  
  • Paul Smith (8:50) – an archival interview with the late Paul Smith taken from a previous Arrow Video/Grindhouse Releasing release from another title where the actor discusses his role in Dune.
  • Christopher Tucker (3:02) – is an archival interview with the make-up FX artist.  

The Final Thought 

Arrow Video’s UHD for Dune shows why the Boutique label has quickly become a favorite for 4K Editions.  Highest Possible Recommendations!!!

Arrow Video’s 4K UHD edition of Dune is out now

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