Monday, April 06, 2009

Junk Drawer: Father, Son, Holy Ghost


Click for 1200x900

I don't have anything to say about Homer or the Pillsbury Dough Boy, but the Sting/Feyd figure...

Isn't it great that David Lynch's Dune was heavily merchandised? Kenner or Hasbro or whoever must have been thrilled to win the license to make toys based on the notorious flop, because at the time, prior to the film's release, it must have seemed like a sure thing. After all, it was a mega-budgeted Sci-Fi extravaganza, absolutely brimming with space ships and zap guns, directed by an Academy Award nominated critics' darling, based on a beloved best seller, and featuring a star-studded cast which included a chart-topping rock star. What could possibly go wrong?

Can you imagine the looks on the toy company executives' faces when they finally saw the thing? They had really gone to town, as you can see here, and legend tells that the production runs were huge so as to not be in short supply. They weren't going to be caught with empty shelves at the shops like Kenner had with their Star Wars toys, no sir!

Slow-moving, drab, philosophical and ponderous, kids hated Dune (I loved it). They had no desire to play spice mining in the sandbox. They did not want an obese action figure covered in boils and pustules. I remember purchasing the above Feyd doll –sorry, action figure– for 50¢ from a clearance shelf crowded with rejected David Lynch toys. Wow, I wish I had bought the Sandworm! Sting/Feyd is carrying a fabulous accessory, an emaciated cat in a little cage; the story goes that he just poisoned the Mentat guy who then has to milk the mutant cat for the antidote. And yet children did not want this toy! Kids are so fickle.



But the saddest souvenir I have from Dune is the Making of Dune paperback, an absolute must for David Lynch fans. It's hilarious because even though the book is written by the movie's publicist, you can still tell how absolutely everything went wrong in the course of making the film. You feel like you are there as disastrous decisions are being made! Saddest of all, you have everybody raving about how great it's going to turn out and accepting the movie's future blockbuster performance as a given, a no-brainer. David Lynch, for instance, talks about how he's already writing the script for the first of many sequels, and he's so excited that it just breaks your heart. Thank goodness he also mentions in passing another idea knocking around in his head, a script called Blue Velvet.

As for the film itself, I think of Dune as being a fascinating, beautiful failure. It seems long but wants to be much longer, because it never quite manages to be truly mesmerizing. The production design is uniformly gorgeous, and alone makes it worth seeing. The movie is fatally sabotaged by terrible acting, performances which range from bland (Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis) to conventionally bad (Everett McGill, Patrick Stewart) to shamelessly swinging from the chandeliers (Linda Hunt, Brad Dourif, all the bald ladies). Lynch's script is caught between abstraction and story telling and in the process somehow became neither. Characters leave and then show up 90 minutes later, ominous portents lead nowhere, feeble attempts at humor induce cringes, tiny Alicia Witt gets thrown in as an afterthought, everything comes to a grinding halt for beautiful sequences which make no sense, etc. This is asking a lot from film-goers looking for something more along the lines of Buck Rogers.

EDIT: Ooh, you know what would have been better? If Lynch had edited the movie down to a series of stills with a voice-over, a la La Jetée.

All in all, though, Dune sure is a hell of a lot more interesting than Star Wars.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

One of the high points of my life was being photographed with a life-sized pop-n-fresh at a local supermarket.

pwapvt said...

Sting/Feyd is carrying a fabulous accessory, an emaciated cat in a little cage; the story goes that he just poisoned the Mentat guy who then has to milk the mutant cat for the antidote

I loved the book and didn't bother with the movie. That scene with the cat milking thing isn't in the book. Not sure that it would have helped it.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever seen the Sci-Fi channel miniseries of Dune and Children of Dune? They are quite lovely as well, and maybe a little less woodenly acted.

Anonymous said...

The director's cut is MUCH better.

Ian said...

The "La Jetee" approach would have been cheaper. And that got turned into "12 Monkeys"? I'll never get it.

geez said...

Thank you PSP, for elucidating again why I'm strangely drawn to your blog. The Dune action figures link is amazing...

Madduane said...

I'm glad Lynch had his moment of big-Hollywood filmmaking. I'm even more glad that it was such a failure. I've loved so many of the films he's made since that one (really, everything that doesn't also carry the name "Dino DeLaurentis"). I think it must have been validating for him, because he's been really brave. His movies are so lyrical. Did you ever see the Lumiere anthology? Some of it was OK, a lot of it was pointless, but Lynch's film is absolutely masterful.

Princess Sparkle Pony said...

really, everything that doesn't also carry the name "Dino DeLaurentis"

Before knocking Dino, keep in mind that he allowed Lynch to make Blue Velvet with absolutely no interference and final cut. Dune was totally worth it for that.

Madduane said...

Oops! my bad -- totally hadn't realized that Delaurentis funded that. re: Dune -- all is forgiven!

g said...

The Pillsbury Doughboy is totally my imaginary vision of the Holy Ghost! Thanks, Princess!

shane said...

I've had that same doughboy for about 25 years. It's kind of decrepit at this point, but I cannot get rid of it. The power of Christ compels me, I guess.

z7q2 said...

I've seen everything Lynch has done, but the only movie I keep going back to is The Straight Story. It speaks to me like none of the others do.

DarcyPennell said...

I have that book! The one where Kyle MacLaughlin says he's a lifelong fan of Dune and asks himself "What would Paul do?" as his personal version of "What would Jesus do?" It's hilarious.

samael7 said...

I actually really liked that Dune version.

This is probably why I don't make a living as a mainstream film critic.

Anonymous said...

I thought "Dune" by David Lynch was awesome! Still do! And heaven knows I still have crushes on Virginia Madsen and Sean Young as a result.

But you must be using "interesting" in a sardonic sense when you favorably compare it to "Star Wars."

"Star Wars" is one of the 10 greatest American films of all time, right up there with "Casablanca."