Dune appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this double-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Because of all the added footage, I feared the transfer of the extended cut might be a mess. Happily, it usually looked very good.
Only a smidgen of softness ever interfered with the presentation. For the most part, the image was concise and accurate. Even wide shots depicted good definition. Some minor jagged edges and shimmering occurred, but I noticed no edge enhancement. As for source defects, occasional specks and marks popped up, usually in effects shots. Most of the movie seemed nicely clean, though.
Colors were restricted due to the film’s settings, but they proved solid nonetheless. The hues tended to be lively and dynamic within their constraints. Blacks were acceptably deep and tight, but shadows could seem a little murky. They never became weak, but they seemed a bit dense at times. Overall, though, I found this to be a solid transfer.
To my surprise, the visuals of the theatrical cut looked a little uglier than those of the extended version. I thought this situation would be reversed, as it seemed more likely the longer take would come from an inferior source. Instead, it was moderately superior.
Everything just seemed a little more off during the theatrical version. Definition was less consistent, as I noticed light softness at times. I saw a few more specks and marks, and colors tended to be a bit flat. Blacks lacked the same depth as well. This wasn’t a weak transfer, and I’d still give it a “C+”. However, it wasn’t a memorable image.
On the other hand, I thought both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film offered very similar audio. Only one issue kept the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Dune from “A” level: speech. Too many lines displayed excessive echo, and they could come across as reedy and stiff. Intelligibility occasionally suffered slightly, though I understood the vast majority of the lines.
Otherwise this track was a winner. Music kept to the background but seemed clear and true. Effects were very positive. They showed nice definition and vivacity, and they also boasted terrific bass response. Low-end was deep and firm throughout the movie. A little distortion came with some effects, but not enough to cause real problems.
The soundfield exceeded expectations for a film from 1984. It used all five speakers well and broadened the settings to good effect. The elements appeared in their appropriate places and meshed together well. Things moved cleanly and created a very involving soundscape throughout the film. I liked this mix and felt it deserved a “B+”.
Moving to the extras, we mostly find a mix of featurettes. Deleted Dune runs 17 minutes and 17 seconds and comes with an introduction from producer Raffaella De Laurentiis. She chats about the mythical four-hour cut of the movie as well as various trims.
As for the content of the deleted scenes, we get more of the talking head introduction from Princess Irulan (Virginia Madsen) that opens the theatrical cut. We also find exposition about the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, a chat about the prophecy between Leto and Thufir, similar content between Jessica and Shadout, and a mix of other bits that flesh out the story and themes. Many of these appear in the extended cut, but a few fresh ones pop up here. There’s nothing particularly compelling on display.
The next four featurettes look at technical areas. Designing Dune fills eight minutes, 53 seconds and includes movie shots, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from set designers Giles Masters, Steve Cooper and Kevin Phipps, illustrator Ron Miller and art director Benjamin Fernandez. They discuss working with Lynch, planning the sets and props, and actually building them. The program gives us a tight and informative view of these issues.
During the six-minute Dune FX, we get remarks from mechanical special effects creator Kit West, special effects floor chiefs Rodney Fuller and John Baker, special effects assistants Gary Zink and Trevor Wood, and special effects electronic unit chief John Hatt. They talk about various effects, both visual and practical. We see some good behind the scenes elements to illustrate the nuts and bolts aspects of the conversation. It mixes high tech with low for an entertaining piece.
Dune Models and Miniatures fills seven minutes, one second with comments from de Laurentiis, special effects coordinator Charles L. Finance, production coordinator Golda Offenheim, foreground miniatures Emilio Ruiz del Rio, model unit supervisor Brian Smithies and motion control operator Eric Swenson. It covers the design, creation and photography of these elements. It offers more nice details, all delivered with acceptable detail and good candor. I especially like the parts about those “blasted worms”.
Lastly, Dune Wardrobe goes for four minutes, 49 seconds. It features costume designer Bob Ringwood, assistant cutter Debbie Phipps, milliner Michael Jones, and suit head of construction Mark Siegel. As expected, they discuss the design and creation of the various costumes in the movie. The participants rip through various outfits rapidly but still manage a fair amount of information. Despite its brevity, this is a tight and informative piece.
A Photo Gallery offers 97 stills. It starts with a slew of production snaps, most of which show Lynch as he works with cast and crew. We also get many examples of concept art – so much, in fact, that those elements probably should have been placed in their own section.
Text material appears via Production Notes. Across 11 screens, these tell us about challenges related to the location shoot in Mexico. (Note that although the DVD case lists “Cast & Filmmakers” as an extra, I couldn’t find this anywhere on the disc.)
Dune features an epic story with aspirations to Biblical and Shakespearian traditions. Unfortunately, the execution of the flick is pure Rocky Horror Picture Show. This is a silly, choppy and awkward film that provokes plenty of unintentional laughs but little else. The DVD’s extended cut offers pretty solid picture and audio, and the set also presents some decent extras. The theatrical cut suffers from lower quality visuals but provides similar audio. Fans will want to snag this release, but I definitely can’t recommend this stinker to anyone else.