Wednesday Bad Movie

Number 3 of a series

Yes, I waited, and it came. Dune is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

I saw this on TV decades ago, and I recall waiting and wondering when I was going to learn what it was all about. People who read the book seem to appreciate it, so I bought a copy of the book by Frank Herbert. Look for a review before the year is out. Details are from Wikipedia. Here is a partial cast listing:

The opening sequence has Princess Irulan looking straight into the lens and talking. She blinks. She explains the background, otherwise you would have to read the book.

Cut to the titles. We find out why this is “Dune.”

She explains the planets involved. “Dune” is a nickname for the planet Arrakis. It’s dry and sandy. It’s the sole source of melange, “the spice.” The spice enables folding of space for interstellar travel. It’s critical to life in the year 10,091.

Now we meet the court of Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV, and we figure there really is a time warp. It’s 10,000 years later, and these people are dressed up like the Hohenzollern’s of the 19th century. That’s the emperor and the princess.

Here is the emperor with the Reverend Mother Ramallo.

Everybody else is excused from the room while a special envoy arrives. For some reason he needs to arrive inside a device resembling a streamlined locomotive. Steam puffs out from the sides where you would expect.

The Reverend Mother eavesdrops telepathically.

The envoy has a patent on gross.

The emperor plans to destroy the House of Atreides, suspected of raising a secret army. The prince of the Atreides is Duke Paul Atreides. Here he meets with his mentors, including Gurney Halleck.

Halleck engages the duke in a mock battle involving protective shielding. It’s a fantastic bit of cinematographic art.

Paul’s mother is Lady Jessica. She is a reverend mother who has given birth to a man child, in violation of a sacred covenant. She instructs her son. Both have special powers. They prepare to go to Arrakis.

Meanwhile Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, the movie’s arch villain, goes through his evil ritual. His doctor attends to some affliction he has.

He has the special ability to float about the room. He brings to mind Donald Trump.

His assemblage are each fitted with a heart plug. Apparently this fits right into the wearer’s heat, and when you yank it out the person dies. The book does not mention this. Here comes a fair-haired youth about to get the treatment from the Baron, a practice that brings the baron no end of delight.

The entourage arrives at Arrakis. More cinema magic, which is the main draw of this film.

The duke pays a visit to a spice collection station, just in time to participate in saving the workers from attack by one of the giant sand worms. They are huge, some stretching to 250 meters in length.

There is an attempt on the duke’s life. While he is alone in a room something having the appearance of a levitating poison syringe enters. He spots it and remains still, knowing it cannot detect him if he does not move.

Just then Shadout Mapes enters. Paul saves her life by snatching the weapon out of the air. She becomes devoted to him. It’s always good to see Linda Hunt in a movie. She’s a great character actor, most famously seen as the feisty school principal in Kindergarten Cop.

An attempt is made to eliminate the Duke and his mother. They use special powers to overcome and defeat the assassins, and they escape into the desert. However, the sand worms can detect the footsteps of people, and they will attack and eat them. The duke counters the worms by setting up a thumper to emit regular sounds. It’s the regularity that attracts the worms. This part is straight from the book:

“There’s a way to get safely across that open sand,” Paul said. “The Fremen do it.”

“The worms?”

“If we were to plant a thumper from our Fremkit back in the rocks here,” Paul said. “It’d keep a worm occupied for a time.”

She glanced at the stretch of moonlighted desert between them and the other escarpment. “Four kilometers’ worth of time?”

“Perhaps. And if we crossed there making only natural sounds, the kind that don’t attract the worms….” Paul studied the open desert, questing in his prescient memory, probing the mysterious allusions to thumpers and maker hooks in the Fremkit manual that had come with their escape pack. He found it odd that all he sensed was pervasive terror at thought of the worms. He knew as though it lay just at the edge of his awareness that the worms were to be respected and not feared…if…if….

He shook his head.

“It’d have to be sounds without rhythm,” Jessica said.

“What? Oh. Yes. If we broke our steps…the sand itself must shift down at times. Worms can’t investigate every little sound. We should be fully rested before we try it, though.”

Herbert, Frank. Dune (p. 399). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

So, they make it to the secure rock outcropping and encounter the Fremen people and team up with them to battle the emperor’s forces.

Meanwhile a new favorite joins the baron’s cadre. He’s Feyd-Rautha.

The duke trains the Fremen people to fight using his sonic weapon.

He shows how to overcome the worms, and we see the duke and one of the Fremen riding a worm like bareback circus performers.

There is a lot in the plot that cannot be explained through dialog and action, so cute computer graphics substitute to give feeling.

Years pass. Lady Jessica gives birth to Alia, the girl who has been gestating, and Alia grows into a budding reverend mother with special powers. She focuses her powers on the emperor.

The duke and the Fremen attack. A battle outside is raging.

The baron confronts Alia, with special malice on his mind.

She defeats him, sending him spinning around in the air. An explosion breaches the wall of the building, and he sails through the gap and into the mouth of an advancing worm.

The emperor’s court prepares for the entrance of the victorious duke’s army.

They arrive. Cue “Procession of the Nobles.”

Feyd-Rautha challenges the duke to a battle to the death.

Feyd-Rautha is left lifeless on the floor. There is a new dynasty ruling the galaxy. And it begins to rain on Dune. (???)

This movie, this story, has a long train. The sand worms may have inspired the giant worm critters in Tremors. That movie also involved people taking refuge from the underground menace by keeping on top of rock outcroppings.

The worms also seem to have inspired the Sarlacc in Return of the Jedi.

Does anybody else find some strange stuff about this plot? It’s 10,091, and they still have not figured out how to synthesize the spice. The entire galaxy is dependent on this desolate planet, because the stuff is found nowhere else.

Also, the worms. Did Frank Herbert know anything about biological evolution? What is the lineage of these worms, as they seem to be the only native species on Dune? And what do the worms eat? The planet seems to have nothing but worms and sand. Most improbable.

Got the book. Finished with studying philosophy for a while. Look for a review.


About John Blanton

I'm a retired engineer living in San Antonio, Texas. I have served in the Navy, raced motorcycles, taken scads of photos and am usually a nice guy. I have political and religious opinions, and these opinions tend to be driven by an excess of observed stupidity. Gross stupidity is the supposed target of many of my posts.
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