"I didn’t read Dune,” legendary avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky gushes, endlessly enthusiastic. “But I have a friend who say me [sic] it was fantastic!”
In 1974, Jodorowsky, the mad genius behind such cinematic masterpieces as El Topo and The Holy Mountain, took on the task of adapting Frank Herbert’s epic sci-fi novel Dune for the big screen. The tale that follows is film geek Nirvana.
Jodorowsky hired three New Gods of modern pop art - H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, and Jean “Moebius” Girard - to design the various planets featured in Dune, down to every aspect of their culture, their people, their civilizations. Riding herd on this art team for Jodorowsky was befuddled screenwriter Dan O’Bannon - and yes, O’Bannon’s experience on Jodorowsky’s Dune later inspired him to bring Giger and Foss onto the production of Alien, where their designs for the Alien and the USS Nostromo made cinematic history.
But there’s more - so much more. For music, Jodorowsky approached Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd. For stars, he approached Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Orson Welles and yes, Salvador Dali (the director’s 12-year-old son, Brontis, would play Paul Atreides). A visionary like none other, the auteur did not balk at Dali’s plan to include a dolphin-shaped toilet throne for his $100K-a-day role as the Emperor of the Universe (Jodorowsky: “The tails will form the feet and the two open mouths will be used one to receive the “wee”, the other to receive the “excrement”. Dalí thinks that it is of terrible bad taste to mix the “wee” and the “excrement”).
Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune is a hidden cave myth in film circles, the craziest, coolest, most expensive science-fiction film ever made. The only catch is that it wasn’t. But the documentary about it - Jodorowsky’s Dune - has been. And it’s out next month. Go see it. Or the Shai-Hulud will annihilate you.