Jodorowsky’s Dune is a documentary about a novice film director who almost realized his ultimate vision– to produce a movie based on a novel he never read, have it designed by a dream-team of artists he never met, with a cast of famous actors in their prime who’d never heard of him. Jodorowsky planned much of this out while he was high as balls, in a year (1974) before spaceships and science fiction would be popularized by Star Wars.
The result was a pre-production marvel that could have birthed a 14-hour epic mind bender, LSD-trip-made-reality, as foretold by the prophets, Dune movie.
And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling, narrow-minded bastards who rule over Hollywood with a rusty iron fist.
Jodorowsky’s early works were El Topo and The Holy Mountain, two avant-garde films that make the ballsiest artistic cinematic pieces look bland. When asked about his film style for El Topo, a spaghetti western directed by PCP and written by magic mushrooms, Jodorowsky said;
“I ask of film what most North Americans ask of psychedelic drugs. The difference being that when one creates a psychedelic film, he need not create a film that shows the visions of a person who has taken a pill; rather, he needs to manufacture the pill.“
Here are a few screencaps of his films to illustrate this point.
So, yah, Jodorowsky was out of his goddamn gourd. And upon seeing the skinned, flesh-scarecrows above, you might ask how was this ultra-bizarre Chilean-French director was punished for butchering western cinema and rearranging it into a drug-fueled nightmare…
He was given 9.5 million dollars, and his choice of novel adaptations. And he gleefully picked Dune.
In order to drag the demons out of his mind and into the world of the living– to film them as they writhe about speaking in tongues, Jodorowsky began assembling a squad of artistic power-hitters. He hired the best comic artist of the day, Jean Giraud, to draw storyboards at the speed of Jodorowsky’s mad ramblings. He hired acclaimed Sci-Fi artists Dan O’Bannon and Chris Foss to paint ships and creatures. And he hired H.R. Giger (AKA the artist who can’t stop drawing penises on Aliens/Xenomorphs) to lend a decidedly creepy tone to the Harkonen.
Above: Harkonen Spaceport. No. Really. The ships land in the mouth…
Chris Foss’ Spice Hauler
Not content at having the most eclectic and mind-boggling artistic designers somehow working together without spontaneously combusting, Jodorowsky then went about systematically courting, wooing, and schmoozing what he called his “Spirit Warriors”. And by that, he means actors.
On his list of chosen actors were David Carradine (Kung Fu, Kill Bill) as the Atreides patriarch, Mick Jagger (The Rolling Stones) as Feyd, Orson Welles (War of the Worlds, Citizen Kane) as Baron Harkonen, and Salvador Dali (Salvador goddamn Dali) as the emperor.
He also convinced a few bands to sign onto his project, like Pink Floyd, and French prog-rock band Magma, to jam out a few rhythms so his warring houses would have their own background themes.
I for one am glad Jodorowsky’s Sprit Warriors were never able to come together on the same stage, because by all scientific projections, the universe couldn’t have handled it.
For anyone who’s seen the 1984 Dune movie, directed by David Lynch, then you probably have some idea of where this is going– and it doesn’t end with a 14-hour mind-shredding Jodorowsky re-imagining.
His movie was poo-pooed all across the Hollywood landscape when it came time to film. Nobody wanted to touch the project, now that it was ready to shoot. For one thing, it was a Sci-Fi story, and before George Lucas came along to prove to studios that Sci-Fi wasn’t full of leprosy and spiders, major studios generally shunned the genre as un-sellable. And for another thing, it was Jodorowsky, and any producer who might have mistaken Jodorowsky for sane or well-spoken during a boardroom meeting, need only watch El Topo or the Holy Mountain to correct this misunderstanding.
After Jodorowsky’s dream was canned, his team of spirit warriors dissolved and they all went their separate ways. But after the death of the psychedelic Dune that almost was, nearly all of Jodorowsky’s talent was poached by other production companies.
The artists and designers of Jodorowsky’s Dune would go on to redefine the fantasy and Sci-Fi genre. Giger and Foss both worked on Ridley Scott’s Alien, with Giger later moving into horror, and Foss working on Superman. Giraud had his hands in Tron, Willow, The Abyss, Fifth Element, and basically any fantasy that defined your childhood.
For reasons that should be clear I won’t explain how things turned out for Jodorowsky’s actors: Welles, Carradine, Dali, Mic Jagger… they probably all drifted into obscurity, busing tables in Beverly Hills or something.
If nothing I’ve said so far has convinced you to watch Jodorowsky’s Dune, then there’s no hope for this world.
In the past, while watching movies about time-travel, like The Time Machine or Time Cop, my friends have claimed they’d use the technology to right history’s wrongs. They’d punch Hitler in the face, or save the Titanic, or prevent Hiroshima.
But now, after watching this documentary, I want to see the impossible movie. I want to watch a 14-hour Dune directed by a man who doesn’t know how movies work, with a cast that looks like a random grab-bag of famous names, and music by Pink Floyd. Jodorowsky’s Dune is now my Titanic. And so help me god if I ever find a time machine, this movie will be made.