Defunct Dune adaptation would have changed the world

It’s not entirely uncommon for a film to fail the herculean effort of making it out of the development phase.

The time between the greenlight for a concept and the day filming kicks off can be precarious ground, littered with traps, especially for genre films, which tend to be expensive and based on ideas that fade in and out of the zeitgeist. 

One such stuck film is an adaptation of Dune which had been planned, and was being developed by Alejandro Jodorowsky.

The book, by Frank Herbert, has been adapted several times since into films and television mini-series, but none of them looked quite like what Jodorowsky was planning. 

He had sought to create a genre-changing film, if not a world-changing one. it was to be a visually experimental film, reminiscent of an LSD trip – in the mid-70’s LSD was still a popular recreational drug – which would have the plot and depth of character of Herbert’s novel, but the horror, magic mirror visuals of the most abstract fantasy world.

To that end he hired the most abstract of designers and artists, including H.R. Giger, who is now famous for his many paintings of fantastic scenes, usually with slightly dressed warrior girls or distressed maidens in them; Chris Foss, one of the most prolific and sought after sci-fi painters in the industry, who has produced hundreds of sci-fi novel covers; Jean “Mobius” Giraud, who is famous, mostly in France, for his experimental comic books with their own brand of slanted visuals; and Pink Floyd, an experimental psychadelic-rock group who incorporated strong visuals into their stage performances, and who agreed to compose the entire soundtrack for the film.

Even if it had had a terrible screenplay, this film would have looked and sounded like nothing else made before or since.

Now, a new documentary seeks to capture just a hint of that vision, by documenting the planning that had gone into the film in the two years it spent in development before budget concerns shut it down.

It also explores where the artists and designers who had been working on the development went afterward, and how this defunct project boosted several of their careers, including Jodorowsky himself, who later teamed up with Moebius to create a comicbook series based on some of their ideas for Dune.

Jodorowsky’s Dune, directed by Frank Pavich, features storyboards and images from the development process, as well as interviews with Jodorowsky, Giger, and Foss. The documentary is currently making its way around the indie film circut, searching for a distributer, but in the meantime, this clip has been released online:

No general release date has been yet announced for Jodorowsky’s Dune.