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28 Mar 16:15

The Dune in our Heads

by Ethan Gilsdorf

Dune is in Your Head

The mirage of Jodorowsky’s Unfilmed Epic

 By Ethan Gilsdorf

A problem crops up when filmmakers try to adapt epic fantasy worlds to the big screen—particularly beloved, richly-imagined literary ones. Sacrifices must be made. Characters are cut, and plotlines are re-routed. Scenes and places don’t match what readers have pictured with their minds. Fans of the original book cry foul.

In the case of director Alejandro Jodorowsky, he had a vision for Frank Herbert’s masterwork Dune that was so over the top, so surreal (and, at times, so absurd), it probably would have blown the minds of critics before they had a chance to grumble.

That is, if Jodorowsky’s translation and transmogrification of Dune had ever been made. It never was.

Finally, the story of the greatest science fiction epic never made has finally been told. Jodorowsky’s Dune is a new documentary about that beautiful, crazy-ambitious, disaster of an adaptation.

“They did everything right, really. Maybe a little too, right, you know?” said director Frank Pavich, when I reached him earlier this week via telephone from New York City.

“They” were Chilean cult filmmaker Jodorowsky, the self-taught visionary behind El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), and his French producer Michel Seydoux. This was 1975, and Jodorowsky had assembled a dream team of actors and artists to bring alive Herbert’s tale of a feudal-like interstellar culture driven by the market for a valuable substance caled the “spice.” David Carradine was to play Duke Leto, Jodorowsky’s 12 year old son Brontis was cast as Paul Atreides, Udo Kier (Andy Warhol’s favorite actor) would be Piter De Vries, and Orson Welles was slated to play Baron Harkonnen. (Apparently, Welles was lured by promises of on-set French bistro food.)

Spacecraft concept art by British artist Chris Foss   

Jodorowsky’s vision extended to the soundtrack. A different band or composer was to invent music representing each of Dune’s major families. Straight off of their “Dark Side of the Moon” success, Pink Floyd would write and perform the House Atreides theme. The French prog rock band Magma would cover the House Harkonnen. The British avant-rock group Henry Cow and German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen were also approached  (Contrast this with the band chosen for the 1984 David Lynch version of Dune: Toto.“I bless the spice down in Arrakis. Gonna take some time to do the things we never had...Ooh ooh ooh”)

Even Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali had agreed to be in the movie.

Orson Welles was slated to play the antagonist, Baron Harkonnen (Photo: Gary Graver)   

Pavich’s documentary focuses largely on Jodorowsky, now 85, who recounts his courtship of each of the film’s key players. He spins one unlikely story after another. “Whenever you think that he’s embellishing it, you kind of roll your eyes and think, ‘Well, this possibly can’t be true,’ somebody else would back it up,” said Pavich, whose previous feature was N.Y.H.C., a 1999 documentary about New York Hardcore music scene. “These stories really did happen like that. It was a weird time. I think that the circles [Jodorowsky] was travelling in—of course he would be at a weird party in Paris, where Mick Jagger would be.”

Fanboys and girls would have drooled over the visual team. A then-obscure H.R. Giger designed the creepier Harkonnen settings. Dan O’Bannon, known at the time for his work with John Carpenter on the sci-fi film Dark Star, was brought on as the special effects wiz. (Jodorowsky rejected Douglas Trumbull because he found him too full of himself.)  British artist Chris Foss designed the space craft. And Jean Giraud, aka French comic book artist Moebius, brought Jodorowsky’s dreams to life in some 3,000 storyboard drawings that perfectly capture a character or scene with a few quick pencil marks on the page.

Concept art by Swiss artist H.R. Giger   

These drawings showed every shot in the film, every composition, every angle and every camera movement, as well every line in the script. Along with concept art and sketches of costumes, spaceships, vehicles, palaces and landscapes, the storyboard drawings were then bound into a 30-pound book that Jodorowsky used to shop his mammoth project to financiers and Hollywood studios. Twenty copies were made.

At that point, two years of pre-production had run up a tab of $2 million. The overall budget has been estimated at $15 million, “because nobody really knew how high it could possibly get.” Mind to you, this was 1975, two years before the success of Star Wars. Blockbuster sci-fi epics were hardly the slam-dunks they are today. In that era, a $15 million price tag would have been an “insanely huge,” Pavich said. Amazingly, $10 million was raised from Jodorowsky’s money and European backers. They needed the final $5 million, from “a studio partner, so they could get the film out on US screens.”

That money was never raised.

Jodorowsky and Moebius   

Production was shut down just as filming was about to begin in Algeria. “They had the cooperation of the Algerian government,” Pavich said. “The Algerian army was going to play Harkonnen extras.”

Today, of those 20 original bibles, only two remain. Seydoux has one. Jodorowosky kept another copy all these years in his Paris apartment, where much of the Jodorowsky’s Dune takes places.

“I wanted to make something sacred,” Jodorowsky says during one of his many bombastic moments. “Dune will be the coming of a God.” When he tries to persuade Pink Floyd to come on board, he describes his project as “the most important picture in the history of humanity.” Modest, the man is not. But shining through Jodorowsky’s often poetically-broken English are his indefatigable spirit and enthusiasm, which win you over in the end.

Alejandro Jodorowsky (Photo: David Cavallo)

“He speaks whatever he feels like. Sometimes he doesn’t even know. It’s in French, and English, and Spanish – he kind of goes all over the place,” said Pavich. “He doesn’t have a self-censor button.” In between the interviews with Jodorowsky (whose intimates call “Jodo”), we hear from producer Seydoux (also a producer of Pavich’s documentary), Giger, Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz, Nicolas Winding Refn, and others.

All the while, that tome gains psychic weight. Its pages which we occasionally glimpse become more poignant, and more pregnant with possibility. Why? Because Jodorowsky never shot one foot of film for his adaptation of Dune.

Storyboard of Dune (Photo: David Cavallo)   

“As we were making the film, we learned there was nothing. Nobody had any record of anything.” Pavich found no photographs of the artists at work, nor of the location scouting in Chile, Mexico and Algeria. Jodorowsky’s document was all that remained.

“What an amazing object that is,” said Pavich. Between its covers, in these drawings, the film still lives.

Pavich brings some of that imagination to life by cleverly, but not obtrusively, animating Moebius’s pencil sketches. “I didn’t want to sort of CGI-ify the whole thing. Because then it becomes someone else’s vision—my vision, or someone else’s—when it really should be Alejandro’s.” His approach, via the animation of Emmy Award-nominated Syd Garon, was to take the original artwork and “just breathe enough life into it” to “lift it off the page.” The viewer sees some movement, and a glimmer of what Jodorowsky’s film would have been like. “Then hopefully your imagination carries it the rest of the way, because that’s where the movie exists—in his imagination, and yours, and all the viewers’.”

As Jodorowsky rails against those who got in the way of his vision, the documentary becomes as much about an unmade movie as it is a meditation on hope and hubris. “Why will you not have ambition?” Jodorowsky admonishes the viewer, Yoda-style, towards the end of the film. “If you fail, it is not important. You need to try.”

David Carradine and Jodorowsky   

As for those 18 other copies of Jodorowsky’s Dune, they disappeared. As Pavich conjectures, the drawings and designs could have made the rounds in Hollywood. George Lucas might have seen the book. Steven Spielberg might have seen it. Ridley Scott, too. Or their minions. After all, O’Bannon, Giger, Foss and Moebius went on to work on Alien. O’Bannon was also writer for Heavy Metal, Lifeforce, Invaders from Mars, Total Recall and other films, and even did a little computer graphics for Star Wars. Chris Foss did design work for Superman, Flash Gordon, and the Kubrick version of A.I. Artificial Intelligence. A comic called “The Long Tomorrow,” written by O’Bannon in 1975 and illustrated by Moebius, was said to influence Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. And so forth.

Concept art by Chris Foss   

From that design team, and sprouting from Jodorowsky’s psychedelic brain, came a hundred science fictional ideas, aesthetics, and family trees. But Pavich doesn’t think Jodorowsky’s Dune inspired thievery.

“I don’t think that they’re pillaging it and stealing ideas. I think they’re taking it and they’re being inspired by it,” he said. “Sometimes things seep in and you don’t even realize it.” That’s what makes Jodorowsky’s Dune an interesting story, Pavich added. “It’s not an unmade film that just ended, it’s an unmade film that just keeps on living. And you see its children in other films.”

Concept art by Giger   

As for Dune, Italian producer Dino De Laurentiis bought the rights and hired David Lynch to direct it. Which Lynch did. Fans of the original book cried foul. Dune also became a three-part TV mini-series in 2000.

As for Alejandro Jodorowsky, he went on to direct a few other films, including last year’s The Dance of Reality. But thinking about his Dune, I wonder how all of Jodo’s wild images would have been captured by circa 1975 technology. Probably poorly. In a way, I’m glad the film was never made.

The best version of Dune is the one still in my head. Or, I should say, in all of our heads.

Giger in his studio   

Concept art by Foss   

Concept art by Giger   
All photos courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics   

Discuss this articleRead the next article


08 Apr 00:00

Let's Help Find This Awful Toddler-Killing Pickup Driver

by Jason Torchinsky

Let's Help Find This Awful Toddler-Killing Pickup Driver

In Dekalb County, GA, a driver of a white Toyota pickup popped a curb, hit two toddlers, then stopped to chuck a beer bottle out the window before driving away. It's hard to think of any series of actions more awful. Let's find this bastard.


15 Apr 20:00

The Navy's Seawater-To-Fuel System: Can I Use It In My Car?

by Jason Torchinsky

The Navy's Seawater-To-Fuel System: Can I Use It In My Car?

Last week, the US Navy flew a model airplane with a small 2-stroke engine. That's not normally news, except for one big detail: the fuel the plane burned was made from seawater via a process the Navy has been working on for years . Let's look a little into what this sorcery is, and if it'll ever power our cars.


14 Apr 20:58

A Softer World

11 Apr 04:00


by Jennie Breeden
09 Apr 06:51


by Jennie Breeden
03 Apr 07:34

Money Vs People

by jon


We’re back at the Huzzik Empire’s Supreme Court for another wacky ruling! Next thing you know they’ll be declaring donuts to be sentient and monkeys to be hot dogs.

They may be right about hot dogs.

You know what you should do? You should buy something from our store. Maybe a t-shirt for the warm weather?


05 Mar 20:36

venea: Circa 1810. 18k diamond studded enamel skull with a...


Circa 1810. 18k diamond studded enamel skull with a timepiece inside the cranium.

27 Feb 22:48

praxter: Something Extraordinary by Alice X. Zhang

23 Mar 19:00

Business Software Alliance accused of pirating the photo they used in their snitch-on-pirates ad

by Cory Doctorow

The Business Software Alliance -- a proprietary software industry group -- has pulled a controversial ad that promised cash to people who snitched on friends and employers who used pirated software, after they were credibly accused of pirating the image used in the campaign.

The ad used a photo of a pot of gold, captioned with "Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID." The photo used in the ad was of a cake baked by Cakecentral user Bethasd (the cake itself is pretty amazing! "St. Patrick's Day Pot O' Gold - Chocolate Guinness cake with Bailey's Irish Buttercream").

The BSA has refused to comment on its use of the photo, or to confirm that it was licensed prior to use, but they immediately pulled the ad after being asked about it. Meanwhile, Torrentfreak "encourage[s] 'bethasd' to get in contact with the software industry group, and demand both licensing fees and damages for the unauthorized use of her photo. Surely, the BSA will be happy to hand over a pot of gold to her."

Representing major software companies, the BSA is using Facebook ads which encourage people to report businesses that use unlicensed software. If one of these reports results in a successful court case, the pirate snitch can look forward to a cash reward.

Below is one of the promoted Facebook posts that appeared in the timeline of thousands of people on Saint Patrick’s Day. It features a homemade cake in the shape of a pot of gold and sends a clear message to the readers.

“Your pot of gold is right here baby. Report unlicensed software and GET PAID,” the post reads.

Busted: BSA Steals Photo For “Snitch On a Pirate” Campaign [Ernesto/Torrentfreak]


21 Mar 19:50

Netflix Subscriber? You Need to Know About This New Phishing Scam

by Joanna Schneider
Scammers have found another opportunity to steal personal information. The Better Business Bureau warns: users may be led to a phony webpage that resembles the real Netflix login page. Phony customer service reps are on hand, too.
17 Jan 21:22

Morgan Freeman GPS

by Joey deVilla

morgan freeman gps

Joh Robert Thompson started with this rough sketch for a GPS unit that had not just the voice, but wisdom of Morgan Freeman back in August, and he’s since refined it to this ad, which features not just a Morgan Freeman GPS, but a Liam Neeson one for good measure:

10 Mar 04:00


by Jennie Breeden

Obby suggested the pose and he looks adorable doing it.

There’s WAY more “you gotta be thin” crap in our culture for women but we can’t ignore the unattainable body images that guys have to put up with too. There is just no physical way for most guys to get that friggin V torso without giving up on friends and family in exchange for a relationship with a gym.


18 Mar 22:00

Mind-bending animated GIF illusions

by Cory Doctorow

David "Davidope" Szakaly is a talented Hungarian animator who specializes in trippy, freaky GIFs that pulse and twist and melt your brain.

Szakaly began experimenting with the vector animation program Macromedia Flash back in 1999 where he used the software to create presentations, banners, and other creatives for clients. It was nearly a decade later when he decided to dedicate more time to experimenting with motion graphics and found that Tumblr was a great platform to share his quirky gifs. While he still works in the corporate world on other digital projects, he has also found commercial success making animations for clients around the world. Though it’s his personal work that really stands out. If or when gifs end up on gallery walls, it will be hard to deny Szakaly’s role in getting them there.

Where Art Meets Gif: The Hypnotic Animated Gifs of David Szakaly [Christopher Jobson/Colossal]

(Thanks, Fipi Lele!)


16 Mar 19:00

Studio gives Kickstarter Veronica Mars movie backers substandard, DRM-crippled "rewards"

by Cory Doctorow

Ryan writes, "I was a backer of the Veronica Mars movie, one level of backer got you a digital download of the movie. They ended up going with Warner Bros owned/backed Flixster. So for me I have an apple TV and a Roku. Flixster doesn't support appleTV or airplay, the Flixster channel for the Roku will crash anytime you try to watch anything. Flixster also will not allow you to watch the movie on a computer that has dual monitors."

The studio will allow you to buy a better experience on a non-Flixster service, send them the bill, and get a refund (but only if you complain first).

There's a copy of the movie on The Pirate Bay with more than 11,000 seeders, which means that this Flixster business is doing precisely nothing to deter piracy, and is only serving to alienate megafans who voluntarily donated money to see this movie made, and to subject the studio itself to potential millions in administrative costs and refunds to investors who were forced into the retail channels.

The studios can't conceive of an "audience" that has an active role in, or any right to, the media they enjoy: not even when that "audience" is more properly viewed as the product's investors. What's more, they're the angel investors who bought in when the product was highly speculative and assumed 100% of the risk; the studio is just the VC who came along to put in a round of safe money after the project had proven out. In any real business-setting, the angels would be suing the pants off of the VCs and winning.

DRM has become a cult-belief among some studio execs, a point of pride without recourse to rationality. When your religious dogma causes you to lock the movie's investors out of the movie itself, perhaps it's time to reconsider your dogma.

They claim this is all studio restrictions but I find that laughable being that the movie is a Warner Bros movie Flixster is a Warner Bros service and If I purchased the movie on iTunes or Amazon or downloaded via a bittorrent I could watch it on my AppleTV in HD

Many unhappy comments regarding this choice on the kickstarter page also.

There's also no GNU/Linux version of Flixter, so your reward for being a GNU/Linux user who gave your personal, actual money to make this movie is a kick in the pants.

Warner Brothers to “Veronica Mars” Backers: Okay, Okay — Use iTunes or Amazon if You Want


14 Mar 14:03

Happy PI day

by Jason Weisberger


Happy 3.14! Next year is 3.14.15!


04 Mar 15:46

Where to pee at Mardi Gras

by Maggie Koerth-Baker
Need a place to urinate at Mardi Gras? Check out AirPnP — a "bathroom rental" service that matches people who need to pee with people willing to open their bathroom up to pee-ers. Looking at the map of options, the fee for use seems to run between "free and we will even give you a beer" up to $5, depending on the bathroom.

01 Mar 23:00

Incredibly dirty R&B: gloriously filthy music from the 30s-50s

by Cory Doctorow

Glenn sez, "R&B music was pretty bawdy before its entered the era of white appropriation and radio play. Leah Reich, an ethnographer by training and a music lover and singer by love, takes a stroll through some of the filthiest, wonderful era before all this stuff was cleaned up. Tons of links to Youtube videos and other sources."

Best of all, the filth didn’t come just from men. There was wonderful Julia Lee, with “My Man Stands Out,” “I Didn’t Like It the First Time,” and “Don’t Come Too Soon.” The inimitable Helen Humes has a live version of “I’m Gonna Let Him Ride” that’s as glorious for her singing as it is for the way the crowd roars her train on. The fascinating and captivating Nellie Lutcher sang “Hurry On Down.” And of course, there’s the magnificent Dinah Washington singing some of my favorites from the era, “Long John Blues” and “Big Long Slidin’ Thing.”

In fact, one of the most notoriously salacious songs — so raunchy I’ve had otherwise unflappable male friends tell me to turn it off when I played it for them in the car — was an early blues song recorded by Bessie Jackson, also known as Lucille Bogan. She sang many dirty blues songs, long before R&B and jump blues came on the scene, but none so raw as “Shave ’Em Dry II.” I won’t ruin the surprise for anyone who hasn’t heard it.

Dirty R&B [Leah Reich/The Magazine]


05 Mar 20:00

Manhattan Speeder Afroduck Pleads Not Guilty To Reckless Driving

by Raphael Orlove

Manhattan Speeder Afroduck Pleads Not Guilty To Reckless Driving

Adam Tang aka Afroduck , the man who drove around Manhattan in 24:07 was indicted by a grand jury yesterday, formally charging him with reckless endangerment and reckless driving. Here's what that means for his case and what that means for anyone who speeds.


06 Mar 23:00

Make taser-proof clothing with carbon-fiber linings

by Cory Doctorow

On Hackaday, Shenzhen demonstrates some proof-of-concept "taser-proof clothing" created by adding carbon fiber to the clothes' lining. The carbon fiber textile can be procured in a variety of forms, including upholstery fabric (58" wide, $19.50/yard) and peel-and-stick 50cm tape rolls. Shenzhen claims this will work even if the taser's prongs get to the wearer's body: "Electric current flows through the carbon tape and not through the human body. Always. Even if the taser's needle pierced the skin."

Homemade carbon tape Taser-proof clothing (via Sean Bonner)


07 Mar 14:46

On The King in Yellow, the strange book behind "True Detective"

by Rob Beschizza

NOTE: Chambers' work is pre-Lovecraft

John Brownlee reviews The King in Yellow, the mysterious real-life book posed at the heart of True Detective's fictional mystery, and why the two are linked.

"In short, The King in Yellow has gone viral. But why? It's all due to the powerful creative draw of the weird mythos, stories which create, in the words of H.P. Lovecraft, a shared literary universe defined by an "unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces" and "the daemons of unplumbed space." And that effect is very definitely by design."

The now public-domain text is free online. Kevin McFarland reviews the show here at Boing Boing every week.


12 Feb 17:00

Everyday carry handcuff key

by Cory Doctorow

Tihk sells a tiny, easily concealed handcuff key for "everyday carry," and intended for "law enforcement, military, and security professionals...[to avoid] being restrained with their own cuffs, captured person release and evading capture themselves." $13 for a two-pack.

The perfect handcuff key for everyday carry (via Sean Bonner)


25 Feb 22:47

1870s "Femme Fatale" ring pistol shoots tiny bullets

by Mark Frauenfelder

Sold at auction for $11,350.

The finely crafted curiosa German silver ring revolver, the band engraved with herringbone borders and legend: Femme Fatale. Top mounted with 7-shot brown-finished cylinder with fold-down fire-blued trigger and outer spring band. Contained with accompanying seven cartridges and tiny screwdriver in green velvet-lined, dark red leather-covered ring case with silver button escutcheon reading: "Femme Fatale."

Previously: Pistol ring and other unusual guns


24 Feb 20:36

mad-moiselle-bulle: Pendant with a female rider on a hippocamp,...


TIL some people took "sea horse" literally


Pendant with a female rider on a hippocamp, made in Spain in the late 16th century.

27 Jan 23:26

noiseman: La Jeune Martyre (The Young Martyr) by Paul...


I saw this at the Louvre. It is one of the few works that left an impression.


La Jeune Martyre (The Young Martyr) by Paul Delaroche, 1855. Featured in Rino Stefano Tagliafierro’s Beauty. |x|

04 Mar 03:00

The Giugiaro Clipper Has DeLorean And Butterfly Doors At Once

by Máté Petrány

The Giugiaro Clipper Has DeLorean And Butterfly Doors At Once

It's also a six-seater electric concept car from VW's Italdesign with hologram displays and the back of an Audi.


18 Feb 23:00

Squid ring

by Cory Doctorow


Joshua sez, "I've been nagging my wife (a jeweler; you posted her sci-fi wedding rings a few years ago) to make a squid ring for years. She finally did it. Sort of art nouveau meets Jules Verne. It's hand carved from wax and cast into 18k gold. The prototype is mine, but the design's also on Etsy."

squid ring (Thanks, Joshua!)


27 Feb 16:23

Ian Drysdale’s Spectacular Drysdale 1000 V8

by Paul Crowe

Original article from: -

Original article from: - Putting a V8 engine in a motorcycle is easy, just build a bike big enough, like a Boss Hoss, and you can wrap it around anything, though as one recent home build, the Simca V8 shows, with a bit more thought and finesse, the results are a lot more pleasing. […]
25 Feb 05:28

Netflix Experimenting with Drone DVD Delivery

by mikek

Netflix is quietly experimenting with delivering DVDs using drones (like that book company up north), and here's a video from the Netflix research and development team demonstrating how drone delivery would work.

27 Feb 02:03

A Softer World