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Untold Tales of Hollywood #74

One thing I found out about David Lynch that I loved was his strong work ethic. Even though he was directing Dune, one of the biggest sci-fi films in history, he always found time to practice his Fine Art. He posted his latest creations on the walls of the studio’s hallways.

I found them hilarious. The first one I saw was titled “Fly Kit.” It was a xeroxed piece of art. David found a large dead horse fly and very carefully had taken it apart. Then, he laid out the parts on a page with handwritten instructions on how to assemble the fly.

The next one I saw was “Fish Kit.”

While I was working on Conan the Destroyer, David finished his rough cut of Dune. I had been seeing phenomenal bits and pieces of Dune whenever I dropped by the room where Leslie Shatz was editing the sound for Dune. I saw loads of amazing scenes with Sting and Linda Hunt. I couldn’t wait to see the full, edited version. While I was there, David came up with a rough cut that was four-and-a-half hours long. The people who saw it (I, unfortunately, was not one of them) proclaimed it to be the greatest science fiction film in the history of cinema, the Gone With The Wind of sci-fi.

After the screening, Dino DeLaurentiis immediately demanded the film be cut down to two hours. I begged and argued with the DeLaurentiis family not to cut the film so severely.

“It’s an event movie,” I pleaded. “Have an intermission in the middle. The theaters will sell just as much popcorn. Or, release two different versions: a long one and a short one.”

Dino wouldn’t budge.

Sadly, once that final two-hour cut was achieved, the remaining footage was destroyed. Yes, destroyed. Forever. This was before DVDs and DVD extras. All of those great Linda Hunt and Sting scenes I saw didn’t make it to the final cut. The final cut’s opening? All of that text that flowed and flowed, explaining the story in words — all of that had been shot — but eventually cut, violating cinema’s “Show, Don’t Tell” rule. We will never see the masterpiece David Lynch worked so hard to produce. It’s lost forever. Those so-called “Director’s Cut” and “Extended version” copies of Dune available on video only add about ten minutes to the two-hour version. David disowned the final film.

I also unsuccessfully argued that the film have a huge, important symphonic score — not a rock score by the band Toto. Unfortunately, the DeLaurentiis were in a Flash Gordon state of mind (Dino produced a sort of goofy Flash Gordon movie and used the band Queen for the film’s score).

These are both battles I wish I could have won.

1 thought on “Untold Tales of Hollywood #74

  1. Bill,

    I had no idea how long the original edit of Dune was. I’m not a big fan of the film, wavering between liking it and tolerating it. I know Lynch distanced himself from the film over that edit but had no idea how much was lost. Now I get.
    For what its worth I enjoyed Flash Gordon because it was camp and just fun. The music suited it. I also wish a far better Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers would be made (Buck Rogers, the film and series that made Lost In Space seem valid). I’ve seen the trailer for the new dune film and while it’s being hailed as something to look forward to I’m not getting the same message. I hope I’m wrong. The version that aired on Sy Fy in the early 2000s followed by Children of Dune were both pretty decent. I think they were produced by BBC originally. I got the more adult DVD releases of those and still like them.

    Rick

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