Film Review: Dune – Extended Edition (1984)

Release Date: December 3rd, 1984 (Washington DC premiere)
Directed by: David Lynch (credited as Alan Smithee in the Extended Edition)
Written by: David Lynch
Based on: Dune by Frank Herbert
Music by: Toto, Brian Eno
Cast: Francesca Annis, Leonardo Cimino, Brad Dourif, José Ferrer, Linda Hunt, Freddie Jones, Richard Jordan, Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Silvana Mangano, Everett McGill, Kenneth McMillan, Jack Nance, Siân Phillips, Jürgen Prochnow, Paul Smith, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Dean Stockwell, Max von Sydow, Alicia Roanne Witt, Sean Young, David Lynch (cameo, uncredited)

Estudios Churubusco Azteca S.A., Dino De Laurentiis Company, Universal Pictures, 137 Minutes (theatrical), 190 Minutes (Special Edition), 177 Minutes (Extended Cut)

Review:

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will let it pass over me and through me. And when it has passed I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where it has gone, there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” – Paul Atreides

I noticed that I hadn’t reviewed this yet, which surprised me. It’s actually one of my all-time favorite movies, even though most people absolutely do not feel the same way about it.

Granted, I should state that the Extended Edition is one of my all-time favorites, as it fleshes out a lot of story and is more coherent and easier to follow than the original theatrical cut that left those who didn’t read the book, baffled and irritated.

David Lynch, the director, also hates this picture and I find that a bit funny, as I think it’s his second best behind The Elephant Man. In regards to this edition and any of the other versions, he requested his name be removed from the film and it has since been replaced by “Alan Smithee”. Lynch has also refused to do a director’s cut and doesn’t like to talk about this movie in interviews.

Before I saw this longer cut of the film, Dune still had a pretty profound effect on me when I was a kid. While I found it somewhat hard to grasp, the story of a messiah figure rising to challenge the powerful elite in an effort to eradicate their tyranny and corruption still shined through. I definitely got that part of the story and beyond that, fell in love with the look of the film from its truly exotic sets, costumes and cultures. Visually, this is the version of Dune that I still see in my mind when I read any of the books in the series.

The Extended Edition has the same major issue that the theatrical cut did and that’s that this story is kind of hard to follow if one doesn’t know the source material. Although, the Extended Edition isn’t as bad in that regard, as it allows room for more details and character development.

I used to love this film so much that it eventually inspired me to read the Frank Herbert books in his Dune series. Having read the first book and really loving it even more than this film, it kind of opened my mind up to the movie in a bigger way and I saw this as a visual companion piece to the literary novel. But I understand why that probably doesn’t work for most people, who won’t read the first book because it is pretty thick and dense.

Getting back specifically to this film, it still should have been crafted in a way that it could’ve been more palatable for regular moviegoers. I think that this would have been a pretty big deal and a more beloved film had it not come out after the original Star Wars trilogy. People wanted more of that and Dune wasn’t an action heavy space adventure, it was a “thinking” movie and featured concepts that needed more exploration.

I think it’s pretty well directed, honestly, even if Lynch was unhappy with it and the whole experience was miserable for him. It did actually establish his relationships with many actors who would go on to be featured in a lot of his work after this, most notably Twin Peaks.

I also think this is well acted and it was my introduction to Kyle MacLachlan, a guy I’ve loved in everything he’s done, ever since. And beyond MacLachlan, this truly features an all-star cast.

The big issue with this film and adapting Dune in the first place, is that there just isn’t enough room in a single movie to tell this story. I think each of Frank Herbert’s original six novels should be adapted and told over an entire season of a series. It’s really the only way to do it right.

A new Dune adaptation is just a few weeks away from releasing in the United States, though. While the first book is going to be split over two films, I still think that it’s going to be hard to properly adapt it. We shall see and I’ll review that once I’m able to view it.

Rating: 9/10

Film Review: Eraserhead (1977)

Also known as: Gardenback (original script title)
Release Date: March 19th, 1977 (Filmex Festival)
Directed by: David Lynch
Written by: David Lynch
Music by: David Lynch, Fats Waller, Peter Ivers
Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph, Jeanne Bates, Judith Roberts, Hal Landon Jr.

American Film Institute, Libra Films, 89 Minutes

Review:

“The girls have heard this before but… 14 years ago I had an operation on my left arm here. The doctors said that I wouldn’t be able to ever use it. But what the hell do they know, I said. So I rubbed it for a half hour every day. And slowly I could move it a little, and use it to turn a faucet… and pretty soon I had my arm back again. And now, I can’t feel a damn thing in it. All numb! I’m afraid to cut it, you know?” – Mr. X

My close friends that are film aficionados always get pissy when the subject of David Lynch comes up. Mainly, because I think his movies are pretentious as hell and mostly just weird nonsense. That’s not to say that I don’t like some of his work but Eraserhead is one of his movies that just irks the shit out of me.

I get it, like all David Lynch things, it looks cool and it’s creative and weird and feels like a nightmare come to life. However, I can get great visuals and creative weirdness from hundreds of music videos. What I want with movies, typically, is a coherent story and a purpose other than being bizarre, nonsensical art projects.

Most Lynch films to me are like modern art. They’re a banana duct taped to an old telephone that’s put on display in some gallery window in 1980s Soho. And I also get that “art is subjective” and that these films mean a lot to some people. But I think that 90 percent of those people are full of shit and just don’t want to appear stupid, so they act like they’re in on this “brainy art”.

So now that I’ve come off as a total dick, I do like David Lynch, the man, and the guy is free to create whatever the hell he wants just as people are free to like it… or dislike it. For me, sometimes Lynch’s uniqueness does work but this isn’t one of those pictures.

To me, this does look great but it’s a pointless, overly drawn out, shrill nightmare that serves no purpose other than to warn me away from knocking up a woman. I actually concluded that I didn’t want any kids well before I saw this film.

As far as the look and design of the picture, it is good and somewhat alluring at first. I also thought that the special effects shots and the baby creature were kind of cool in a visual sense. I also respect what Lynch created without any real budget. However, all of that gets diminished by everything else in this overwhelming, maddening nightmare.

I thought that Jack Nance was good in this and I generally like the guy in every role I’ve seen him in. However, his deliberately understated performance is drowned out by the rabbit carcass sperm baby and the noisy atmosphere.

Despite how it might appear, I don’t get off on shitting all over movies. Well, unless they’re made by Uwe Boll or a director of that caliber. As an artist, myself, I want to try to see things through the artist’s eyes. But in regards to a lot of Lynch’s work, it’s just not my cup of tea.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: David Lynch’s other movies, including his early short film work.

Film Review: Breaker! Breaker! (1977)

Release Date: April 1st, 1977
Directed by: Don Hulette
Written by: Terry Chambers
Music by: Don Hulette, Terry Chambers, Denny Brooks
Cast: Chuck Norris, George Murdock, Terry O-Connor, Michael Augenstein, Jack Nance

Paragon Films, Worldwide Distributing, American International Pictures, 86 Minutes

Review:

“I’m gonna stick ya!” – Hillbilly

I had to watch the RiffTrax version of this film as it was too dull and dreadful to watch without riffing. And to quote Mike Nelson from the RiffTrax version, “David Lynch saw this movie and said, “What the Hell?””

If you are a hardcore Chuck Norris fan, you’ll probably still hate this movie. It’s that bad.

This is what happens when you take the quickly played out trucker genre from ’70s cinema and mix it up with Chuck Norris before most people knew who he was. Hell, Norris barely even talks in this film. He mostly just stares as the camera zooms in on his face Bruce Lee style.

This film is batshit crazy but not the kind of batshit crazy that makes it awesome or at the very least, worthwhile. It’s baffling to watch and frankly, it’s a stupid fucking movie.

Hell, at the end, a bunch of truckers are told over the CB radio that some shit’s going down in a small Cali town and they respond by driving to the town and then mowing down all the buildings with no care in the world if there are people inside… and there are! Basically, they are down to commit mass homicide just because they got some hot tip over the CB. Hell, it could be a damn prank for all they know but truckers have no morals, just truck stop breakfast and rest stop syphilis.

The highpoint of the film, which still sucks, is the final fight in the horse pen. It’s full of slow motion roundhouses and a horse locking eyes with Chuck in some sort of metaphorical way that isn’t clear. Maybe they’re old lovers? Anyway, Chuck kicks the scumbag to pieces and then the horse escapes to run wild because I guess I’m supposed to find some deep meaning in a movie that can only be compared to drowning in deep shit.

I don’t know what else to say, so fuck this movie.

Rating: 2.25/10
Pairs well with: other cheap-o trucker movies and other early Chuck Norris movies like A Force of One, Good Guys Wear Black and The Octagon.

 

Film Review: Ghoulies (1984)

Also known as: Beasties (working title)
Release Date: November 8th, 1984 (UK)
Directed by: Luca Bercovici
Written by: Luca Bercovici, Jefery Levy
Music by: Richard Band, Shirley Walker
Cast: Peter Liapis, Lisa Pelikan, Michael Des Barres, Scott Thomson, Mariska Hargitay, Jack Nance, Bobbie Bresee

Ghoulies Productions, Empire Pictures, 81 Minutes

Review:

“They call me Dick, but you can call me… Dick.” – Dick

The Ghoulies films were never something that I was all that into. I watched them a few times in the ’80s and ’90s but there were so many better horror films from those decades, that Ghoulies really got lost in the shuffle and only ever seemed to resurface in my mind whenever someone else brought it up in conversation.

That being said, this is a better movie than I remembered. I can’t say the same about the sequels, as I haven’t revisited them in years but I plan to do so in the near future.

First off, I didn’t even remember that Michael Des Barres was in this. As a kid, I always loved him as Murdoc, the total bastard that loved to fuck with MacGuyver on MacGuyver. He is great at being insanely dramatic and he really ups the ante in this film, as the evil Malcolm Graves. The opening scene with him presiding over a demonic ritual was absolutely fantastic and so full of insane ’80s cheese that nearly everything after that scene is a disappointment.

Not to worry though, Des Barres comes back into the film in the third act and the big finale is friggin’ bananas.

The film deals more with witchcraft than just being about little carnivorous killer creatures, though. It’s that witchcraft that brings the creatures to life but this film has a lot of other layers to it. There is a terrifying clown doll for one thing, then there is a pair of weird midget minions and some undead shenanigans.

The highlight of the film is the finale, which sees the monsters tearing shit up while the evil wizard battles the main character and then Jack Nance, who you will probably recognize from Eraserhead or Twin Peaks.

The film has some serious flaws and a lot of mistakes in it but that stuff just adds to the charm.

One mistake that is hard to miss is in the confrontation between Malcolm Graves and his son. Malcolm’s eyes glow green and then they don’t from shot to shot. I don’t know how they fucked this up. Maybe there were some re-shoots done and they didn’t have anymore money for effects, I’m not sure. Point is, this mistake sticks out like a sore thumb.

This is a silly, stupid movie but the formula works. You can’t watch this and take it seriously and it is self-aware enough to know that it just needed to be ludicrous and fun.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The other three Ghoulies films, the Munchies films, Hobgoblins and Sorority Babes In the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama.

Film Review: The Demolitionist (1995)

Release Date: March 10th, 1995 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Robert Kurtzman
Written by: Brian DiMuccio, Anne Kurtzman
Music by: Shawn Patterson
Cast: Nicole Eggert, Richard Grieco, Bruce Abbott, Heather Langenkamp, Susan Tyrrell, Peter Jason, Sarah Douglas, Tom Savini, Reggie Bannister, Joseph Pilato, Jack Nance, Derek Mears, Bruce Campbell (uncredited)

A-Pix Entertainment, Two Moon Releasing, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You’re under arrest for the murder of Alyssa Lloyd.” – Alyssa Lloyd/The Demolitionist

If you were to take Robocop and take all the really good stuff out of it, replace the actors with mostly incapable ones, bastardize the plot and make the hero look like Jamie Powell from Charles In Charge, then you would have The Demolitionist. But hey, special effects maestro Tom Savini acts in this!

This movie is terrible with a capital TERRIBLE. It’s mid ’90s sci-fi/action schlock for the straight to VHS market. Granted, even though I lived in video stores throughout my youth, I never rented this. The first time I saw it was in the early ’00s when I was a third shift security guard at a high rise condominium on the beach and this popped up on TBS or TNT at three in the morning. I actually didn’t get to see it with full violence and boobies until I just watched it the other night.

Why did I decide to watch this again? Well, it’s been like fifteen years and even though I knew it was bad, I’m a sucker for terrible motion pictures. So, being a sucker for cinematic shit, reliving this experience was not a disappointment.

First, this film has Richard Grieco in it as the sadistic villain. Grieco was decent on the original 21 Jump Street and his own spinoff of that show, Booker. He also starred in a terrible but fun movie, If Looks Could Kill, which saw him play a high school student mistaken for a James Bond type of spy. Other than that, his acting work has been abysmal and this is no different. Well, it could actually be the big glorious cherry on top of his sundae of shitty performances.

Nicole Eggert of Charles In Charge and Baywatch fame stars as the hero. She’s basically Robocop but a hotter version with a normal head and a body that also doesn’t really look altered. Granted, she’s basically a zombie and needs some special injections to prevent her from rotting away. Sadly, we don’t actually get to see Robozombie eating douchebag brains.

Eggert and Grieco were just atrocious in this. It’s really bad, man. Their acting is actually worse than I remembered. I can’t say that it is wholly their fault though, as this entire production is horrendous. Weirdly, it is directed by Robert Kurtzman, who is actually really respected as a monster movie makeup artist. However, his work in the director’s chair leaves a lot to be desired.

Nothing about this movie is good, other than I have a soft spot for Eggert because I used to crush on her hard when I was a young lad in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

You may be wondering if this cyber turd should be run through the trusty Cinespiria Shitometer? Of course it does! The Shitometer can eat and analyze the toughest turds! Even cyber turds! The results read, “Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2.5/10
Pairs well with: Robocop and other clones of its story but this is no friggin’ Robocop.

Film Review: Blue Velvet (1986)

Release Date: September 12th, 1986 (TIFF)
Directed by: David Lynch
Written by: David Lynch
Music by: Angelo Badalamenti
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, George Dickerson, Dean Stockwell, Frances Bay, Brad Dourif, Jack Nance, Priscilla Pointer

De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, 120 Minutes

Review:

“Baby wants to fuck! Baby wants to fuck Blue Velvet!” – Frank Booth

I was a pretty big David Lynch fan when I was a teenager, as well as in my twenties. His work was unique, bizarre, borderline insane and so surreal, that everything Lynch touched became otherworldly. My appreciation for his work really started with Twin Peaks. I never understood the show as an adolescent but it lured me in. Truth is, I don’t particularly understand it now. But I guess that’s Lynch’s modus operandi.

The thing is, as I get older, I expect more from my films than just beautiful surrealism and crazy madness. Lynch’s films get harder to watch with age and I’m just less accepting of incredible style over real substance. To be blunt, despite fantastic performances by the actors he casts, a lot of his work just comes off as pretentious faux-academic bullshit. You can call it art, that used to be my label for it, but his movies and his television show are weird just to be weird.

Blue Velvet, while it has a decent narrative and isn’t as confusing and baffling as Lynch’s other work, still falls victim to style over substance.

Now I don’t hate the film, I do mostly like it, but a lot of that has to do with the cast and how good they performed in this. This is Dennis Hopper at his most insane, which says a lot if you are familiar with his early work. It also features a very young Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern at their sweetest. Bit parts by Dean Stockwell, Frances Bay and Brad Dourif are all enjoyable too. I thought that Isabella Rossellini’s performance was over the top but I guess a lot of professional critics liked it.

Lynch’s films always have great cinematography, especially in regards to lighting and the angles used to capture the scenes. Blue Velvet is technically sound. Although, I am not a fan of the score. It feels disorienting and out of place at times but then again, this is Lynch and that is probably the point because why not be weird just to be weird, right?

Blue Velevet is a mid 1980s neo-noir. It is a good example of the neo-noir style, even if it is pretty far outside the box. It’s not bad, it’s just decent. It’s far from exceptional and severely overrated, in my opinion. But I can’t discredit the visual allure and the talented cast, especially Hopper.

Rating: 6.25/10