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9.1 19 10
Extended Edition June 25, 2012 4764
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Dune is a literary science fiction masterpiece whose definitive cinematic portrayal is still elusive. Much can be said about the aborted attempts made at bringing the first novel to the screen, and while the Sci-Fi Channel’s 2000 miniseries may have been a bit more accurate in the events depicted within its runtime, David Lynch’s 1984 theatrical effort is still a fascinating piece of work.

Unfortunately, even a definitive version of this film doesn’t truly exist. Lynch’s theatrical version was about 2 hours long, which meant that the meat of its narrative was severely trundcated by studio demands for a more commercial picture. When an extended cut was commissioned for television, the resultant mess of bad pacing, repeated special effects shots, and rough shape of the restored footage led to Lynch disowning that version, leaving it to be credited to the dreaded ‘Alan Smithee.’

Enter fan editor PhineasBG. While there are several other Dune fan edits out there, most attempt to bring the film more in line with the novel, while one attempts to recreate what the pre-release workprint might have been like. The Third Stage Edition is something else entirely. Working from a widely-available shooting script and utilizing footage from both cuts and the selection of deleted scenes from the Special Edition DVD released in 2006, Third Stage aims to restore what is presumed to be Lynch’s actual director’s cut.

Being the first fan edit I ever got my hands on, I was plenty excited to experience it, and I was not disappointed. The story now feels complete and epic, coming in just under 3 hours but suffering none of the repetition of the extended edition. Most of the deleted scenes restored are incredibly welcome, most especially the extended bits of the climax, for example the death of Thufir Hawat and Paul claiming Irulan as his wife. There are still problems inherent to Lynch’s version, which include the incredibly short amount of time Paul and Chani fall in love, and the pacing around Jessica’s taking of the Water of Life, but with no surviving examples of that footage, PhineasBG did his best, and his best is still wonderful.

Even only being available on DVD, the picture and sound quality are surprisingly good for its age. Black levels are inconsistent, but the picture retains its color and has pretty good resolution for the format, having been sourced from 720p. The extended edition footage, long missing the blue-within-blue eye FX, has been restored digitally. No more Fremen continuity errors. Deleted scenes are still a bit rough and scratchy compared to the rest of the picture, but again, this is the way it is when the source footage is unrestored. I can’t expect everyone to be Harmy.

The sound mix is deep and bassy, enough to shake the house when turned up. Some people aren’t a fan of this, but I love hearing the speakers rumble. Another big thing to note is that whenever possible, the theatrical cut audio is used on the sountrack, as the extended edition made some rather nonsense changes to the audio that frankly left me scratching my head. Bravo, PhineasBG.

In short, my highest recommendation (if you can find it)

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