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)
I've been an avid fan of David Lynch's 'Dune' since I was a wee kid. For me it is his true masterpiece with almost every frame (There are a few duff FX shots among the many brilliant ones) sheer perfection. I bought the VHS, the DVD, the CD Soundtrack, the Extended TV DVD, the Blu-Ray, the 2nd (Reasonably faithful PC game) and even scratchbuilt a few models! I was never a fan of the novel or it's sequels/prequels or of the TV show. It was Lynch's visionary direction and the visual world that he created that I loved and not neccasarily Frank Herbert's universe. So I've never been able to see why so many (Including Lynch himself) dislike this movie. That thought out of the way...
I was excited about seeing this edit because of it's stated intent to not change Lynch's movie but to mearly extend it. The additional footage is for the most part seemlessly integrated into the film. As the first half unfolds, it doesn't feel intrusive into the flow of the movie and even for a devoted fan of this movie it was hard to spot. Sometimes it's just a shot or an extra sentence, sometimes it's a significant scene. But on rare occasions a shot was used whose visual quality is so far below the rest that it's a bit jarring from a purely visual point of view. But I was glad to see that footage integrated none the less. At the midpoint I was grinning from ear to ear with how brilliant this edit was. But...
After the midpoint there seemed to be much less integrated footage and this combined with the second half's leaps through time and space made this edit feel like two disjointed halves. In the original cut, 'Dune' flows like a beautiful unbroken dream sequence with Lynch using sound, montage, haunting voiceovers and mysterious visuals to tell his poetic story. But in this edit the first half's extra footage is integrated so well that it kind of breaks that spell, rendering the story in conventional yet more coherant terms. We see everything, every piece of the puzzle is revealed, every custom explained, every character fleshed out and every minute of life in Arakeen is shown. Then when Paul leaves Arakeen (At almost the exact middle) the edit appears to shift back into the mysterious dream structure with whole years passing with just a word from the voiceover. I would have liked to have seen almost all of the footage glimpsed on the bonus features being used. Since as I've said, the flow of the movie was disturbed anyway, so more of it would have made no difference.
So in the end this edit allowed me to appreciate even more why this film is so remarkable in the original cut and why I never grow tired of it's charms. Somehow to add to 'Dune' is also to take away something. However as you will notice I have scored this edit a 10 for enjoyment as it truelly is one of the best FanEdits I've so far seen. It allowed me to view a whole different side to the movie that the ugly Extended TV version could never do. I will be rewatching this for many years to come and will take a proud place next to my Theatrical Cut Blu-Ray.
Thanks so much to PhineasBG and all involved for the time it must have taken to complete. If you hated 'Dune' you'll probably hate this even more but if like me you love 'Dune' then you HAVE to get a copy of this edit! It will allow you to see a whole different side to this world, meaning that you can go back and enjoy Lynch's cut even more!
I am an extended edition buff and have a big collection of original ones and all the fanedits from here.
Many extended editions do not add anything to the movie, just add more useless scenes. I will rate the ones here.
Rating criteria: image quality, sound quality, 3x improvement, overall.
Image Quality: 7 of 10
Sound Quality: 7 of 10
Improvement: 8 of 10
Overall: 8 of 10