April 17, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Long

Review: 'Jodorowsky's Dune' details a director's unfulfilled vision

Artist H.R. Giger did design work on Alexander Jodorowsky's 'Dune.' He later made a name for himself with 'Alien.' (Sony Pictures Classics)

It is possibly the most influential film never made.

The stars were on board — Mick Jagger, David Carradine, Orson Welles and Salvador Dali. The costumes were designed, storyboards were drawn, the script was written and magnificent sets were imagined.

There were only a few problems.

One: As written, the movie would be 14 hours long.

Two: The director-to-be was a Chilean-French avant garde dreamer whose two previous films were midnight movie cult features.

Not surprisingly, Hollywood balked when it came to financing.

This is the story behind “Jodorowsky’s Dune,” a documentary that looks back to the ’70s when visionary filmmaker and prolific comic book writer Alejandro Jodorowsky tried to adapt Frank Herbert’s wildly popular science fiction novel.

The excitable Jodorowsky answered “Dune” when a producer asked what story he wanted to direct next, even though at that time he’d never read the book. Then Jodorowsky went about writing a screenplay, in which he changed some key elements.

He went on to recruit talent. He talked Welles and Dali into acting by making outrageous promises. Dali pointed him toward a Swiss artist named H.R. Giger; Jodorowsky flew to Hollywood to recruit the special effects master Dan O’Bannon.

And everybody seemed to buy into Jodorowsky’s dream. He was going to make a movie that would change human consciousness. Watching it would be like taking an LSD trip without the LSD. It was the early ’70s — anything was possible.

Except, of course, it wasn’t.

Obviously this is a geek’s paradise. Director Frank Pavich reconstructs Jodorowsky’s dream through interviews with the director, now in his 80s, with Giger and the producers, and with assorted film types who’ve studied the story. Because even though “Dune” was never made, its influence has been huge.

Jodorowsky’s team assembled a huge book that contained the costume ideas, the script, the storyboards and scenes, many of which are seen in the film. Copies of that book floated around Hollywood as Jodorowsky tried to convince virtually every studio to back the movie.

The sword fights set the stage for the sword fights in “Star Wars.” The spaceships became templates for countless movie spaceships to come while the costumes were much-copied. And O’Bannon and Giger went on to bring “Alien” to life with director Ridley Scott, creating a monster that has fueled numerous sequels while inspiring countless other creatures.

None of this would have happened without Jodorowsky. But Pavich’s film isn’t really about the wake of one man’s dream, it’s about dreaming in the first place, about a purity of passion and imagination that seemed possible 40 years ago. It leaves you wondering about how many artists are working on such wild dreams these days, and hoping it’s more than you think.

‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’

'Jodorowsky's Dune'


Rated PG-13 for some violent and sexual images and drug references

Running time: 90 minutes

Opens Friday


Alejandro Jodorowsky, left, and documentary director Frank Pavich talk ... (David Cavallo / Sony Pictures Classics)
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