Geeks logo

DUNE (1984): The SpiceDiver Extended Cut redeems the integrity of David Lynch’s disowned adaptation

It’s not so bad as long as you can keep the fear from your mind. Fear is the mind-killer, after all…

By Jack Anderson KeanePublished 3 months ago 6 min read
Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, and Everett McGill as Stilgar, in DUNE (1984)

“A person needs new experiences. They jar something deep inside, allowing him to grow. Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.”


It was a valiant attempt.

That’s the phrase that kept running through my mind over and over again when I first watched David Lynch’s Dune.

As an adaptation, it surprised me how thorough and faithful Lynch hewed to Frank Herbert’s source text, what with the sheer number of scenes, the sprawl of characters, and even direct quotes of dialogue that were ripped straight from the book.

As a film of its time, many of the sets were lavishly large and imaginative, with the production design and costuming doing decent justice to the spirit of Herbert’s descriptions of his world. (Highlights of this for me were the Bene Gesserit sisterhood’s regal-yet-witchy flowing gowns, the Fremen stillsuits, and the pale bald Spacing Guild’s sinister black leather bondage getups that looked like they must have served as stylistic inspiration for not just the Cenobites in Hellraiser, but most especially the Strangers in Alex Proyas’ Dark City.)

The score by Toto mostly held up rather well, with strong leitmotifs and recurring themes anchoring the predominantly orchestral soundtrack, while only ever feeling slightly dated by the infrequent inclusions of very-80's-sounding gated drums, synthesisers, and electric guitars… or in other words, the times when Toto sounded the most like Toto. (The fact they never recorded a special end credits version of ‘Africa’ that changed the lyrics to “I blessed some rains down on Arrakis” was a missed opportunity, I reckon.)

Much of the casting was pretty good, too.

I was nervous that perhaps Kyle Maclachlan might have been miscast as Paul when compared to the more befitting Timotheé Chalamet, in the same way that Maclachlan was woefully miscast as Josef K. in Harold Pinter’s adaptation of The Trial, particularly when compared to Anthony Perkins’ superior performance of the same character in Orson Welles’ earlier version; but thankfully, Maclachlan did pretty well in portraying both Paul’s youthful naivety, and his stoic leadership.

Patrick Stewart didn’t pop into my mind as being the type to play Gurney Halleck when I was reading the book, but he delivered the appropriate commanding gravity, yet comforting warmth that Halleck should have.

Linda Hunt was a great Shadout Mapes. José Ferrer — father of Miguel Ferrer — was an excellent Padishah Emperor. Brad Dourif was a PERFECT choice to play psychopathic mentat Piter De Vries, as was Max Von Sydow a PERFECT choice to play Dr. Liet Kynes. Kenneth McMillan was captivatingly horrifying as the Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (and certainly a worthy addition to the David Lynch Rogues Gallery of grotesque, hateful, psychotic, larger-than-life epitomes of evil, right up there with Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth, Willem Dafoe’s Bobby Peru, Robert Loggia’s Mr. Eddy, and Frank Silva’s BOB). The biggest shock I had was in finding out that Sting gave a great evil-crazy-eyes performance as the gleefully sadistic Feyd Rautha, who is kinda sorta analogous to Joffrey from Game of Thrones, except nowhere near as blood-boilingly hateful.

It was all a valiant attempt…

…but it just wasn’t the right time for Dune to get its due.

To attempt to filmify Dune, and try to cut it down to just over 2 hours, is to doom it to failure immediately. To compress the book’s complex Gordian knot of a plot, with all its millennia-spanning precursor history, tangled political skullduggery, psychedelic time-and-mind-bending, subversions of Chosen One prophecy tropes, and intertwining commentaries on warfare, capitalism, imperialism, ecology, society, religion, class, and a million other things besides… it’s just not possible. To minimise or omit some of these themes in favour of a reduced runtime is to undermine the things that make Dune endure the way it has. Without the complexity, without the nuance, without the specificity of its world-building that informs every aspect of the plot, you’re basically left with nothing but a hollow dystopian YA narrative.

From what I’ve gathered, it was producer Dino De Laurentiis who forced Lynch to cut the film down to the theatrical cut’s 2+ hour runtime, in order to allow for more back-to-back screenings of the film in theatres, in order to try to make more money. (Same as it ever was, same as it ever was.) When that happened, Lynch faced the same dilemma Alejandro Jodorowsky had earlier faced with his infamous, overly ambitious attempt to make a movie out of Dune, wherein Jodorowsky was told his movie could only be a little over 2 hours maximum — something hilariously at odds with Jodorowsky’s logistics- and bladder-defying desire for a 12 hour-long single feature film. The difference here was that Jodorowsky never got to shoot a single frame of his bonkers vision, while Lynch had shot everything for his, and if the end result were to maintain any measure of flow and coherence, it could only work as a 3 hour film, at minimum. But as history goes to show, Lynch’s experience of not being allowed by De Laurentiis to have final cut on Dune — coupled with the theatrical cut getting eviscerated by film critics, book fans, general audiences, before altogether financially tanking at the box office — is what cemented the insistence Lynch had forever after to always have final cut on his projects, and to never again make a big budget Hollywood blockbuster beholden to producer and studio-driven compromises.

The theatrical cut of Dune (1984) is a mess. Weirdly entertaining in its own right, and a fascinating stepping stone in Lynch’s career evolution to behold, but otherwise still a big ol’ choppy mess.

SpiceDiver’s extended fan-edit cut, however, is a tremendous shot at redemption for Lynch’s often vilified crack at Dune, that shows just how much was filmed, how much Lynch cared in his adaptation, and how much invaluable material was unjustly cut.

For sure, many of the same problems persist no matter the version, as these were issues endemic to the time the film was made, and the resources that were available to them back then.

Some of the acting is on par with the sort you’d see on 80’s American soap operas; the sound design is sometimes incredibly cheesy; the back half of the film still feels underdeveloped and rushed (especially the romance between Paul and Chani); and while the practical miniature and prosthetic works do hold up well enough, the majority of the visual effects are so shoddy and cheap-looking, that rather than being on par with 2001: A Space Odyssey (as they ought to have been, and as Jodorowsky intended with his imagined version), they instead look like they were done by whoever Golan and Globus at Cannon Films hired to do the hilariously bad VFX in Superman IV: The Quest for Peace.

But beyond those flaws, the SpiceDiver cut — assembled by way of the maligned extended TV cut that Lynch went full “Alan Smithee” on — reincorporates many pivotal scenes that provide greater understanding of the plot, a closer adherence to what occurs in the book, fixing the De Laurentiis-enforced ending that completely misunderstood so many fundamental aspects of everything the book and the film had established about its universe, as well as removing 95% of the interior monologue voiceovers that Lynch had implemented originally, opting for implication, subtlety, the context within scenes, and the actor’s faces to convey the same information. (Personally, when I read the book, I imagined the interior monologues working in a film version if somebody like Terrence Malick had done it. But then again, from an adaptation streamlining perspective, forgoing the constant inner monologues makes sense.)

Akin to the Extended Editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Final Cut of Blade Runner, and the Snyder Cut of Justice League, the SpiceDiver extended fan-edit (a.k.a. The Alternate Edition Redux) of Dune (1984) should be considered the essential version of the film, and the only one you should watch to truly gauge its quality, because the Theatrical Cut can only disappoint by comparison.

It’s not impossible, but it is unlikely, that David Lynch will ever do his own official Director’s Cut of Dune, working with hypothetical 4K restorations of the deleted scenes’ film negatives that the SpiceDiver Cut could only replicate through the standard definition extended TV version, and doing his own edit that aligns more with the vision his younger self had for the film. But hey, if the extended “Ulysses Cut” of Waterworld could graduate from an online fan-edit to an official inclusion in a Blu-ray re-release, perhaps one day we’ll see the SpiceDiver Cut get the proper HD treatment it deserves. Until then, the 4K upscaled version — available to watch on YouTube for free as of the time of writing, and likely available elsewhere (wink wink) if it gets taken down from YouTube in future — will do the job just fine.

Long may the spice flow.


Originally published October 22nd 2021 at, with newer edits and additions made here on March 3rd 2024.


About the Creator

Jack Anderson Keane

An idiot pretending not to be an idiot.

You can also find me on Twitter (for memes), Instagram (for the pictures), Letterboxd (for film reviews), Medium (for a Vocal alternative), Goodreads (for book reviews), and Spotify (for my music).

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights


There are no comments for this story

Be the first to respond and start the conversation.

Sign in to comment

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.