Sci-Fi’s Father

The inspirational quality of the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune is immaterial to the potential of the half-made movie it disinters. That inspiration transcends the tunnel-vision of some of the critics thrilled by a film that might have beat their beloved Star Wars to the screen by a few years.

Now the storyboards by French cartoonist Moebius can be animated, and this mad psychedelic project can be anatomized. The mystical filmmaker, 85-year-old Alejandro Jodorowsky, who’d been tripping out elite viewers with midnight cinema such as El Topo and The Magic Mountain, describes how he and producer Michel Seydoux tried to adapt Frank Herbert’s bestseller a corrupt interplanetary empire.

The team of “warriors” they assembled included the star for the project, Jodorowsky’s own son, who was put through two years of martial arts training. Dan O’Bannon, the FX artist on John Carpenter’s Dark Star, sold his possessions and came to live in Paris to work on Dune. British illustrator Chris Foss drew living spaceships with the dapples and stripes of scorpionfish. H. R. Giger, the father of Alien‘s xenomorph, created several terrifying fortresses, bristling with spears and teeth. And Jodorowsky set off after a cast that would include Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali.

Dune was an early meeting of the minds who created the science-fiction film wave to come. With his obsessions about virgin birth and messianic sacrifice, could Jodorowsky have reached audiences on the wow-level of visuals alone? David Lynch’s version—a better movie than director Frank Pavich’s documentary claims it is—didn’t succeed on that merit. I’m as inspired as anyone by Jodorowsky’s passion, but it’s chafing to hear Dune described as “the greatest movie never made.”

For a story on Kurt Stenzel, the San Francisco-based composer of Jodorowsky’s Dune soundtrack, go to

‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’ is now screening at Summerfield Cinemas,
551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa. 707.522.0719.