Many, if not most, of you out there have read Frank Herbert’s classic Dune, or are at least familiar with the sprawling universe he created over the course of numerous novels (a mantle his son Brian Herbert has picked up). We’re talking about a big ass book. There’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot left out of David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation, a film that is both revered and reviled in seemingly equal measure (and we’re left to wonder what could have been with legendary maverick filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version that never materialized). Because of the extensive mythology and history that Herbert created, the studio was afraid that audiences wouldn’t understand what the hell was going on, so they created cheat sheets for the movie.
For a crib sheet, this is rather extensive; two sides totally means business. Not to mention there’s a great deal of writing, much of which is very, very small, that Universal wanted to the audience to study in a dark movie theater. That’s especially tough when the background makes it even more difficult to read. This doesn’t sound like it would be all that practical.
Perhaps there was a period before the movie started where the lights actually went up in order to give theater patrons a few minutes to study their sheets, like a desperate, last minute cram session immediately preceding a history final. (This also reads like a list of 1990s hardcore bands who were quite fond of borrowing terms from Dune as their names. Shai Halud, Muad’Dib, Harkonen, and many other all fall into this category.)
I went to see David Lynch’s Dune in the theater in 1984. As we entered, we were given a glossary of Dune terms with our tickets. I understand this is not a common piece of movie ephemera, so I thought you might like to see it.
Looking at this you mostly think about the low, continuous rustle of a theater full of fans squinting at this piece of paper, trying to read in the dark, which would be horribly annoying and distracting. In reality, people trying to figure out what the hell is going on in Dune from this cheat sheet probably caused them to miss many things happening on screen. If they’d stopped reading and just paid attention they might not have been so damned lost in the first place.