Director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s legendary attempt to bring Frank Herbert’s Dune to the big screen is one of the great coulda-been stories of science fiction film history. The Chilean-French director spent several years in the 1970s attempting to mount an epic worthy of the Dune name, and one that would have made David Lynch’s eventual version look positively pedestrian. Surrealist artist Salvador Dali would have played Emperor Shaddam Corrino IV, and Orson freakin’ Welles as Baron Harkonnen, a role he was, er, physically well suited to play late in his life. Behind the scenes the talents enlisted were just as impressive: H.R. Giger, French artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud (seen above, right, with Jodorowsky on the left and some sort of S&M superhero in the middle), and iconic British sci-fi cover artist Chris Foss were all going to be on the team, with Pink Floyd providing the music. We may not have gotten to see Jodorowsky’s completed vision, but we are getting an acclaimed documentary exploring it, and in the mean time we’ll have to make do with this amazing concept art from the ill-fated project.
Swiss artist H.R. Giger is of course best known for his work on Ridley Scott’s Alien, most notably on the various life stages of the xenomorph and the design of the creepy derelict vessel, complete with the giant, fossilized Space Jockey (long before he was redubbed an “Architect”). But he might have become more of a household name several years earlier had Dune come to fruition. Even years before Alien, you can already see the xenomorph skittering around Giger’s mind in this concept art from Jodorowsky’s project. No word what’s being represented in these images, but it paints an interesting alternate history: if we had gotten Jodorowsky’s Dune, would Giger have still worked on Alien? And if not, would that film have had the impact and legacy that it did with his contributions intact?
As cool as it always is to see Giger’s stuff, I personally am drooling even more over the art by Chris Foss. He’s one of those guys whose work I grew up loving without ever really knowing his name. His work adorned countless books and magazines I raided from my dad’s book closet growing up, and along with Robert McCall, he’s easily one of my favorite science fiction artists of all time. His ship design in particular is always unique and gorgeous, and that’s certainly the case here. Oddly enough, he also ended up working on Alien, as well as the 1978 Superman film, 1980’s Flash Gordon, and Artificial Intelligence, prior to Stanley Kubrick’s death.
If you missed it when we posted it before, here’s the trailer for the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary, which opens in limited release on March 21.