Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune

Sci-fi fans will be familiar with the novels by Frank Herbert, starting with Dune and leading onto several others – along with the later David Lynch movie and more recent TV series.

What many are less aware of is that the David Lynch film was the second attempt to make the lengthy novel into a film.

Surrealist film director, Alejandro Jodorowsky also took a run at turning the book into a film, although his version was aiming to be less a literal interpretation of the novel, and more a phycadelic vision of what the books core meaning was about.

He was a bit weird, was our Alejandro.

Anyhow, the plan for the film, however weird sounded fascinating, with a veritable whos-who of 1970s stars wanting to appear.

Among Jodorowsky’s proposed cast were Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and Salvador Dali, the last of whom was to play the Emperor of the Universe, who ruled from a golden toilet-cum-throne in the shape of two intertwined dolphins.

The film got into pre-production and then foundered after he spent a couple of million dollars and delivered very little in return.


Why am I writing about this? Well, there is an exhibition in London for a few months featuring some of the early concept sketches from the film pre-production, including works by H.R. Giger – who later went on to design the stunning look of the Alien movie.

The venue, The Drawing Room is a newish facility sitting conveniently close to Regent’s Canal, behind a locked (ring the doorbell) gate.

The gallery is the typical white wall/wooden floor genre with a series of drawings dotted around the walls and a couple of sculptures in the centre.

Sadly though, the material from the original film is scarce, being 3 prints from the Giger estate and 5 prints from the concept artist, Chris Foss. Photocopies of a French language magazine article are laid out in a side room.

The rest of the display is modern work commissioned from some artists, and only one of them seemed to have taken the book as their inspiration.

For a Dune/Jodorowsky exhibition – it was sadly lacking Dune, and almost devoid of Jodorowsky.

I’d say that if you are in the vicitinty of the building, maybe out for a stroll on the Canal, then it is worth a 10 minute detour, as the drawings are undeniably very good.

I just wish there was more there about the film.

Whats's on in London: today or tomorrow or this weekend

Posted in Events and Tours
2 comments on “Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune
  1. It is disappointing to read this, but no harm done, at least, not to H.R. Giger’s or Chris Foss’ reputations. I am glad, however, in this renewed interest in one of the greatest films never made and hope it will eventually result in a documentary about it. That’s the Dune film I want to see, with the participation of the two most important creative principals in the story, Alejandro Jodorowsky and Jean Giraud Moebius, whose conspicuous absence in The Drawing Room exhibition is what makes it so embarrassingly noteworthy.

  2. I thought I’d offer a bit of background on the difficulty involved in bringing together the participants in this museum of Nostalgia – I should say that I have worked as an artist with MÅ“bius for many, many years, and I have also know Alejandro Jodorowsky since about 1990 – In that time-span, I have looked carefully at copies of the thousands of drawings, paintings, storyboards, etc – tightly bound into an enormous “bible” entitled DUNE.

    I have heard the countless stories as well – Pink Floyd was involved, as well, and the wind blowing at the end of Wish You Were Here (Part 5) may well be a remnant from some sand dune of one kind or another…Presently, the art’s copyright is owned by Camera One, in Paris ( P. Seydoux ) and they’ve been notoriously unwilling to release this stuff over the years. Also, because so many of the concepts have been “stolen” or used and recycled by successful 3rd parties, over the years, the original participants feel a bit despondent about it all… Furthermore, most contracts written in those days are a bit vague —

    I guess that if producers were not able to own artwork “outright”, away from creators, a proper exhibit would have taken place years ago. It should be noted that Alejandro did not “burn” through 2 million Dollars at the time – his producer did. Alejandro never made any money while he worked, and the naive and eccentric nature of the “production” was the sole reason that the film probably never stood a chance – the participants just didn’t know it — but any Hollywood Studio looking from afar would have: There is a pecking order in place, even in the manufacturing of Blockbuster Science Fiction movies —

    the project, in 1973, did bring together a new vision in science fiction, which sparked a significant “revision of the future” in the subsequent Star Wars, Alien, Blade Runner, and what we now know as Cyberpunk – Grunge Fiction…
    The exact origin of all this can be found in a magazine created by MÅ“bius and Druillet called METAL HURLANT. That’s where it all started.

    I will close by saying that I own a copy if the Dune Bible – hundreds of pages of art, and if someone out there wants to do the foot-work of clearing the legal brush, I will happily lend my copy as part of an exhibit, but everyone should know that all the original artwork has all been scattered into the winds of time —
    “whoooosh” !

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