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How critics greeted the film adaptation of Dune in 1984

One reviewer said he was "impressed" by director David Lynch's take on the science-fiction novel. Another said he found Dune "repulsive."

Movie originated from Frank Herbert's 1965 science fiction novel

This image released by Warner Bros. Entertainment shows a scene from the upcoming 2021 film Dune. Warner Bos. Pictures on Thursday announced that all of its 2021 film slate, including Dune, will stream on HBO Max at the same time they play in theatres. (Chia Bella James/Warner Bros. Entertainment/The Associated Press)

Christmas 1984: what movie to see? Beverly Hills Cop with Eddie Murphy? Francis Ford Coppola's The Cotton Club? Maybe go far into the future with 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the sequel to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey?

Then there was Dune, director David Lynch's adaptation of the 1965 science-fiction novel by Frank Herbert.

Dune has been made again, this time by Quebec director Denis Villeneuve, and it debuted at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month. Actor Timothée Chalamet takes on the role of Paul Atreides, who was portrayed by actor Kyle MacLachlan in the 1984 film.

In December of that year, two of Canada's top film reporters appeared on CBC's The Journal to discuss the sci-fi spectacular.

'The worst thing that is being released this Christmas'

The 1984 film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune

37 years ago
2:35
In 1984, film reveiwer Richard Gay tells the CBC's Bill Cameron he liked the movie Dune. Critic Jay Scott says he decidedly didn't. (Film excerpt from Universal Pictures/Dino Di Laurentiis Productions) 2:35

Richard Gay, a critic who wrote for Montreal's Le Devoir newspaper, said he was "impressed" by the visual effects and the music in Dune. The Globe and Mail's Jay Scott, on the other hand, found the film "repulsive."

In a roundup of some much-anticipated movies playing the Toronto International Film Festival in 2021, writer March Mercanti called the 1984 version of Dune "a trainwreck of an adaptation which critics absolutely hated," though Mercanti was careful to clarify that "no shade" was meant for "applauded director David Lynch." 

Gay had more positive things to say while appearing on The Journal.

"I'm not a science-fiction buff myself, but I have to admit I was impressed by the film," he said. "Impressed by the visual effects, impressed by the soundtrack also."

"It's very intense from the beginning to the end."

Scott had a low opinion of Dune, however.

"I think this is probably the worst thing that is being released this Christmas," he said. "I really, really hated the film."

"It's kind of endless pretentiousness, and [there's] a real obsession with bodies opening up and emitting various kinds of noxious fluids. I found it not only not fun to watch, but repulsive."

Scott's print review in the Globe and Mail was equally blistering. "When Dune is not inept, confusing, ridiculous or unpleasant, it's boring," he wrote.

Director David Lynch, who adapted Dune for film in 1984, receives a lifetime achievement award at the 12th Rome Film Fest in Rome on Nov. 4, 2017. (Domenico Stinellis/The Associated Press)

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