Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux

Dept. of Remixes & Fanedits


As #DuneJune comes to a close and we eagerly await Denis Villenueve’s version of Frank Herbert’s epic this December, there’s one element of the Dune canon that we couldn’t leave out. Rather than just revisiting David Lynch’s compromised Dune film from 1984, we tracked down a copy of “Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux.” A fan edit from 2012, by a mysterious editor known only as “Spicediver,” Redux changes the structure of the film, and adds content from the “Extended TV” version, as well as deleted scenes. We will never see Lynch’s true vision for Dune, but does this fanedit fix the many issues with the theatrical release?  

Umapagan Ampikaipakan: How? How did Spicediver make Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux? By taking scraps and leftovers and using it to craft something that the original Dune lacked: coherence. For me, what this proves is that David Lynch truly did have a far more consistent vision of what he wanted his adaptation to be. Until the studio came along and completely destroyed it. I remember reading Janet Maslin’s review of the movie in The New York Times, in which she opens by saying:

Several of the characters in Dune are psychic, which puts them in the unique position of being able to understand what goes on in the movie.

Janet Maslin

Which was pretty much how I felt after watching it the first time. I had read the book and had spent most of the movie trying to figure out what goes where. This thing by Spicediver fixes all of that!

Iain McNally: I think Ebert similarly nailed many of those issues in his review of the theatrical cut

The movie has so many characters, so many unexplained or incomplete relationships, and so many parallel courses of action that it’s sometimes a toss-up whether we’re watching a story, or just an assembly of meditations on themes introduced by the novels (the movie is like a dream)?

Roger Ebert

While we don’t have access to all the footage from Lynch’s planned three hour plus cut (that’s probably rotted away on a shelf somewhere), just putting in so much deleted content gives everything a more coherent feel. I rewatched the theatrical cut right after the Spicedvier edit and was floored by what was left in, and what was left out!

Some scenes are extended with footage from lower quality versions

UA: So did I. It was amazing how even the simple act of moving scenes around made this version so much easier to understand. I have no idea how anyone watching the original made sense of it. Especially if they hadn’t read Herbert’s books.

IM: I had expected the middle sections – Paul learning to become Muad’dib – to be the most fleshed out, but it’s actually the additional content that comes before that feels more important. They don’t even get to Dune until 51 minutes in which gives the whole movie more heft. More weight. 

UA: Which pretty much sums up the thinking of every “studio edit” out there. “Let’s get to the action faster! Who needs all of this setup?”

IM: LOL. There’s not too many drastically new scenes either, right? We get more of Dr. Yueh and life on Caladan. Scenes are just given time to breathe, and more context. Although there is still a baffling opening with the Revered Mother on Arrakis, listing off all the things the Fremen believe in (CHOAM! SPICE! THE VOICE FROM THE OUTER WORLD!) that retains a little bit of the confusion of the original version. 

UA: So it’s been a good 20 years since I’ve seen this. The first time was when I was 17. And then a few times after. But I still remember thinking how different this was from something like Star Wars. (It’s common knowledge that Lucas ripped off a whole tonne of things from Dune. Herbert even formed a joke organisation which he called the “We’re Too Big To Sue George Lucas Society.”) Where Star Wars was bright and light entertainment, everything about Dune felt truly alien. From the baroque setting, to the strange lingo, to giant peanut looking creatures pooping to fold space. The teenage me found all of this really strange and exciting. THIS was science fiction. 

Light up peanut poop

IM: As opposed to podracing? 😉 I can’t remember if I came across the novel first, or the movie tie-in that was in my school library. Unlike some people, I didn’t steal it, but the imagery was fascinating. The stillsuits, the worms, the ornithopters. STING. It wasn’t as easy to get a hold of older media back then. Dune, the movie, was just a legend when I was growing up. When I did catch it, even then I could tell that it was heavily truncated. I got more out of the Cryo interactive adventure game which used the movie license and had likenesses, or close enough, for most of the actors. It filled in that tricky back half where Paul grows into the Fremen messiah (instead of it happening almost overnight as in most adaptations).

I also thought it was just this edit, but skimming through the original proved otherwise: Jurgen Prochnow is a nut in this. While almost everyone seems lost in the material, he seems to grin and shout his way through every scene he’s in! 


While the book (and movie) always state “for the father… nothing,” even this edit can’t save Paul and Chani’s romance. Sean Young is radiant but there doesn’t seem to be enough cut material to piece together much of a romance for them. I actually hope this is something Villeneuve brings to the fore. Make it about the characters. 

UA: Villeneuve really has his work cut out for him. I’m not going to pretend like Herbert’s book is an easy read. It isn’t. It’s positively byzantine at points. There are so many complex relationships between these characters and it’s going to be so hard to portray that on screen without all of the inner monologue that literature allows for.

IM: I loved that in this! I’d forgotten about it, but at completely random moments, a person’s thoughts will intrude upon the action. Sometimes only once, but it adds to the odd dreamlike feel of the film.

UA: I was thinking about how, if he pulls this off, it would really cement Villeneuve’s reputation as a genius. For lack of a better comparison, he needs to do a Peter Jackson. Mine the novel and basically give us a “good bits version” without losing any of Herbert’s intellectual heft or philosophical musings. Dune doesn’t lend itself to being light entertainment. There is a message in the madness. Embrace it and I think the audience would reward him for it.

Now with 20% extra Thufir Hawat!

IM: Speaking of good bits, what did you think of the changes to the ending in the fanedit? The original ending was bewildering, with sudden rain on Arrakis and Muad’dib bringing “peace and love.” I really liked seeing the end to Thufir’s storyline in this version, and the voiceover is more in keeping with Paul’s fears of jihad from the books.   

UA: I preferred everything about this edit. Those last 10 minutes just felt like it was given time to breathe.

IM: I mean it was this edit that finally gave the Atreides pug time to shine. I never even noticed the dog before, but it’s with Leto in the beginning and then appears in the arms of a Fremen child at Arakeen at the end, right before the big fight with Sting! Maybe it was a “bark from the outer world” and not voice?

Something this edit barely changes (with good reason) is the Toto soundtrack. What a wonderful extravagant score. 

UA: I was just going to say the same. That theme song hit me with a wave of nostalgia!


UA: DAMN RIGHT! I do believe this theme should be up there with Star Wars, and Back to the Future, and Indiana Jones. It is imprinted onto my memory.

IM: I dunno… I hear it in my head all the time and that was before rewatching. 

I’d also forgotten just how much I love the incredibly odd shield effects and the end credits where the cast all sit for their portrait as their name is displayed beside them and smooth Toto plays. 

“Special” Effects

UA: The shield fighting is one of my favourite things. There are so many cool, weird, batty concepts in the book. And I really can’t wait to see how Villeneuve is going to depict them. Dune feels like an adaptation whose time has come. With everything we can do with visual effects these days, it feels like we might finally get something that’s worthy. Back in 1984, so much of the critical response to this took potshots at the visual effects. Star Wars was their standard bearer. 

IM: I think the sandworm effects (at least when there are no humans in the picture) still hold up. The edit can’t do anything about the lack of “pew pew pew.” The ornithopters do look old fashioned, almost like something out of a Flash Gordon serial. They didn’t quite think through the future warfare did they? Sure there are shields and weirding modules, but the battles aren’t really well thought out. Just loads of soldiers running at each other in mid close up.  

UA: I don’t know man. I think that might have been a budget thing. They had blown so much money between Arthur P. Jacobs, Alejandro Jodorwosky, and Ridley Scott before finally telling David Lynch, this $40 million is all you got!

IM: It was the same in the Sci-Fi Channel version though. In the book, it’s mostly just atomics and the weirding way right? Fingers crossed they come up with a cool, interesting method to achieve the weirding way this time.

“Hello?Denis Villeneuve? I have some words of warning for you”

UA: I also think that this next Dune succeeds or fails at the box-office because of marketing. The studios haven’t been great at selling Villeneuve’s movies. They need to lean into the fact that he makes deeply contemplative movies. I think a lot of people went into Arrival and Blade Runner 2049 expecting something completely different. And Dune isn’t a space Western.

IM: With it’s young cast though it could be a space high school movie! After seeing the pitfalls that befell Lynch, hopefully Villenuve can avoid them. After all, “the first step in avoiding a trap is knowing it’s existence…

Dune (1984) Alternative Edition Redux
178 mins
Director: David Lynch
Editor: Spicediver
Writer: David Lynch and Frank Herbert.
Cast: Kyle MacLachlan, Virginia Madsen, Francesca Annis, Kenneth McMillan, Everett McGill, Patrick Stewart, Sting, Max von Sydow, Sean Young, and Jürgen Prochnow,

Dune: The Alternative Edition Redux is not available to stream anywhere. Copies can be found out there, on the Internet, if you know where to look.

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