DVD reviews: The ‘Dune’ that never was

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Sony Pictures Classics
Alejandro Jodorowsky speaks during a scene in the documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune.”
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This week we begin with a director called “Jodo.”

Jodorowsky’s Dune

Rated PG-13, 90 minutes.

(***1/2)

In the early 1970s, Alejandro Jodorowsky enjoyed international fame from the success of his wildly creative films El Topo and The Holy Mountain.

Producer Michel Seydoux approached Jodorowsky with an offer to film whatever he wanted. The director chose Frank Herbert’s revered science fiction novel Dune.

Jodo then traveled the world on Seydoux’s dime to assemble a crew, including artists Chris Foss and H.R. Giger and rock musician Christian Vander of Magma.

For special effects, he enlisted Dan O’Bannon, now deceased but represented here by his widow. Jodo also brought illustrator Moebius on early — a wise choice since the artist went on to create the film’s now-legendary notebook of storyboards.

Now, this engaging documentary from director Frank Pavich pieces together Jodorowsky’s project, its rise and eventual fall into project launch failure.

Thankfully, many involved still remain and sat for interviews with Pavich.

But the beguiling documentary’s ongoing interview with the now 85-year-old Jodorowsky brings the most information to light, while also painting a picture of an artist whose flame still burns.

The exuberant Jodo bubbles with excitement as he talks about what never happened. His enthusiasm makes the viewer almost disappointed that we are watching a movie about a movie that was never made. And one we’ll never be able to watch.

Extras: Nine deleted scenes.

*

Under the Skin (*1/2) In 14 years, director Jonathan Glazer has made three films — one good (Sexy Beast), one awful (Birth) and now, with the arrival of this murky drama, one completely incomprehensible.

Scarlett Johansson and virtually no one else stars in this dark tale that meanders on at length with little point.

An unknown woman (Johansson) drives around Scotland in a van. She stops and talks enticingly to men and sometimes ends up with them in a secluded spot, which seems to be a shabby house or apartment. There, in this near-dark setting, the heavily blurred but apparently naked woman beckons the men to her. They then seem to drown themselves in a shadowy pond of water (is this metaphoric or just silliness?).

Elsewhere, she drives around, talking, and even eventually having at least one semi-substantial conversation with someone.

Glazer also inserts an abundance of “arty” sequences consisting of little more than empty images.

Eventually, it becomes possible to interpret the woman’s identity as being an alien come to Earth to kill, seduce and maim men. Or then again, maybe not.

Rated R, 108 minutes.

Bonus: 10-minute “making of” featurette.

*

Warner Archive Collection releases a pair of unrelated, unrated films that seem to have nothing in common but the word “crooked” in their titles.

Chase a Crooked Shadow (***) This film stars Anne Baxter as Kimberly Prescott, a South African diamond heiress who travels to her Spanish villa only to meet a man (Richard Todd) who insists he is her brother, Ward, who died two years earlier.

She protests to anyone who will listen, but it seems everyone, or almost everyone, agrees the man is Ward.

Knowing it to be a scheme to rob her, Kimberly seeks several escapes, until finally, director Michael Anderson springs a few last-minute surprises.

Good, tense build-up aided by able cast.

Released in 1958, 87 minutes.

The Crooked Road (**) This film never succeeds in generating any suspense.

Robert Ryan plays Richard Ashley, a journalist trying to expose the corruption behind a duke (Stewart Granger) who rules a fictitious Balkan country.

Ashley can incriminate the duke with documents that go missing when a contact is murdered and he is accused.

Matters are further complicated when the duke’s wife (Nadia Gray) becomes involved. She was once romantically linked to Ashley, and the flame still burns.

Don Chaffey directs with a dead hand, rendering lifeless scenes in stark black and white. Based on Morris L. West’s novel.

Released in 1965, 92 minutes.

*

How It All Began (**1/2) Documentary filmmakers Karin Sorvik and Jamee Culbertson give a full picture of the history of how martial arts came to this country.

They focus on the activities of Thai Taoist Master Mantak Chia, who arrived here in the 1970s.

The directors provide abundant background information on the movement as well as filming interviews with Chia and many of his American students and instructors.

Not rated, 96 minutes.

Extras: The hour or so of supplements include a 17-minute 1983 interview with Chia and a 30-minute 2010 interview with Jamee Culbertson and Chia. Plus, the trailer.

Also on DVD: Bad Johnson, Bethlehem, Open Grave and Rio 2.

BOO ALLEN is an award-winning film critic who has worked for the Denton Record-Chronicle for more than 20 years. He lives in Dallas.


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