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Examine 'Dune' that might have been

| Thursday, May 8, 2014, 8:55 p.m.

Way back in 1973, before “Star Wars” and “Alien” made science fiction into a moneymaking mainstream film genre, Mexican cult director Alejandro Jodorowsky set out to make a psychedelic adaptation of Frank Herbert's “Dune.” It's considered by many sci-fi geeks one of the greatest films never made. Now 83 and still energetic as a Roman candle, the filmmaker and raconteur describes the epic project's stratospheric goals. He wanted not just collaborators but “spiritual warriors” ready to give their all for his vision (not Herbert's — the irrepressible Jodorowsky launched his space odyssey without reading the book).

Employing a mix of lively talking-head interviews and trippy animation based on Jodorowsky's sketchbooks and storyboards, Frank Pavich's documentary paints a tantalizing picture of the movie that might have been.

Hot off the successes of his weird-beard midnight-movie hits “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain,” Jodorowsky assembled a supergroup of true believers. The cast included Mick Jagger, Orson Welles as villainous Baron Harkonnen, and Salvador Dali as the emperor of the galaxy. The crew boasted Pink Floyd for music, Europe's greatest, strangest sci-fi artists for the visuals. “I was searching for the light of genius in every person,” says Jodorowsky.

Ultimately, the project failed to launch, and David Lynch released his own eerie, flawed version in 1984. Jodorowsky's unrealized “Dune” might have been a smash or a “Flash Gordon”-style misfire, but his war stories are never less than inspirational.

Colin Covert is a staff writer for McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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