I have to admit that I’m always a little bit cynical whenever I hear various film fans bemoaning films that were never made. These are the films that were nearly made but ended up being abandoned because the production company ran out of money or maybe a lead actor died or maybe the studio refused to release it or else they released it in a heavily edited form. There’s a certain tendency among hipsters to decide that any movie that they will never be able to see would automatically have been the greatest film ever. It’s rare that anyone ever suggests that maybe it’s for the best that Stanley Kubrick never made his version of Napoleon or that maybe Ridley Scott’s version of I Am Legend would have been just as bad as the version that starred Will Smith or even that the footage that we have of Orson Welles’s unfinished The Other Side of The Wind doesn’t look that impressive.
In fact, some day, I want to see a documentary about an abandoned film where everyone says, “Oh my God, I’m glad that movie never got made. It would have sucked!”
However, that documentary is never going to be made. The great thing about praising a film that was never made was that you don’t have to worry about anyone watching the film and then going, “You have no idea what you’re talking about!”
For instance, I recently watched an excellent documentary called Jodorowsky’s Dune. This film tells the story of how the iconoclastic director Alejandro Jodorowsky attempted to make a film out of the science fiction novel Dune in the mid-70s. During the documentary, Jodorowsky explains that his version of the story would, in many ways, be different from the book. Since I’ve never read the book nor have I seen any of the various adaptations that actually were eventually produced, I can’t say whether Jodorowsky’s changes would have been an improvement. For that matter, I can’t say whether or not Jodorowsky’s film would have been great or if it would have been a legendary misfire. I’ve seen El Topo and The Holy Mountain so I’m pretty sure that his version of Dune would have been uniquely his own. But there’s no way for me — or anyone else for that matter — to say whether or not the film would have been any good because, after assembling an intriguing cast (Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, and David Carradine) and recruiting several talented artists and technicians (H.R. Giger, Dan O’Bannon, Chris Foss, and Moebius), Jodorowsky was never able to make his film. The Hollywood studios took one look at Jodorowsky’s vision and said, “There’s no way were paying for that.”
However, the documentary goes on to make a very intriguing argument that Jodorowsky’s Dune may be the most influential film never made. Many of the people who collaborated with Jodorowsky would go on to work on other science fiction films and, when they did, they brought with them many of the ideas and concepts that were originally developed for Dune. The documentary not only suggests that this might be true but also offers up some pretty compelling evidence, showing us how everything from Raiders of the Lost Ark to Prometheus has featured scenes that originally appeared in Jodorowsky’s Dune storyboards.
I may not be totally convinced that Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been the greatest film ever made but I love this documentary. The majority of it is spent just listening as Jodorowsky, alternating between English and Spanish, tells us the story of what he hoped to do with Dune and how, ultimately, he could not do it. Jordorowsky’s love of film and art is obvious with each word that he says. Whether he’s talking about meeting Salvador Dali or passionately advocating for creativity and imagination, Alejandro Jodorowsky is never less than charming and inspiring.
If you love movies, you’ll love Jodorowsky’s Dune. If you don’t love movies, Jodorowsky’s Dune will change your mind.