Longtime TR readers might remember my “salute” to David Lynch’s Dune movie, a film that was epic, visually stunning and well-acted… but also confusing, uneven and occasionally downright goofy. Among the film’s many problems is that it was also poorly marketed. It was 1984, and Universal was hoping they had the new Star Wars on their hands, because the biggest lesson most of Hollywood took away from the success of the Star Wars trilogy was the merchandising. Just hold on tight to those licensing rights, and get ready for a deluge of sweet, sweet revenue. License anything and everything, because that’s where the real money’s at!
What Universal failed to realize is that while Star Wars was kid-friendly, Dune was anything but — anyone who’s either seen the movie or read the book could tell you in a second that it’s neither appropriate for, nor appealing to youngsters. This meant Universal licensed a ton of merchandise for a movie kids never saw (or if they had lax parents who did let them see it, didn’t understand or like). Here’s a collection of some of the Dune movie’s most bizarre merchandising, as well as some honestly rare and actually awesome bits of memorabilia (special thanks to Dune Index, Collectors of Dune, and DuneStuff). Enjoy, and may the Hand of God be with you.
14) Jigsaw Puzzles
Waddingtons actually put out several of these 150-piece puzzles made from movie stills and promotional images. This one of Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen was selected in particular because it’s frankly a larf to imagine that when assembling this, you’ll find a puzzle piece with Sting’s codpiece on it (or possibly four).
13) Belt Buckle
Who says elaborate pants-retaining systems are the sole province of cowboys and other macho stereotypes? Maintain the integrity of your lower garments in style with this pewter beauty featuring a simple, yet elegant Arrakeen skyline showing both moons and some Guild Frigates in the distance.
12) Children’s Book and Record Set
Remember these from the ’70s and ’80s? A picture storybook with an accompanying 45 RPM record (ask your parents, younger readers), you read the book and play the record simultaneously, with audible cues telling you when to proceed to the next page.
I like to think in this case, when Feyd screams “I WILL KILL HIM!!!” you immediately have to turn the page.
11) Paper Dolls
Who knows why or how these things exist? It’s doubtful there’s much overlap between Dune fans and paper doll enthusiasts. These don’t even have the excuse of attempting to market the film; apparently they were made in 1991, somewhere, for some reason. Sorry, this one has me baffled.
10) Revell Models
Model builders will tell you with absolute assurance that there’s a model for pretty much everything, and you should believe it. The Sand Crawler actually looks pretty cool, while the Sandworm model looks even more inappropriate than the Sandworms in the movie looked, which is saying something.
Christmas morning, 1984: “But MO-OM! I asked for Return of the Jedi sheets!”
“I’m sorry, honey, they were all out. But they had loads of these, for half the price — and it’s still one of those spaceman movies like you like!”
8) Action Figures
LJN was no Kenner or Mattel, but the Dune toys were actually pretty well made. If the film had done better, the line might have actually gone somewhere. The figures are quite sought after by collectors; the catalog here shows Lady Jessica and Gurney Halleck figures that were never released, though toy collector myth claims prototypes exist somewhere.
7) Toy Guns
LJN also made these guns, almost certainly hoping to confuse parents who were looking for Star Wars blaster toys for their kids. They’re actually really cool, if you don’t mind there’s nothing even close to resembling a “Tarpei Gun” in either the books or the movie.
6) Puffy Stickers
What could possibly be more quintessentially ’80s than puffy stickers? Sitting on the hood of a DeLorean, playing with a Rubik’s Cube while drinking New Coke and eating a McDLT, maybe? These are apparently Belgian… and that’s about all I can say about them.
5) Pop-Up Book
At this point, I began to wonder if I was the victim of an elaborate prank: A freakin’ Dune POP-UP BOOK???
It’d be worth it for a pop-up Baron, though. “Pull the tab and watch the Baron rip out the slave boy’s heart-plug!”
4) Viewmaster Set
It wasn’t enough that they made a set of Dune Viewmaster slides; they had to go balls-out and make a special edition Dune Viewmaster viewer!
If you own this, I will start the bidding at my immortal soul…
3) Party Favors
Whoever convinced the company that made these it was a good idea needs to take over the Middle East peace talks, because clearly he or she can talk anyone into anything.
If one of you out there actually had a Dune-themed birthday party as a nerdling, complete with the Dune tablecloth, plates, cups, hats, blowers, and invitations, then congratulations, because you’re my new best friend.
2) Coloring and Activity Books
These books were a small-scale internet sensation last year, for obvious reasons — it’s not hard to imagine that these are one of the most bizarre and inappropriate coloring and activity books ever published. Just look at these sample pages from the coloring book! Imagine the joy on their innocent young faces as kids dig through their Crayolas to find just the right color for the Baron’s skin lesions and pustules, or debate the appropriate shade for the death pallor of the poisoned corpses of Duke Leto and Piter de Vries.
Oh! And don’t forget the recipe for “No-Bake Spice Cookies”! Side-effects may include prolonged lifespan, expanded consciousness, and bluing of the whites of the eyes. Should you experience any extrasensory awareness of future events, report to your nearest Bene Gesserit Sisterhood representative immediately.
1) Japanese Chirashi Flyers
I knew these would be #1 on this list the second I saw them. Chirashi flyers are promotional mini-posters that Japanese cinemas make to promote new movies. There are stills from the movie and a bit of promo text on the back of these, making them sort of a cross between posters and playbills. They are only available at theaters just for a few days before a movie opens, and that’s it.
There were several other chirashi designed, but these three were the only ones to use original artwork inspired by the film. Basically, this is about the closest you’re going to get to a Dune manga. Finding them is nearly impossible, and they’d be worth a Harkonnen spice stockpile if you could.