A couple of big-budget sci-fi flops that proved mainstays of TV and video highlight this month's Retrofantasma double feature. First is 1984's Dune, where the great David Lynch was assigned to convert Frank Herbert's classic novel about environmentalism, mind-expanding substances, imperialism, politics, the moral ambiguity of messiah figures and jihad, and really, really, really big worms into the kind of film that could sell action figures and coloring books to kids who liked Star Wars. It was not that kind of film.
Though it baffled many a non-fan of the book (a printout glossary of terms used in the film was handed to initial audiences, for all the good that did them in a darkened theater), Lynch nonetheless pulled off a film with some extraordinary images—the bloated, floating Baron Harkonnen, the lush sets and costumes, Sting in a blue leather diaper. And of course the big ol' worms, which I finally found an action figure of on eBay last year.
If you can make it through the nearly three hours of Dune, 15 minutes later there's another famous sci-fi flop also known for its many appearances on TV—Disney's 1979 film The Black Hole, a bizarre attempt to get some of that good Star Wars money by combining laser battles and adorable robots with a horror-movie-like scenario and a 2001: A Space Odyssey-inspired ending so confusing that all novelizations and comic book adaptations of the flick came up with their own versions. Major flops, misunderstood masterpieces, or both? Judge for yourself for eight bucks at Retrofantasma tonight, starting at 7. —Zack Smith