The world premiere of "Dune," the film version of Frank Herbert's classic science fiction novel of ecology, eugenics and epiphany, will be held here tomorrow in the Eisenhower Theater of the Kennedy Center, quite likely because of a stroke of Herbertian whimsy to underscore "Dune's" view that power is corrupting and short-lived, and that government is not to be trusted ever -- not now, not 10,000 years into the future. "Dune" is no "Star Wars." It is altogether too complex, too metaphysical, the lines of good and evil too blurred to appeal completely to the mindless yaaaay-teamism passion of the Luke Skywalker set. Dune demands to be taken seriously. The 10 million copies sold since its 1965 publication, its translation into a dozen languages and the best-selling status of its sequels bespeak the success of the demand. (Dune No. 5, Chapterhouse: Dune, is already under way, while No. 4, Heretics of Dune, is still selling briskly.) Herbert himself, a 64-year-old ex-journalist, wine buff, computer guru and solar energy inventor, has recently shaved off his decades-old beard and adapted to the world of celebrity with enthusiasm. His distinctive guffaw is turned as often on himself as on anyone or anything else, and he finds a great deal to laugh about -- sometimes with cynicism, often with affection. He has written nearly two dozen books now, including a computer primer called Without Me You Are Noth, a sure cure for compuphobia, but he continues to be ensnared by the "Dune" characters and their world.
Before Dino De Laurentiis took on "Dune" as a film project, others had considered and dropped it. Herbert still shudders about one director who wanted it to be a film about incest. (After all, look at the House of Atreus, the ancient Greek forebears of "Dune's" Atreides clan.)
The film is produced by De Laurentiis' daughter Rafaella De Laurentiis and features Rafaella's mother, Silvana Magnano, as the Bene Gesserit's leader, the Rev. Mother Ramallo. David ("The Elephant Man") Lynch directed "Dune" and wrote the screenplay from Herbert's book.
Paul Atreides is played by Kyle MacLachlan in his film debut, possibly the only cast member who describes himself as a "Dune freak," and who has identified with the character Paul for about half his life.
"Dune" is set on the dry planet Arrakis. Water would be its most valuable commodity were it not for the m,elange, the spicy product of the sandworms that expands mental capacity and extends human life by centuries.
In this setting, place the politics of the Italian Borgias, the zealotry and religious passions and mysticism of the Jewish Kabbala and Islam combined, and a touch of witchcraft and you have the basics of "Dune."
In its newest spurt of publicity, "Dune" has also spawned a spoof -- The National Lampoon's "Doon," in which the hero is named Pall and the Kwisats Haderach becomes, irresistibly, the Kumkwat Haagendasz.