NEStalgia Week Pt.8; We’re Off to See The Wizard

The wonderful wizard of pause? Ugh, forget I typed that.

As NEStalgia week got rolling, I knew that at some point I was going to watch The Wizard.  It’s the only movie that’s really about Nintendo games, as opposed to being based off of one.  It is unapologetic in being a commercial for the NES, for instance, some of it’s titles abroad include; Joy Stick Heroes in Germany, Game Over in Finland, and the straight-forward Video Game Genius, Videokid and Gameboy in Brazil, France and Sweeden, respectively.  Only Japan joins the US in playing it non-literal with the title Sweet Road, which is bitterly ironic considering all the torture the kids in the movie go through on their journey.

Few things have ever served the dual purpose of epitomizing a moment in time and advertising a product as well as The Wizard, and no walk down NES memory lane would be complete without a viewing.  My memories of it are fond, but I didn’t expect it to be a great movie.  Well, I suppose all things considered, it’s not, but I did thoroughly enjoy watching it again, and unexpectedly, it reminded me that as much as life moves forward, everything always comes full circle.

First things first, if you haven’t seen The Wizard, it’s available in it’s entirety on youtube.  To sum up, Fred Savage plays Corey, half brother to a younger kid named Jimmy who was traumatized a couple years earlier by the drowning of his twin sister.  Jimmy lives with his mom now, while Fred Savage and Christian Slater live with their dad (Beau Bridges), the family having fallen apart after the drowning.  Jimmy doesn’t say much, except for the word “California”, but he does keep trying to walk there.  His mom and step father decide to “put him in a home” to use the only phrase the movie ever employs in describing Jimmy’s treatment.  Fred Savage is outraged by this but unsuccessful in convincing Beau and Christian to take action, so he decides to break Jimmy out on his own and run away together and take a trip.  When he gets to “the home” and suggests this to Jimmy, his little brother’s only response is “California?”.  And so they have a destination.

One time and one time only did The Wizard miss such a ripe opportunity for product placement.

Along the way, Fred Savage notices Jimmy has mad Double Dragon skills.  They also meet the plucky young Haley (Jenny Lewis!!), who, after being hustled by Fred Savage and Jimmy, suggests they go to Video Armageddon in California and try to win the $50,000 prize.  She promises to help get them there for half the money.  So they all set off together.  Along the way, they find Jimmy a rival- the infamous Power Glove toting Lucas Barton.  They also manage to get robbed a couple times, and to get Fred Savage beaten up by some kids he and Jimmy hustled.

Meanwhile, in the finest NES racing game fashion, they are pursued by two players; PLAYER1 is the two headed monster of Beau Bridges and Christian Slater, a father and son duo who were doing some serious fighting at the beginning of the movie.  Beau is initially determined to go after the boys alone in spite of Christian Slater’s insistence, until they are comfronted by PLAYER2, the excessively sleazy Putnam, a bounty hunter who goes after children, and who promises to bring back Jimmy and only Jimmy, and insinuates consequences if anyone gets in the way of his bounty.  Next to Lucas Barton’s presidential nuclear football style case for his Power Glove, the idea that anyone would allow Putnam to have anything to do with their children is the least believable thing about this movie.

Well, hardships aside, the rest pretty much writes itself.  Beau Bridges and Christian Slater learn to love each other AND Nintendo games during their trip together in pursuit of the runaway boys.  Sleazeball Putnam almost nabs Jimmy a couple times, but is thwarted by the plucky young Haley and some of her trucker friends.  In contrast to his being hired to safely return a child standing as the movie’s least believable plot point, his being arrested and drug out of a casino accused of molesting one stands as the movie’s most believeable scene.

Fred Savage and Haley develop a pseudo-romance.  And Jimmy beats Lucas Barton and wins Video Armageddon!  He then finally finds “California”, which turns out to be the Cabazon Dinosaurs, where the family had once road tripped together when his sister was still alive.  He sets down his lunch pail of memories of her, and Jimmy leaves with Beau, Christian, Fred and Jenny Lewis.  Now, they have enough money to do what they had planned all along.  Oh, wait, they never said what they were going to do with the money.  I really think this is the only movie I’ve ever seen where the main story arc was going to win a big lump of money and that money wasn’t even intended for any purpose.

Video Armageddon is not a means to an end in The Wizard, it IS the end.  The main message of the film is that Nintendo games are awesome, and in this message, it is successful beyond belief.  Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the best selling games ever in North America, and it exploded onto the scene fueled by the hype and anticipation kids had after watching Jimmy play it in the film’s climactic sequence.  Every major character in this movie who is not a slimeball loves and plays Nintendo by the end of it.  It was unanimously panned by critics at the time of it’s release- Roger Ebert amongst others dismissed it as being a thinly veiled commercial for Nintendo products.  I didn’t have a problem with it as a kid because NINTENDO IS AWESOME was the level of my thinking then.  I don’t have a problem with it now because not only is Nintendo still awesome, well, the veil just doesn’t seem that thin.  There is nothing about this movie that doesn’t claim to be anything but an ode to the NES and it’s games and peripherals.

Some of the products it advertised were more successful than others, of course.

It is exactly what you would expect overall, very much a cheesy 80’s movie that at this point can be enjoyed both nostalgically, and also for it’s unintentional humor.  But for me, the journey was ever so slightly more personal, and watching it again, I realized a couple things.  My life has moved forward in a linear sense- I’m older, a working man, in a 5 year relationship, and like both Jed Clampett’s kinfolk and little Jimmy, we said “California is the place you ought to be” and loaded up the truck and all that.  But 23 years later, I’m pretty fond of Jenny Lewis, I’m all into my Nintendo again, and still jazzed about playing Super Mario 3.  Even if The Wizard is the longest and most well directed commercial ever, I’m glad it reminded me that as much as things change, they always stay the same.

Irrational Fear: Harry and the Hendersons vs. the SyFy Channel

So much of the way we experience life comes from the choices we make.  These choices are not just our day to day actions, like whether to get the open-faced tuna melt masquerading as a sandwich, or the Po’Boy for lunch.  We also make less conscious choices in the way we percieve and relate to the world around us. It’s not always as simple as just deciding to see things differently, but you can choose to view the glass as being half full as opposed to half empty, to use the most well worn example.  It’s a matter of forcing yourself to count the positives and focus on those instead of the negatives. The angle from which you choose to observe life will determine most of the way you feel about it, and the same is true for our fears- we can face them confidently and positively or we can shrink away from them in terror.

As it is true with everything else, so it also goes with Bigfoot.

Yeti, Sasquatch, Skunk Ape, Abominable Snowman (thank the British press for that one). The creature has as many names as there are languages on the planet.  It’s presence in the human psyche has never been adequately explained by psychologists, but the fact is that every society past and present has had myths and legends dealing with large creatures who are slightly less than human but also some product of the natural world.  It might be a superstition with roots all the way back to when Neanderthals and early humans were still competitors, but no one really knows for sure.  Suffice to say, fear of the unknown is a powerful enough pull on the human mind that the belief persists well into this supposed age of science and reason.

Irrational fear, patiently waiting to use the phone.

Could Bigfoot actually be out there?  To be diplomatic, it’s extremely, extremely unlikely, but it’s not a complete impossibility . It’s also utterly irrelevant to the question of why people see it or believe in it’s existence.  Sure, there are those who perpetrate hoaxes for attention or for money.  There will always be hucksters and con artists in any field, so why would cryptozoology or psychology be any different? I only mention it because hoaxes are always the first tool of evidence used against those who believe in cryptids, but examples of fraud are not necessary to disbelieve in their existence, nor do they invalidate the beliefs of those who sincerely think they’ve seen a creature they do not understand or recognize.

I remember that as a kid, the rumor that there was Something In The Woods was always present.  It was passed down from generation to generation on the playground the way all the enduring games, songs and legends of childhood are, and it held up for me, like everyone else I knew, from the time I first wandered out to play with other kids all the way up until the reality of girls and junior high washed away any time for the lingering superstitions of youth.

Goodbye to BigFoots/Hello to Big Butts, if you will.

Now as a rational adult, I no longer believe there’s anything mythical or unknowable in the woods, but I recognize that there are certainly people out there who do, and that their beliefs are genuinely held, even if most of them can probably be explained by some unconfronted or deep-seated fear in the mind of the believer.  In other cases, Moonshine seems to be the most likely culprit.

******

Fear of the Other is something different from Fear of the Unknown but both are present at some level in everyone, and they are often exploited by politicians, religions, nations, and virtually every other group that ever gets together to wave flags.  They are also there for film makers, although much less consequentially.  It’s obvious that any movie that deals with Bigfoot is going to have to confront both of those fears in one way or another.  And so if you’re making a movie, you have a choice: You can make one that rationally and positively deals with these very human fears, or you can make one that’s panicky and irrational towards them.

Yes, SyFy Channel, I’m talking about you.

If you’re the type of person who wants to see a darkness, The SyFy Channel’s got you covered with Devil On the Mountain. (Actually, SyFy has you covered many, many times over, most recently with the simply titled “Bigfoot“, starring Danny Bonaduce and Barry Williams as a DJ and a Conservationist who team up to fight a killer Yeti. It sounds wonderfully schlocky when you distill it down to a sentence, but the SyFy Channel of course features nothing but the most joyless camp since Crystal Lake. This is all a roundabout way of saying I haven’t seen it and am not going out of my way to catch it anytime soon.)

Devil On the Montain was originally titled Sasquatch Mountain, until someone at the network decided that if the movie itself didn’t have a single ounce of mystique or intrigue, then by God, neither should the title. It’s exactly as awful and ridiculous as every other SyFy movie you’ve ever seen, maybe even more so. Where a movie like Harry and the Hendersons, which we’ll get to in a minute, tells us not to fear the unknown other, Devil On the Mountain is so utterly terrified of it that it’s narrative takes kidnappers, their victims and the police trying to catch them and unites all 3 against the ‘real’ danger. To call the dialogue wooden would be to insult the trees that were chopped down and pulped up to serve as the paper it’s compost pile of a script was written on, and to call it a waste of money is a slap in the face to every rich asshole that ever lit a cigar with a hundred dollar bill.  It tells it’s ridiculous tale without a single sympathetic or relatable character, and it is one of the longest and most arduous 90 minutes I’ve ever spent.

Not pictured: Me weeping for my lost 90 minutes of life.

For the rational thinking viewer who wants to catch a glimpse of Bigfoot, you really don’t have many choices aside from the 80’s staple Harry and the Hendersons.  John Lithgow and his family hit a Bigfoot with their totally rad station wagon, think he’s dead, strap him to the roof and bring him home, where they quickly find out- whoa, holy crap, no he’s not dead!  It’s at this point the movie could just put Harry and the family in a jar and shake it to see if they’ll fight like a couple of spiders, but they succeed in facing their fears and empathizing with the Bigfoot, who soon becomes almost another member of the family.  They also succeeed in not letting Bigfoot get shot by a snotty French hunter, and also in hooking him up with a little bro time with the ever charming Don Ameche before it’s all said and done.

French Hunter and Don Ameche- fears faced, conflicts resolved.

Look, it’s no Citizen Kane, but it’s a warm-hearted, decent drama with some laughs sprinkled in that treats all of it’s subjects maturely, and at the very least succeeds in warning us of the danger and pointlessness of irrational fear of the unknown.  I suppose it also warns us unintentionally of the dangers of people who wear fingerless gloves, but the 80’s were a more adventurous time for hand fashion, and that’s probably a story for another time anyways.

Unfortunately Harry and the Hendersons is in the clear minority, as most Sasquatch related movies, even those few that aren’t produced with the SyFy Channel’s special blend of television and feces, aren’t quite ready to handle the subject in any kind of even handed manner.

So, as always, the choice is ours. Will we deal rationally with things we don’t know or understand? If we face life’s experiences with an open mind and willingness to look for the positives, then we’ll probably turn out richer and wiser for it, like John Lithgow and Don Ameche, or even the fingerless glove clad French Hunter. On the other hand, if we choose to succumb to our fears of others and the unknown, we’re probably going to wind up like Lance Henriksen- participating in some stupid pointless bullshit that we hate and going through the motions just for this week’s paycheck, because nothing we’re doing makes any god damn kind of sense.

Seven Stories and The Hero: Ernest the Everyman

There is an old truism that there are only a very few basic plots for stories which are spun again and again in slightly different ways.  The exact number and form of these basic plots has been debated and hypothesized many times, but the underlying idea is that all stories are just simple metaphors for the trials that all human beings must face in life.  The best known of these theories, outlined in it’s most recent form by British essayist and evolution/climate change skeptic Christopher Booker, identifies seven: Overcoming the Monster, The Quest, Journey & Return, The Comedy, The Tragedy, The Rebirth, and Rags to Riches.

Side note: The Quest is not to be confused with The Quest, starring Jean-Claude Van Damme.  The Quest is actually much closer to The (unintended) Comedy.

Unfortunately not one of the 7 Stories.

Now, if you’re like me, the first thought that popped into your head when you read that list was, “Hey, science hater, it should be 8 stories.  You forgot Ernest movies, you pompous bastard.”

But as I sat down at the keyboard ready to fire off a letter telling Mr. Booker where he could cram this and the rest of his theories, it suddenly struck me that for once he hadn’t missed the mark completely.  I believe there is probably only one story, the Ernest P. Worrell story, but that story does indeed manifest itself in the 7 ways that Big Papa Booker outlined.

1. Overcoming the Monster: Ernest Goes to Camp

2. The Quest: Ernest Goes to Africa

3. Journey & Return: Ernest Goes to Jail

4. Comedy: Ernest Saves Christmas

5. Tragedy: Ernest Scared Stupid

6. Rebirth: Ernest Rides Again

7. Rags to Riches: Slam Dunk Ernest

Now of course, some Ernest tales ring closer to the heart and universal truths than others.  If you’ve ever seen Ernest Goes to Africa, you probably reject the idea that going on The Quest is a worthwhile adventure.  Sometimes you’re better off just staying home because what happens on the journey is going to be pretty boring and not make a bit of god damn sense.

On the other hand, if you ever need to Overcome The Monster (and of course we all do at some point), well holy shit, you could never find better inspiration than Ernest Goes to Camp.  In the course of a mere 92 minutes of run time, Ernest goes from being a bumbling and clueless maintenance man who’s terrified to get a simple shot from a nurse and who breaks more stuff than he fixes, to training a group of deviant orphan children into a well drilled domestic terrorist unit who bring utter devastation to the men and machinery of a billion dollar mining corporation, all using improvised weapons and ancient Indian magic, which renders Ernest himself impervious to bullets.

According to people who do not hate science, it would take 1000 George Lucases on 1000 typewriters forever to come up with a single story as sound as Ernest Goes to Camp.  Because Ernest is the everyman, what Joseph Campbell would call the Hero with A Thousand Faces, and his simple journey to Overcome his Monster belongs to all of humanity.

George Lucas #s 1-17, shown hard at work on Star Wars Episode II.

When he takes his beating and sings softly in the rain of his shame, it is a beating we all take with him.  When the turtle bites him on the nose, it is the big green weight dragging all our faces down.  When he blows up and then punches the crap out of human giant Lyle Alzado, he is striking a symbolic blow for all of us against the mining company foremen we all face in our own private lives.  And when he stands down Mr. Krader’s hunting rifle with a sneer and a chuckle, he is showing us that there is no fear too great, no monster in the world that cannot be overcome, if we look to the courage and inspiration within, and the recruitable groups of violence-ready children without.

Ready to take the Hero’s Journey?  Here’s Ernest Goes to Camp in it’s entirety.

“I Fell In It, The Pit, We All Fell In It, The Pit”

The box promises 150% of "Something Alive" in The Pit. It should've prayed to God that the movie inside didn't try it's hardest to singlehandedly set back autism awareness by 20 years.

The back of the box of 1981’s The Pit sums things up pretty well.

“Jamie Benjamin, a twelve year-old autistic boy, is sick and tired of the cruel people in his midwestern town.  The children humiliate him, the grown-ups ignore him and the mature females excite him.  Jamie gets his chance for revenge on all of them when he accidentally discovers a huge hole in the forest, at the bottom of which are strange and deadly prehistoric creatures he calls Tra-la-logs.  The Trogs become Jamie’s best friends, and it isn’t long before some of Jamie’s worst enemies begin disappearing…”

In other words, fear the autistic.  You may have already suspected something is amiss from the use of the phrase “the mature females excite him”, but it becomes pretty clear about ten seconds into the movie that Ian A. Stuart, who is credited as the screenwriter, evidently just thought “autistic” is a PC euphemism for “pervert”.  The story starts unexpectedly at Halloween, with a ghost-costumed child luring a pirate and his irritating girlfriend next to…The Pit.  As he’s about to shove the pirate into the Pit, the title screen flashes up with a bolt of lightning, illuminating a sinister looking teddy bear, behind “The Pit” in big red letters.  The opening sequence reappears about an hour later, the first time ever that I’m aware of a movie’s teaser simply being an unedited scene from later on in the movie.

After being penalized 5 yards for a false start, the story moves quickly to fulfill the promises of the back of the box.  Either that, or whoever wrote the blurb could only sit through 5 minutes of the movie.  That’s all the time it takes for Jamie to; get punched in the face for saying hello to a kid (who turns out later on to be the pirate that Jamie shoves into…The Pit), have a little girl on a bike tease him relentlessly, get shoved out of the way by an old lady in a wheelchair, send a dirty letter to his teacher, and in one of cinema’s all time under appreciated moments, look up his new nanny’s skirt during dinner, after pulling the lamest “Oops, I dropped my napkin” move you’ve ever seen.  His father’s reaction- “None of  THAT, young man!” is priceless.  (Also priceless is the unanswered question of why the father is dressed like a litigator when everyone else is dressed like the movie’s wardrobe consisted of somebody just grabbing 3 random armfuls off the 25-cent rack at Goodwill.)

After another uncomfortable exchange with the nanny in the kitchen, Jamie goes to “Talk to Teddy”.  Don’t get excited stoners, it’s not that type of Teddy.  This Teddy turns out to be just his Teddy bear, who speaks back to Jamie.  Like Jamie, the teddy bear is kind of a pervert, and he and Jamie make some sleazy innuendo about the nanny.  Since Jamie is also the voice actor for Teddy, you think that he’s just Jamie’s perverted alter-ego.

"Dude, that was a wicked sick move you pulled with the napkin! Too bad your old man had to ruin it!"

Jarringly, later on, the Bear is revealed to be independently evil when it turns its head to creepily stare at the nanny while Jamie is away at school.  Unfortunately, the exact nature of of the bear’s relationship with Jamie, or its plots, or frankly, anything else at all about the bear are never revealed.  Like everything else in this movie, it’s just jumbled into the plot haphazardly, like the immortal Ian A. Stuart couldn’t find his finished script, so they just worked from the 15 or so original brainstorming note cards he had laying around, which said things like

“Work in Evil Teddy Bear somehow, I love that idea”, “Kid is a pervert, but what’s another name for perverts?”, and “I want this movie to be different.  What name could we use for Trolls that’s different?  Trollies?  Trollogs?  Tra-la-logs!”

I’ve seen this movie several times now.  I am still struggling to understand where the hell the budget went in this movie.  It certainly didn’t go to the directing, cinematography, wardrobe, casting, sound, and maybe most importantly, it didn’t go to editing.

When  Jamie first jogs out into the woods to visit…The Pit, the movie sees fit to join him for almost his whole jog.  Jamie even has to stop a couple times along the way to catch his breath.  Listen, I’m grateful the fine folks at Amulet Pictures decided to make this movie, but they shouldn’t have felt the need to break the 90 minute barrier for MY benefit.  80 minutes definitely would’ve been a major improvement over 96, given the material.

After the thrilling rush of the first 20 minutes, the next act is given over to Jamie trying to stalk out the nanny, figure out a way to feed the tra-la-logs, and also to convince the nanny that they really exist.  He’s fully successful in creeping out the nanny, but runs out of money to feed his monsters in a hurry, and gets nowhere when he tries to tell her about them.  (How they fed themselves prior to the appearance of a creepy, slow-witted child is a plot hole left mercifully gaping)  Now, a .333 batting average will satisfy almost anybody, but our little Jamie reveals himself to be an overachiever, and is determined to do something, anything to feed the trolls.  He tries to drag a cow to…The Pit, and also tries to chase down a chicken, but whiffs on both efforts.

So, he decides that it’ll be easier to just trick people into either falling or being pushed into…The Pit.  What’s surprising is that it actually IS.  I, for one, would never have believed pushing a shrieking, struggling old lady in a wheelchair all the way across town, then up a hill, through a field and the woods to…The Pit would be easier than grabbing hold of a chicken, but that’s the way this movie works.  It makes a believer out of you.

Jamie has a good old time settling all his grudges, but when he gets the nanny’s boyfriend to fall into…The Pit, she starts asking questions. Eventually, she finally agrees to go see…The Pit, and is amazed to find the monsters are real.  You can probably guess what happens next- she falls in.  Jamie is consumed with guilt, and in short order is haunted by the nanny’s ghost.  He does the only thing he can think of to alleviate his guilt, and lowers a rope into the pit so the tra-la-logs can climb out and feed themselves.  As the saying goes, ‘give a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a meal…”, except that saying is about giving, and the movie is mostly just about confusion.  In any case, the monsters go on a rampage of both killing people and being obviously little people in baboon costumes.  Most of the last 20 minutes of the movie, actually, are just the tra-la-logs getting real raw and changing arrangements on people’s faces.  But alas, the hand of man is cruel, and eventually, the monsters get chased back to…The Pit, and shot dead, by what seems to be a remarkably well-drilled impromptu firing squad.

The finest choreography you're likely to see outside of a George Thoroughgood concert means it's time to wrap things up.

The movie closes with Jamie going to stay with a relative out in the country, who has a daughter.  She takes Jamie into the woods where…wait for it…she has her own Pit!  Complete with tra-la-logs!  Jamie gets shoved in.  End credits.

Now, lets be honest.  It’s hard to be an exceptionally awful horror movie.  It’s the genre most readily given to churning out shlock.  Acting, production value, plot- these have never been staples of the horror film.  So believe me when I say that this is a true classic of awful.  And you WILL feel 96 minutes older when it is over.  Older, but unfortunately, not wiser.  This movie is a tangled ball of cords you will never unravel.  The only thing you’re left with in the end is a feeling of your own mortality, and 150% of the level of mistrust of autistic children you had just an hour and a half earlier.

The Dune Drinking Game

Frank Herbert’s Dune is probably the best science fiction novel ever written.  David Lynch is one of the most powerful and unique directors cinema has ever seen.  In 1984, these 2 winning ingredients combined to produce a movie that is…I think “awkward” is probably the word that fits best here.  For all the film’s potential (this is not even mentioning the cast, a veritable Who’s Who of the top character actors of the time), it became a textbook example of a whole which is less than the sum of it’s parts.

In 2007 however, the legacy of David Lynch’s Dune was resurrected when it was combined with copious amounts of alcohol, creating the Dune Drinking Game.  Just like the movie, it is not for the faint of heart.  Most movie drinking games are not about winning or losing, they’re just an excuse to get smashed and watch a cheesy flick.  In the Dune Drinking Game, the winner is your life experience.  The loser is your liver.  The winner could also be the last one standing.  If you’re in any condition to hoist your mug to the Kwisatz Haderach at film’s end,  you’re either a remorselesss drinking machine, or you managed to hide your first 14 beers in your wooden leg.

If you’re still drinking when Paul puts on the Santa Fe blanket and makes it rain, congratulations: you win

The Rules-
1 Drink every time somebody says “spice”
1 Extra Drink if they call it “the spice melange”
1 Drink every time somebody says “worm”

Those 3 simple rules lay the foundation for what can only be described as a cinematic assault on your innards.  You’ll swear that Virginia Madsen is trying to give you alcohol poisoning during the opening credits- “…the spice extends life, the spice expands consciousness, the spice…”

“Tell your liver and kidneys to buckle the fuck up, they’re going for a ride.”

You’ll reach a new level of disgust with Kyle MacLachlan as he drops lines like “Spice!  Pure, unrefined spice!” or most memorably “The spice is the worm!  The worm is the spice!” (a moment you’ll never forget if you’ve played the game honestly to that point).

Mostly, you’ll just marvel at stretches of dialogue that run like this:

Paul- Will we see a worm?
Kynes (Max Von Sydow)- Where there is spice and spice mining, there are always worms.
Paul- Is there a connection between the worms and the spice?

“This is Duke Leto. Will somebody send up another case of beer? My son and the ecologist just handed out about 150 drinks in 20 seconds.”

In addition to the basic rules, there are a number of moments which should be accompanied by “a hearty quaff of ale for betwixt spice and worm consumption”.  Ben Franklin said that back when he used to play the game.  He was truly a man ahead of his time.  The movie has so many over the top bizarre or awkward moments that you should drink to any of them as you see fit, but here’s a few of my favorites in chronological order.

1. The movie’s first line of actual dialogue is the Emperor (Jose Ferrar) telling Princess Irulan (Madsen)

“Irulan, you must leave.”

And leave she does, for almost the entire duration of the film.  She drops a few lines of narration over the next couple hours, but the next time you see her is in the movie’s closing scene.  If you’re playing the Dune Drinking Game straight up, there’s a pretty good chance this is the last look you’ll get at her.

“Peace, bitches. See ya in a couple hours.”

2.After he has a practice shield fight with Patrick Stewart,  Paul faces off solo against the biggest weaponized gold dildo you’ve ever seen.  Not only that, but other distinguished gentlemen Freddie Jones and Dean Stockwell join Stewart to watch and comment on Paul’s precise control.

Nothing out of the ordinary here, just a man about to shoot a 10 foot golden penis with a sound gun.

3. When the Reverend Mother (Sian Phillips) comes to test Paul’s superhuman abilities , they wind up having this exchange:

Reverend Mother- “Put your hand inside the box.”
Paul- “What’s in the box?”
RM- “Pain.”

Clearly, the Dune Drinking Game is not above a cheap sexual innuendo or two.

“Look kid, it might be a little dusty in there but the plumbing still works. Just watch out for the spiders, alright?”

4. When Baron Harkonnen (Kenneth McMillan) slaps himself on the belly and flies into the air.  This is the climactic moment of the scene where the Harkonnens discuss their plot to destroy House Atreides.  You might notice that the Baron doesn’t just gut punch himself into the sky, he also gets hosed down in some type of grease and rapes/murders a slave.  Mercifully the last part of that happens off camera, and instead you’re treated to Sting doing what he does best in this movie- look on quietly while other actors deliver dialogue.

Just a quick Valvoline shower and he’ll be ready for love.

4a. Speaking of Sting, double down and lift your glass to Sting’s first appearance, which comes at the start of the scene.  Like every other time he’s on camera in this movie he doesn’t have much to say, but he gets to forcefully plop down in a chair and then make several different facial expressions while other people are talking or murdering.

The fact that “Tantric sex icon Sting looks on while other actors deliver dialogue” is a potential caption for about 10 minutes worth of stills from this movie is one of my favorite things about it.

5.”The Shortest Flashback In Movie History”.

This comes right on the heels of number 4.  The Atreides family is packed up and ready to leave their home planet Caladan to head to Dune.  Paul, Duke Leto (Jurgen Prochnow) and Lady Jessica (Francesca Annis) are sitting quietly on the spaceship.  The camera focuses in on Jessica.

*dissolve to Jessica in bed with Duke Leto*

Jessica- “I’ll miss Caladan SO MUCH!”

*dissolve back to Jessica on the spaceship*

The whole sequence runs about 5 seconds.  I’ve never seen this level of brevity in a flashback.  It’s truly staggering. It’s hard to wrap your head around why they’d even bother with that pointless flashback because when it happens, Jessica is standing right next to Leto and they’re STILL ON CALADAN.  She could’ve just turned her head and said it.  The two scenarios in play are that a) a Duke/Lady sex scene got left on the cutting room floor, b) Francesca Annis’ costume for the scene didn’t allow her to rotate her neck.

Most people dress casual when they fly. Not Lady Jessica Atreides.

6. During the Harkonnen attack on Dune, Dr. Yueh (Dean Stockwell) reveals himself to be a traitor, the Harkonnen’s man on the inside. (Yueh’s wife was taken by the Baron, he hopes to free her) He shoots Duke Leto with a drugged dart to subdue him, but replaces one of his teeth with a poison gas capsule, hoping that when the Baron comes to gloat over Leto in victory, Leto will break the capsule and kill the Baron.

Yueh tries to drill the idea into the drugged Duke’s mind.

“When you see the Baron remember the Tooth!”

Camera closes in on Yueh’s face.

“The tooth!”

Camera closer again.

“The tooth!!”

Camera so close it’s all moustache and teeth

“THE TOOTH!!!”

Funny enough, this is not the first time you’re treated to a serious closeup of the doctor.  Earlier on, there’s a scene where Jessica is staring at him, using her highly-trained perception to search his face for signs of dishonesty while he speaks, and the camera zooms in to give you all you can handle of his forehead, moustache and lips.

This is the least zoomed-in moment for Dean Stockwell in the entire movie.

7. Paul and Jessica have fled to the desert, and they run into a band of Fremen led by Stilgar (Everett McGill).  Stilgar is trying to indicate that Paul can have shelter with the tribe but not Jessica. What he actually winds up saying is:

“I will take the boy-man, HUNNNNHH!”

It’s probably the movie’s most awkward line, which is really saying something.  It’s like being the biggest asshole in New Jersey.  It deserves a toast.

“Look, the Desert’s no place for a lady. You’re always thirsty and there’s fucking sand everywhere. Also, I haven’t taken a bath in…well, ever, actually.”

8. Baron Harkonnen has captured Thufir Hawat, Duke Leto’s Master of Assassins and his human computer.  He and Sting pay him a visit.  They tell him that they’ve given him a poison, but he can get the antidote he needs every day by milking a cat.  On second thought, I think this might be the proverbial ‘biggest asshole in New Jersey’.

Thufir’s fall from Master of Assassins to Cat Milker is one hell of a step down the career ladder.

9. The movie skips a couple years forward.  You can literally feel the studio chopping an hour off the film and replacing it with Virginia Madsen narrating a 20 second synopsis of the missing material while Toto does some nonchalant guitar wanking in the background.  No wonder David Lynch wanted his name taken off the finished product.

10. When Paul’s sister Alia confronts the Emperor, Reverend Mother and Baron while telepathically taunting them, the Reverend Mother turns the movie into a musical for one line and one line only.

“Geeeet-out-of-myyyyyyy-mind-uh!”

When you have to shave extra forehead for the role nobody gets to give you shit about how you read your lines.

There are a whole host of other moments worth raising a toast to if you so choose, like Patrick Stewart charging into battle holding a pug under one arm, or Sting popping casually out from some kind of fog chamber in metal bikini briefs. Just stick to the 3 main rules and then choose your own favorites as you go.  Like Paul’s journey of self-discovery, the Dune Drinking Game can be your own journey of discovery.  A journey to your liver’s limits .