Monday, September 18, 2006

TRADING CARD CLOSE-UP # 6: Dune



This is a slightly different kind of trading card close-up this week, in that I don't want to feature one particular card that captures my interest, but rather a whole set of 'em. In particular, I'm gazing at Fleer's collectible cards from the 1984 David Lynch film, Dune.

These "trading cards & stickers with bubble gum" came ten cards to a set, with one sticker (and one set of gum). That's the norm, of course. What isn't the norm is the movie itself. Dune is just not your average science fiction epic. It aims higher. Unlike, say, Star Wars, it isn't an instantly accessible entertainment. The movie dives into a the whole new lexicon for the Dune universe created by Frank Herbert and doesn't soften the informational blow. The movie is a three-hour download of weird names and more. Viewers unfamiliar with the franchise had to learn about various families; philosophies, sects, planets, creatures, technologies and more.

And this is where the trading cards could come in as an educational aid. There are 132 cards in all in this set, and many cards feature little chapter or plot summaries to help one understand the ins-and-outs of the complex, operatic story. Card # 88 for instance reads: "The Fremen effort to stop spice production on Arrakeen has meant fighting smugglers as well as Harkonnens. During a Fremen attack on a smuggling operation, Paul is surprised to be reunited with one of his old teachers, Gurney Halleck, who fled into the desert after the Harkonnen attack on the palace." See how nicely this gets a lot of story ideas across?

Other Fleer Dune cards are simply black-and-white renderings of critical characters, so the young viewer (and hopefully card trader...) will be familiar with the large dramatis personae. On the back of the stickers, these character images appear. Here, I've featured the Alia card.

Then the series features cards like # 131 of 132, called "Terms and Definitions." What is this, a history lesson? Well, yeah... This card covers a lot of that Dune lexicon; and on two sides! This particular card includes definitions from "Arrakeen" (the first settlement on Arrakis...) to "Kanly" (meaning formal feud). Other terms defined:Crysknife, Bene Gesserit, Fremkit, Glow Globe, Harvester, and more. The movie is so dense with information (especially if you haven't read the novel...) that one would do well to carry these cards into a screening.

And finally, there are cards like # 42 of 132, which gaze in detail at the ships and vehicles of the world of Dune. Here, the Carryall is the object focused upon. On the rear of the card, the vehicle's purpose is noted. "When wormsign is spotted, a Carryall is called in to remove the Harvester from danger," it reads in part. Again, its like a little snippet from a futuristic encyclopedia. I really dig that.

Dune was a financial disaster back in 1984 during its theatrical run (and I remember Roger Ebert called it one of the worst films of the year...), but it's a movie that - frankly - I'm obsessed with. I hate all the voice-over "thoughts" in the movie (though I understand why they're present; to make much of the story intelligible), but I love the production design, costumes, special effects, miniatures, battles and cast. It's a gloriously flawed movie I can watch and adore any time.

These memorable and collectible cards are great fun, I think, as an introduction to the movie, and to the larger Dune universe too.

3 comments:

  1. i'm into dune. what do you think about lynch's mysteries?

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  2. I'm a bit Lynch fan for the most part, George.

    I love Blue Velvet and especially Lost Highways.

    Also - time for an admission here - I'm absolutely nutzoid over Twin Peaks...

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  3. there's an internet campaign going on right now to liberate over an hour of cut footage from "fire walk with me," the twin peaks theatrical prequel. seventeen scenes that lynch has apparently put a lot of time into editing and scoring that incorporate a lot of beloved series characters who didn't appear in the final film, which was very much laura palmer's story. i hope that stuff surfaces eventually.

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