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Wednesday July 17th 2024

Dune | 1984

Dune film location: Samalayuca Dunes, Chihuahua, Mexico
Dune film location: the desert of 'Arrakis': Samalayuca Dunes, Chihuahua, Mexico | Photograph: Shutterstock / / Esdelval

After Alejandro Jodorowsky's plans to film Frank Herbert's supposedly unfilmable 1965 novel Dune failed to come to fruition, for David Lynch to take on the huge sci-fi epic as only his third movie was a risky move.

Although it was a critical and financial failure, and Lynch no longer talks of it, his film was praised by author Herbert who thought the director had done a decent job condensing the story and capturing the feel of the novel.

The continual voiceovers overexplaining the plot for those unfamiliar with the book are irritating, but it’s never less than visually interesting, thanks to wildly imaginative sets and the cinematography of veteran Freddie Francis.

Those sets were built at the Estudios Churubusco, Coyoacán in Mexico City, which has been home to many impressive productions including 1989 Bond movie Licence to Kill, Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 Total Recall, Baz Luhrmann’s William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Amores Perros and Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mamá También.

Away from the soundstages, the vast sandy landscapes of 'Arrakis' are two separate locations.

The rockier area is El Pinacate and Grand Desert of Altar, part of the Sonoran desert, which extends from Sonora into northern Baja California and even across the US border into Arizona and California.

It's a relatively undisturbed portion of the Sonoran desert, most of it now a reserve, offering two distinct landscape types the volcanic peaks of El Pinacate and the dunes of Gran Desierto de Altar.

The endless dunes where giant sandworms threaten the mining of spice are the Samalayuca Dune Fields, more traditionally known as Los Médanos (the dunes), nearly 800 square miles of desert south of Ciudad Juarez in the state of Chihuahua.

As ever, dunes prove a magnet for adventure tourism – hiking, off-roading and sliding down the dune on sand-boards.

1984 was a good year for the Dunes on screen. At the same time, Conan the Destroyer, with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Grace Jones was being filmed here.