Alejandro Jodorowsky is still best known as the writer-director-star of “El Topo,” the original midnight movie, a psychedelic western about a black-clad avenger who roams the desert with a naked boy on the back of his horse, duels with four master gunslingers, and later becomes a god to a group of cave-dwelling dwarves and mutants. John Lennon famously loved it. In 1970, it topped the list of movies to see stoned.
“Jodorowsky’s Dune,” a documentary heading for theaters in March, touches on “El Topo,” but its main subject is a more ambitious project, one that the Chilean-French director predicted would emerge as “the most important picture in the history of humanity.” Too bad he never got to make it. Based on Frank Herbert’s sci-fi saga “Dune” (which Jodorowsky admits he never read), the 1975 film-in-the-making was supposedly set to costar David Carradine, Mick Jagger and Orson Welles, with a cameo by Salvador Dali, extraterrestrial designs by H.R. Giger and a soundtrack by Pink Floyd. But never mind that star power: The lead roles would be played by Jodorowsky himself and his son Brontis (the kid on the back of El Topo’s horse). Storyboards were ready. The only thing missing was a green light.
After the plan fell apart, some of Giger’s designs turned up in “Alien” and David Lynch directed a 1984 adaptation of “Dune,” which bombed — to the delight of Jodorowsky, who had begun repurposing his own ideas for “Dune” into a series of comic books. The director appears in the new documentary as a charming if not entirely reliable narrator. Despite the loss of his magnum opus, he walked away with stories to tell and, four decades later, continues to make movies. While finishing his latest — “The Dance of Reality,” a trippy independent flick based on his autobiography, he vowed that his next project will be a film that seems almost as elusive as “Dune” — the long-delayed sequel to “El Topo.” —John Birmingham