Two films that impacted my young teenage years were David Lynch’s DUNE and Don Coscarelli’s PHANTASM. The more I delved into Frank Herbert’s adaptation of DUNE and reviewed the PHANTASM franchise, the more I couldn’t help but appreciate how these two brilliant works of art complement each other.
I’m not the first to compare PHANTASM and DUNE. One Easter egg that has been brought up is the bar Jody visits in PHANTASM which just so happens to be called Dunes Cantina. From villains to heroes to planets, here are some other uncanny similarities between these two masterpiece films.
FORTUNE TELLER IS THE REVEREND MOTHER
The most popular and clear comparisons of DUNE and PHANTASM happens when Mike visits the Fortune Teller and Paul Atreides meets the Reverend Mother for the first time. The two spiritual women outfitted in black instruct the young heroes to insert their hands into a mysterious box.
The box causes both characters to endure excruciating pain to overcome their fears. During this scene in PHANTASM the Fortune Teller’s assistant repeats to Mike “Don’t fear” and closes with “fear is the killer.” During this sequence in DUNE, Paul repeats to himself “do not fear, fear is the mind killer.” Mike and Paul both withstand the pain and pass the test with their hands unscathed. This mantra comes up again for both characters throughout their films.
MIKE PEARSON IS PAUL ATREIDES
Our two heroes are also similar in age. Paul Atreides from DUNE is fifteen years old as Mike Pearson from PHANTASM is thirteen years old. They both use similar weapons. Paul’s uses is a Crysknife which is sacred blade taken from the teeth of a sandworm carved into a knife, while Mike’s wields a bowie knife.
The two characters also share the ability to dream of their future love interests before they meet them. In PHANTASM 2, Mike dreams of Elisabeth before their first encounter about half way through the film. Similarly Paul dreams of Chani early on in David Lynch’s DUNE before they confront each other in the Fremen cave.
Another characteristic Paul and Mike share is their eye discoloration. Paul Atreides eyes change to a luminous blue after consecutive spice use. In the later installments of the PHANTASM franchise Mike’s eyes turn silver while dealing with his transformation into the sphere.
REGGIE IS GURNEY HALLECK
In DUNE, Gurney Halleck is a combatant and a musician for the House Atriedes. He’s also Paul’s mentor, teacher and right hand man to his father Duke Leto. Reggie is a loyal family friend of the Pearson’s. He’s a reliable badass side-kick sporting a quad barreled shotgun and also happens to be a musician. Gurney plays a baliset, a nine string instrument which sort of mirrors Reggie and his guitar.
The occurrence that binds these two characters together is when Gurney plays his baliset at the Arrakeen Great House hours before the Emperor Shaddam IV and the Harkonnen’s sneak attack. This assault costs the life of Paul’s father Duke Leto. This resembles the timing when Reggie plays his guitar at the Pearson’s house moments before Mike’s attack in his bedroom minutes after we learn about the death of his brother Jody. These events leave both house’s up in flames and separate Mike from Reggie and Paul from Gurney for an extended period of time.
Paul and Gurney reunite years later on the battlefield and fight together to take down the Emperor. In the same manner, Mike and Reggie come together almost six years later at the Morningside Graveyard to fight the Tall Man and his minions for the remainder of the series.
SPHERE IS HUNTER SEEKER
In DUNE-lore, a Hunter-Seeker is a floating metal assassination device. Frank Herbert’s novel explains “It was a ravening sliver of metal guided by some near-by hand and eye. It could burrow into moving flesh and chew its way up nerve channels to the nearest vital organ.”
In PHANTASM, the Spheres are silver orbs controlled by the Tall Man’s mind. Some spheres are armed with drills and others with saw-like teeth that possess the capabilities to tunnel through bodies.
THE TALL MAN IS EMPEROR SHADDAM CORRINO IV
DUNE’s Emperor Shaddam and PHANTASM’s the Tall Man are both older individuals with intentions to stop their teenage heroes. The Emperor always appears draped in royal attire and lives in a golden chamber within a palace. The Emperor leads a group of soldiers called Sardaukar whose appearance range from basic uniforms to masked combat gear.
In PHANTASM, the Tall Man wears a refined suit and dwells in a gigantic white-pillared funeral home but looks more like a mansion. Inside his mortuary he is surrounded by opulence and marble. Like the Emperor, the Tall Man commands a group of loyal followers dressed in black suits and also employs intimidating black gas-masked foes as seen in the films sequel.
RED PLANET IS ARRAKIS
DUNE’s desert planet of Arrakis is similar to the bare rock Red Planet of PHANTASM. Both worlds present hostile environments that only certain lifeforms can live in.
DWARVES ARE FREMEN
The Fremin are dwellers of Arrakis. According to Frank Herbert’s novel they wore great flowing robes and they’re a rare tribe that can survive in the planets dangerous environment. The brown-cloaked Dwarves of the Red Planet in PHANTASM can equally endure the harsh conditions that plague their world.