Re: I am obviously alone in this.
IIRC, when the Navigator turns up in Dune Messiah, that's exactly what happens
Ah, but that book was written after the film was produced. It's a long time since I read these, but I remember with that book in particular thinking "oh, that's just like the film" several times, whereas the earlier descriptions don't necessarily match the production design of the Lynch/De Laurentis film at all.
In his foreword for that book, Herbert echoes some of the praise and criticisms of the film: the production design impressed him greatly, but he felt that the final theatrical release was not long enough to capture the story he'd written. Interestingly, (and again, if memory serves) he mentioned that for some reason the shooting script worked out at enough for at least a pair of films, running to over four hours, and when this was whittled down to under two hours, a lot of important exposition and background was jettisoned.
It's certainly a film like the voiceover-less versions of Bladerunner(*): if you already know what the hell's going on, you can sit back and enjoy the spectacle, but viewed cold, it does a poor job of answering viewer's questions about why stuff is happening.
(* for the record, I think the one without the voiceovers is superior, but only if you've seen the film before; if you haven't, then the voiceovers do fill in some of the film's more elliptical moments... think of them like the introductory descriptions in an opera programme)