Dark Star


1h 23m 1974

Brief Synopsis

Low-budget story of four astronauts in deep space, whose mission is to destroy unstable planets in star systems which are to be colonised. The late Commander Powell is stored in deep freeze, where he is still able to offer advice. As their mission nears completion, they must cope with a runaway alien which resembles a beach-ball, faulty computer systems, and a "smart bomb" who thinks it is God.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

The four astronauts on the Dark Star are on a twenty-year mission to destroy unstable planets in systems which are on their navigation routes. As they near the end of their mission, the ship's computer loses its control over the "smart bomb" onboard which is determined to detonate. Working to stop this calamity is the ship's commander, the late Commander Powell, who is frozen, but can still offer advice.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1974

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 23m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Metrocolor)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Dark Star (DVD)


Sometime in 1970, two aspiring filmmakers at USC - John Carpenter (Halloween, 1978) and Dan O'Bannon (Alien, 1979) - began collaborating on a student film that would develop into a 50-minute feature film on a measly budget of $6,000. John Carpenter would produce and direct and Dan O'Bannon would write the screenplay and star in it. The result, a science fiction parody called Dark Star, was completed in 1972 with a final running time of 68 minutes but at that length it was still too short for theatrical exhibition at mainstream cinemas. Enter independent distributor Jack H. Harris who convinced the filmmakers to shoot an additional 15 minutes of footage that would give the film a running time of 83 minutes. It was this version that was released theatrically in 1975 and became a cult favorite at midnight shows and on college campuses across America. Now you can view both versions of Dark Star - the full length theatrical version and the shorter, special edition version (approved by the filmmakers) - in a deluxe DVD from VCI Entertainment.

The slender storyline of Dark Star follows the crew of a roving scout ship, searching the universe for potential super-novas they can terminate before they become a threat to mankind. As a result, the men have grown bored and lazy, losing interest in everything, even their curiosity about other life forms in the galaxy. "Don't give me any of that 'intelligent life' stuff," one astronaut snaps at his co-pilot, "Find me something I can blow up." This sense of the absurd permeates the entirety of Dark Star which Carpenter has often referred to as a "Waiting for Godot in space." There is nothing glamorous about space travel here; the crew's quarters are dirty, cramped and claustrophobic, the men are irritable and non-communicative with each other, the general atmosphere is one of futility and ennui. But Carpenter and O'Bannon give it all a light, playful touch distinguished by some truly hilarious comic set pieces like the sequence with Pinback (played by O'Bannon) trying to capture an alien that has escaped from its cage or the finale with Lt. Doolittle (Brian Narelle) trying to dissuade a talking bomb from exploding.

According to Robert C. Cumbow in Order in the Universe: The Films of John Carpenter, "the Carpenter-O'Bannon partnership, for which both men had high hopes, broke down after Dark Star....The most heated point of variance between Carpenter and O'Bannon is over the question of credit for specific contributions to Dark Star; but all accounts agree generally that the talking bomb, the cryonically frozen captain, and the Phoenix Asteroids were Dan O'Bannon's; the surfer motif and the observation dome chat between Talby and Doolittle were Carpenter's; and the rest was collaborative." Later, O'Bannon would appropriate the alien-on-the-loose subplot of Dark Star for his more chilling view of extraterrestrial life in Alien; even the scene where the frozen captain is revived would be repeated in a scene where the damaged android (played by Ian Holm) of Alien is revitalized for a final communication.

But back to that beach ball alien of Dark Star. According to John Carpenter in an interview with Dale Winogura for Cinefantastique magazine, "I wanted to pay tribute to all those old, cheap science fiction films that I love dearly. We thought of a specimen room in the ship, with hundreds of forms of life, like a psychedelic zoo, where one of the men would have to go in and feed the animals. The cost of such an idea was prohibitive, so we cut it down to one alien mascot, the beach ball with claws. We wanted something funny and obviously not a real monster."

Unfortunately, Dark Star arrived too early to benefit from the huge success of Star Wars in 1977 and remained an obscurity due to its meager budget and low-profile distribution deal. Thanks to frequent college showings and repertory film houses over the years, the film now enjoys a devoted cult following and with this DVD should reach an even wider group of sci-fi fans who will respond to its goofy charm and low-tech special effects. Besides featuring the two versions of the Carpenter-O'Bannon collaboration (both presented in the widescreen format, 1.85:1), the Dark Star DVD also includes the theatrical trailer and biographical information. Please note that deleted scenes in the Special Edition version may present a momentary pause during playback on some DVD players. For more information about Dark Star, visit VCI Entertainment. To order Dark Star, visit TCM Shopping.

by Jeff Stafford
Dark Star (Dvd)

Dark Star (DVD)

Sometime in 1970, two aspiring filmmakers at USC - John Carpenter (Halloween, 1978) and Dan O'Bannon (Alien, 1979) - began collaborating on a student film that would develop into a 50-minute feature film on a measly budget of $6,000. John Carpenter would produce and direct and Dan O'Bannon would write the screenplay and star in it. The result, a science fiction parody called Dark Star, was completed in 1972 with a final running time of 68 minutes but at that length it was still too short for theatrical exhibition at mainstream cinemas. Enter independent distributor Jack H. Harris who convinced the filmmakers to shoot an additional 15 minutes of footage that would give the film a running time of 83 minutes. It was this version that was released theatrically in 1975 and became a cult favorite at midnight shows and on college campuses across America. Now you can view both versions of Dark Star - the full length theatrical version and the shorter, special edition version (approved by the filmmakers) - in a deluxe DVD from VCI Entertainment. The slender storyline of Dark Star follows the crew of a roving scout ship, searching the universe for potential super-novas they can terminate before they become a threat to mankind. As a result, the men have grown bored and lazy, losing interest in everything, even their curiosity about other life forms in the galaxy. "Don't give me any of that 'intelligent life' stuff," one astronaut snaps at his co-pilot, "Find me something I can blow up." This sense of the absurd permeates the entirety of Dark Star which Carpenter has often referred to as a "Waiting for Godot in space." There is nothing glamorous about space travel here; the crew's quarters are dirty, cramped and claustrophobic, the men are irritable and non-communicative with each other, the general atmosphere is one of futility and ennui. But Carpenter and O'Bannon give it all a light, playful touch distinguished by some truly hilarious comic set pieces like the sequence with Pinback (played by O'Bannon) trying to capture an alien that has escaped from its cage or the finale with Lt. Doolittle (Brian Narelle) trying to dissuade a talking bomb from exploding. According to Robert C. Cumbow in Order in the Universe: The Films of John Carpenter, "the Carpenter-O'Bannon partnership, for which both men had high hopes, broke down after Dark Star....The most heated point of variance between Carpenter and O'Bannon is over the question of credit for specific contributions to Dark Star; but all accounts agree generally that the talking bomb, the cryonically frozen captain, and the Phoenix Asteroids were Dan O'Bannon's; the surfer motif and the observation dome chat between Talby and Doolittle were Carpenter's; and the rest was collaborative." Later, O'Bannon would appropriate the alien-on-the-loose subplot of Dark Star for his more chilling view of extraterrestrial life in Alien; even the scene where the frozen captain is revived would be repeated in a scene where the damaged android (played by Ian Holm) of Alien is revitalized for a final communication. But back to that beach ball alien of Dark Star. According to John Carpenter in an interview with Dale Winogura for Cinefantastique magazine, "I wanted to pay tribute to all those old, cheap science fiction films that I love dearly. We thought of a specimen room in the ship, with hundreds of forms of life, like a psychedelic zoo, where one of the men would have to go in and feed the animals. The cost of such an idea was prohibitive, so we cut it down to one alien mascot, the beach ball with claws. We wanted something funny and obviously not a real monster." Unfortunately, Dark Star arrived too early to benefit from the huge success of Star Wars in 1977 and remained an obscurity due to its meager budget and low-profile distribution deal. Thanks to frequent college showings and repertory film houses over the years, the film now enjoys a devoted cult following and with this DVD should reach an even wider group of sci-fi fans who will respond to its goofy charm and low-tech special effects. Besides featuring the two versions of the Carpenter-O'Bannon collaboration (both presented in the widescreen format, 1.85:1), the Dark Star DVD also includes the theatrical trailer and biographical information. Please note that deleted scenes in the Special Edition version may present a momentary pause during playback on some DVD players. For more information about Dark Star, visit VCI Entertainment. To order Dark Star, visit TCM Shopping. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

Hello, Bomb? Are you with me?
- Doolittle
Of course.
- Bomb #20
Are you willing to entertain a few concepts?
- Doolittle
I am always receptive to suggestions.
- Bomb #20
Fine. Think about this then. How do you know you exist?
- Doolittle
All right, bomb. Prepare to receive new orders.
- Pinback
You are false data.
- Bomb#20
Hmmm?
- Pinback
Therefore I shall ignore you.
- Bomb #20
Hello... bomb?
- Pinback
I do not like the men on this spaceship. They are uncouth and fail to appreciate my better qualities. I have something of value to contribute to this mission if they would only recognize it. Today over lunch I tried to improve morale and build a sense of camaraderie among the men by holding a humorous, round-robin discussion of the early days of the mission. My overtures were brutally rejected. These men do not want a happy ship. They are deeply sick and try to compensate by making me feel miserable. Last week was my birthday. Nobody even said "happy birthday" to me. Someday this tape will be played and then they'll feel sorry.
- Pinback
Let there be light.
- Bomb#20
When I brought you on this ship, I thought you were cute.
- Pinback

Trivia

'Carpenter, John' directed, edited, and wrote the music for the film, but he uses pseudonyms in the credits for editing and the music.

When bomb number 20 emerges from the bomb bay during the asteroid storm, you can see a guy sticking his tongue out on the computer screen.

One of the pieces of debris after the ship blows up says "THX 1138 Toilet Tank", a reference to _THX 1138 (1970)_ .

The Playboy posters are blurred in the bedroom scene, although the bedroom scene is not in all versions of the movie.

The end of the film was almost certainly inspired by and adapted from Ray Bradbury's sci-fi short story "Kaleidoscope." Bradbury's story is about a group of rocket men floating away from each other in space after their ship has exploded. Eventually only two men are left in radio contact; one of them is carried off by an enchanting, kaleidoscopic meteor swarm and the other falls to earth as a shooting star. This situation is exactly recreated at the end of "Dark Star," and some of the dialogue is adapted directly from Bradbury's text.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States 1974

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1974

Released in United States 1974 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Preston Sturges Movie Marathon) March 28 - April 9, 1974)

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1974