Four men crew the deep space scout ship Dark Star,
their mission to seek out unstable planets and destroy them
to prepare the way for future colonisation...
Although they have aged only three years, they have been in
space for 20; each man has become unkempt, lethargic and bored.
Talby spends all his time in the dome staring at the stars
and dreaming about the beauty of the Phoenix Asteroid, which
is said to glow with colours; Doolittle was a good surfer
back on Earth and misses his board more than anything; and
Pinback reveals in his computer diaries that he is really
Bill Fruge, a Fuel Maintenance Technician who just happened
to try on the other man's suit. Boiler simply keeps his head
down and gets on with his job, hoping for better things.
a succession of events conspire to spiral out of control and
they all go to hell in a handbasket. Communications Lazer
No. 7 is damaged when the ship passes through an asteroid
storm, causing Bomb 20 to exit its bay on two separate occasions.
It is ordered back the first time by the men and subsequently
persuaded by the ship's computer. Possessing an individual
intelligent personality the Bomb becomes increasingly frustrated.
When the crew comes to legitimately drop the bomb it will
not release due to an accidental short circuit caused by the
escaped alien (more of that in a moment). The countdown begins
and, with only 14 minutes remaining, Doolittle visits the
cryogenic unit to ask the advice of the dead Commander Powell.
However, Powell is isolated and forgetful, so Doolittle is
reduced to leaving the ship to argue the great questions of
life with the bomb. The forgotten Talby is sucked out into
space whilst examining the damaged lazer, resulting in a conclusion
which borrows equally from Marvel Comics' The Silver Surfer
and Ray Bradbury's Kaleidoscope.
a long-time admirer of John Carpenter's work, I could bore
you within an inch of your life with a multitude of fascinating
behind-the-scenes information. But rather than allow you to
escape entirely you might be interested to know that he and
Dan O'Bannon wrote the script whilst still at film school.
The product took well over three years to complete, due to
money and distribution problems, but still only cost $60,000.
Wigs and false facial hairs were utilised to cover the changes
to the actors' appearance over that time. Much of the work
was produced by the duo themselves; whilst Carpenter wrote,
scored, produced and directed, O'Bannon wrote, handled the
film editing, production design and special effects supervision,
as well as playing the part of Pinback.
it looks a little cheap, but aside from the abundance of seventies
hair it's not as dated as you might think. Special effects
are kept to a minimum, and a sense of apathetic realism is
generated by downplaying the acting. None of the characters
become excited about anything that happens, even when their
very lives are in danger; they are well past emotions and
who has already seen this film will surely agree that, apart
from the finale, the outstanding set piece scene is when Pinback
goes to feed the alien. The beachball-like creature with webbed
and clawed feet escapes the holding area and leads Pinback
a merry dance through the ship and into the lift shaft where
it almost succeeds in getting the man killed.
would have to be a fool not to realise this is a black comedy,
but as the trailer on this disc proves Dark Star was
incorrectly promoted as a straightforward science fiction
action/thriller, inviting inevitable comparisons with 2001:
A Space Odyssey when they are as different as chalk and
Dark Star was obviously a labour of love for Carpenter
and O'Bannon. Deep belief in the product and its deserved
niche in the marketplace sustained them through nearly four
years of trying, when it might have been easier on several
occasions to cut their losses and run. But after Carpenter's
Academy Award for best short subject won for The Resurrection
of Bronco Billy, he might well have gained a reputation
as a failure with a short attention span. After all, how could
he expect the film executives to have faith in him had he
possessed no confidence in his own abilities? Instead of that,
Carpenter earned much respect as a genius of the low-budget
flick, going from strength to strength with Assault on
Precinct 13, Halloween and Escape From New York.
O'Bannon himself went on to script Alien and handle
the on-screen graphics for Star Wars.
on this disc are sparse. As well as the original theatrical
release of the film and the 1974 extended film version (which
contains only a couple of additional scenes), there are bibliographies
for John Carpenter, Dan O'Bannon, Brian Narelle and Jack Harris,
a picture gallery and the aforementioned trailer. A serious
omission from the release is a Carpenter commentary, which
normally makes for great listening on his other DVDs. As this
is called a "Special Edition" we could also have
done with some interviews about the making of the production.
As I received only a check disc for review I can say nothing
about the packaging.
conclusion then: if you have a dark sense of humour you might
enjoy this. If you're a fan of Carpenter's early work you'll
love it. Red Dwarf years before its time. Bombed-out
in space with a spaced-out bomb!
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