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Dark Star (1974) - John Carpenter

Related: 1974 films - alien - space - absurdism dark - star - science-fiction film - John Carpenter - American cinema

Dark Star (1974) - John Carpenter [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Dark Star is a 1973 motion picture directed by John Carpenter and co-written with Dan O'Bannon. Although destined for eventual release in 1974, this was only possible as a consequence of a successful series of showings at a number of film festivals in 1973. The film was too short at 68 minutes, and an additional fifteen minutes were shot for cinematic release. O'Bannon also stars in the film in the role of Pinback, the whiny, frustrated janitor.

Four lonely, stoned hippy astronauts are adrift in space, have several adventures and find various ways to relieve their boredom. The film also features an encounter with a large orange-red web-footed inflatable beachball alien of the entirely unconvincing variety. The genre of the film is essentially one of science-fiction comedy and despite some of its 'low budget' special effects, it is often seen as seminal, a forerunner of the Alien series. This isn't surprising, since Dan O'Bannon later wrote the script for the first Alien. Carpenter described it, tongue in cheek, as "Waiting for Godot in space".

It is also singled out as an example of "philosophy in the cinema" on account of the "talking bomb" sequence, where a strategy to prevent the unintended detonation of a renegade onboard explosive device is devised based upon teaching the bomb the rudiments of phenomenalism (with amusingly unexpected results). Another key interpretational theme is the caricature of the Vietnam War legacy of 'mischief emerging from tedium' among military types on long uneventful missions. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_Star_%28film%29 [Feb 2005]

Amazon review

The Dark Star's crew is on a 20-year mission to destroy unstable planets and make way for future colonization. The smart bombs they use to effect this zoom off cheerfully to do their duty. But unlike Star Trek, in which order prevails, the nerves of this crew are becoming increasingly frayed to the point of psychosis. Their captain has been killed by a radiation leak that also destroyed their toilet paper. "Don't give me any of that 'Intelligent Life' stuff," says Commander Doolittle when presented with the possibility of alien life. "Find me something I can blow up." When an asteroid storm causes a malfunction, Bomb Number 20 (the most cheerful character in the film) has to be repeatedly talked out of exploding prematurely, each time becoming more and more peevish, until they have to teach him phenomenology to make him doubt his existence. And the film's apocalyptic ending, lifted almost wholly from Ray Bradbury's story "Kaleidoscope," has the remaining crew drifting away from each other in space, each to a suitably absurd end. Absurd, surreal, and very funny. John Carpenter once described Dark Star as "Waiting for Godot in space." Made at a cost of practically nothing, the film's effects are nevertheless impressive and, along with the number of ideas crammed into its 83 minutes, ought to shame makers of science fiction films costing hundreds of times more. The DVD contains both the original 68-minute release and the director's full version. --Jim Gay

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