Dark Star (1974)

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Dark Star (1974)

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 13, 2010 7:26 pm

DARK STAR indeed:
this has been called "the poor, poor, poor man's 2001." The first directing job for John Carpenter, though 'job' may be a misnomer.
He and Dan O'Bannon began this as a student film around 1970. It's to them like what the original THX-1138 student film was to George Lucas.

Dark Star's world premiere was at a film festival in mid-1974, but the 1st actual theatrical release wasn't until early 1975. While it was still a student film, a Canadian investor convinced Carpenter & O'Bannon to expand it for theatrical release. Then Jack Harris got involved, providing money to blow-up 16mm footage to 35mm and add FX; Harris had a habit of doing this; he did this earlier with  EQUINOX (1970). It fell out of Harris' hands when he himself had money problems and he sold it to Bryanston, which messed up the distribution, marketing it towards a counterculture audience.
At the time, in the mid-seventies, O'Bannon made the statement that this, the best student film of all time, was turned into one of the worst theatrical features. He was basing his comment on the fact that no one went to see it in theaters; it was deemed a failure.
It seems like most people just didn't understand this film back then. As mentioned elsewhere, sci-fi comedies are rare. I once read a thread on the Message Boards for this film at IMDb and it's STILL a puzzle to many people; the originating poster asks 'How is This a Comedy?' He's not being a wiseacre; he just doesn't get it: he just didn't find anything funny about blowing up planets and killing aliens (even though the alien in question is about the funniest, visually, that I have personally ever witnessed).
I even have a personal story about this; I first went to see it in a theater with my dad; I'm sure this was in 1975; he didn't get it; he didn't like it. He was expecting standard outer space opera, not these hippie-looking bozos wasting their time and his on some messy, crammed spaceship. This claustrophobic atmosphere and 'grime in space' approach wouldn't become acceptable until after Alien (1979), also written by O'Bannon.

Some of this may strike people as a bit boring and other scenes have a distinctly amateurish tone to them. But, much of this is also inspired - the talk that Doolittle (Brian Narelle) has with the bomb near the end touches on some truly metaphysical subjects, even if done tongue-in-cheek. And, I agree with what was said elsewhere - by the end, I truly had grown to like these characters enough that I would bemoan their demises, a rare reaction when speaking about today's films.
There's also here the hint of the rebel in all young people, the cynical outlook that older adult bureaucracy would spread throughout the galaxy in the future. This was basically college kids trying to be smart-asses on film and showing up the rest of us to a degree; it's amazing that they succeeded to any extent at all in this. Maybe it's time for a big-budget remake; of course, such an approach would destroy any charm that the original had. BoG's Score: 7 out of 10  alien The Trailer: DARK STAR Trailer

BoG's Score: 7 out of 10

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