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Dark Star

Entry updated 16 September 2018. Tagged: Film.

Film (1974). Jack H Harris Enterprises. Directed by John Carpenter. Written by Carpenter, O'Bannon. Cast includes Brian Narelle, Dan O'Bannon, Dre Pahich and Joe Saunders. 83 minutes. Colour.

This cult success, Carpenter's debut, was originally a 45-minute film shot on 16mm by students at the University of Southern California for $6000, but producer Jack H Harris provided cash for new footage and for transfer to 35mm film stock. Dark Star is a Satire on space films, its visual intensity sharpened by Ron Cobb, who was credited for "Special Effects": the Dark Star is a Spaceship in which four men are endlessly roaming the Universe on a tedious mission to locate "unstable" worlds and destroy them with thermostellar bombs (see Weapons). Conditions have deteriorated – the Computer is malfunctioning, the life-support systems acting up, the crew in various stages of psychosis, the Cryonics-maintained captain "dead" but still partly conscious in Suspended Animation, and the ship's mascot (an Alien like a beach ball with claws) increasingly belligerent. Worst of all, one of the sentient AI thermostellar bombs has to be continually coaxed out of exploding prematurely by debates about phenomenology. Dark Star ends apocalyptically ("Let there be light!" the bomb decides), with each crew member reaching his desired apotheosis, one board-riding through space and a second undergoing ecstatic union with the stars in an asteroid shower.

Described by one critic as "a Waiting for Godot in outer space", Dark Star is a sophisticated mixture of black comedy and genuine sf. Technically quite good, its sets and effects are superior to those of sf films costing ten times its (eventual) $60,000 budget. The novelization is Dark Star (1974) by Alan Dean Foster. [JB/PN]

see also: Cinema.


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