Dark Star

Year: 1974

Production: Jack H. Harris Enterprises

Director: John Carpenter

Starring: Brian Narelle, Dan O'Bannon, Joe Saunders, Andreijah Pahich

Screenwriter: John Carpenter, Dan O'Bannon

Novelization (1974) by Alan Dean Foster

83 minutes, cut to 87 minutes; B/W

This cult success, Carpenter's debut, was originally a 45min 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: 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. Conditions have deteriorated - the computer is malfunctioning, the life-support systems acting up, the crew in various stages of psychosis, the cryonically maintained captain "dead" but still partly conscious, the ship's mascot (an alien like a beach ball with claws) increasingly belligerent and, worst of all, one of the sentient 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 10 times its (eventual) $60000 budget.

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction

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