Ian (lovingboth) wrote,

One of the films I think everyone has seen

.. is Dark Star. Starting life as a student film for the University of Southern California film school, it was John Carpenter's first as a director, with Dan O'Bannon starring, co-writing, and supervising the special effects.

I first saw it around 1976 during an autumn season of SF films on BBC2. The previous week had seen Silent Running, an ecologically aware film with Bruce Dern on a space greenhouse looking after the last remaining plants, assisted by some robots. (Memory tells me one of the robots looked not unlike R2-D2.) It was very worthy, and it has clearly influenced WALL-E, but no-one could call it particularly entertaining.

Then there was Dark Star, which is probably the most entertaining film either of its creators ever made. In contrast to the glossy spacecraft of 2001 - A Space Odyssey (another of the thousand or so everyone should see), the ship's a pig sty. It doesn't help that the supply of toilet paper self-destructed and the control back on Earth has decided it would be too expensive to send any more. While the ship's computer repeatedly thanks the four remaining crew (the captain was killed by a still unfixed electrical fault) 'for observing all safety precautions', they're just interested in getting home again.

Their mission is to blow up unstable planets, to enable future colonisation of the star systems. They have twenty (very) smart bombs to do this with, and we see the successful use of #19. Then they run into an electrical storm and #20 decides that it's going to detonate despite still being attached to the ship. Ooops. What to do? Talk to the dead captain and try to teach the bomb phenomenology ('Bomb, are you willing to entertain a few concepts? .. how do you know you exist?'). Throw in a sub-plot about a fussy alien ('When I brought you on board, I thought you were cute!') and it's utterly wonderful - it completely influenced Red Dwarf.

The reason for reminding you of its existence is having just seen a documentary on it, Let There Be Light - The Odyssey of Dark Star, which is on one of the latest DVDs of Dark Star. Despite having seen the film well over a dozen times over the years, I still learned stuff. 'Truckers in space' was apparently the original concept, for example.

Sadly, Carpenter and O'Bannon fell out over the film that launched both their careers. Both wanted more control and no film was ever going to be big enough for the both of them again. Oh for what might have been...

Poll #1733782 Name my blog

What would be the best name for a film/DVD review blog?

Saw That - SawThat.co.uk
Seen That - SeenThat.co.uk
What I Saw - WhatISaw.co.uk
What I Watched - WhatIWatched.co.uk

This entry was originally posted at http://lovingboth.dreamwidth.org/424840.html, because despite having a permanent account, I have had enough of LJ's current owners trying to be evil. Please comment there using OpenID - comment count unavailable have and if you have an LJ account, you can use it for your OpenID account. Or just join Dreamwidth! It only took a couple of minutes to copy all my entries here to there.

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