John Carpenter. Need I say more? the man known for his work on a film that scared me s******s with its practical special effects, well in this the alien isn’t as well done but then this was a much MUCH earlier work and really more an independent piece. In fact it’s a student film so, the balloon alien is … well frankly it looked far more believable than all these CG things popping round now a days. anyway.
Released in 1974 Dark Star is the first film directed by the now legendary John Carpenter. It doesn’t have a challenge to over come, no impending doom, no sinister force – it’s just showing a time when the amazing has become the mundane. It’s on a what was once advanced ship, filled with intelligent bombs that were used to blow up rogue planets. The crew consists of Lieutenant Doolittle , Sergeant Pinback , Corporal Boiler and Talby. But the people on board have been doing the job so long without help, the ship is worse for wear in places and they do things to alleviate their boredom. I’m reminded of Space 2001 in that regard, a point where space travel is now seen as an everyday occurrence much like say a fisherman going out on a boat.
After passing through an electrical storm the ship gets damaged slightly, but that’s not any real issue, it’s not some desperate fight to repair the ship before they all die. This is all just life to these people as we see them read magazines, one goofs about and another has collected bottles to make a sort of musical instrument with them all. It’s all stuff showing these guys have been at this too long but also helps to identify with the men, you learn about them through their actions rather than them talking about it. One man even adopted a strange alien ball like creature as the ship’s mascot that just kind of runs about and he has to get it back. To be fair on the special effects….. they’re damn good for $60000 and look way better than the CG things we see all the time now, sorry to harp on it there are plenty of good CG used in films (Marvel films) but I’ve seen so many now that often the illusion is lost and I feel more excitement to find out WAIT that was real?.
As the film goes on, multiple times one of the bombs is almost released, and remember SOMEONE thought it would be a good idea to make bombs sentient ( This is Hitchhikers Guide level of baffling why someone would do that, and even then in Hitchhiker they addressed it was dumb) so when it’s time to actually fire, the bomb refuses. Now they have to convince the bomb as to the nature of its existence… which goes how you expect. Yep another 70s sci-fi low budget film where everyone dies, but one of the crew Doolittle, the last one remaining decides to go out in an act that many wish they could – he couldn’t survive reentry so he goes down surfing on a piece of debris.
This is an odd film, it has that 70s pre Star Wars vibe (after Star Wars EVERYONE was trying to be Star Wars) so it’s considerably more, inventive than those post Star Wars films. I would say the main selling point for the film though is being one of the first pieces by John Carpenter. Not one for repeat viewings though, unless you’re into the weird but not insane weird kind. But something to watch and compare .
This film was suggested to me and I had never heard of it so, was interesting seeing it, having little to no idea what would happen and getting the completely wrong idea what happens by the person describing it to me (thought the alien was the cause of the problem) So yeah, come see the start of one of the modern greats… at least in nerd circles.