Film Micrœview #67: Dark Star (1974)

04.05.2014 § Leave a comment

Dark Star

Rating: Shrug.

I expect my rating may have gone up had I been in the right chemical state of mind.

I admit to reading this as a failed horror rather than a comedy up to the end. I had been meaning to watch this for ages only because I couldn’t believe John Carpenter, the famous horror director, had produced a sci-fi early on. When I saw Jodorowsky’s Dune earlier this week and learned that 1) Jodorowsky had been inspired by seeing this movie to hire its special effects guy, Dan O’Bannon for his production of Dune and 2) that this was the same guy who would go on to write Alien, I knew I had to see it immediately. Considering that Alien was horror first, sci-fi second, I had further evidence for this having horror elements, especially since the continuity in O’Bannon’s career between this and Alien included only that aborted Dune project.

But this was not at all horror, and if I hadn’t been so fixated on that idea, I might have seen it in relation to Space Odyssey 2001 more clearly. Aside from the alien brought onboard (which obviously anticipates the plot of Alien) pretty much everything in this is a joke relating to SO:01. These guys are out-of-shape (too fat to fit through the escape hatch), dull, unshaven, uncaring. Their mission is not something epic or profound: it to blow up entire planets based on meager statistical evidence that they may eventually leave orbit and crash into suns causing supernovae (who knows what those planets might have been good for otherwise?) As far as AI goes, we have multiple of them here, reasoning with each other, getting uppity about each other’s malfunctions, etc. At the end, even death turns out to not be sacred, for the dead commander is somehow in a cryogenically communicative state…

It seems that Carpenter wrote not only the spooky synth music but also the country song that recurs throughout. Impressive.

And O’Bannon plays the guy with the rubber chicken who fights the beach ball with claws alien. So that’s wonderful.

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