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Dark Star

Dan O'Bannon , Dre Pahich , John Carpenter    G (General Audience)   DVD
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
Price: CDN$ 54.66
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The Dark Star's crew is on a 20-year mission to destroy unstable planets and make way for future colonization. The smart bombs they use to effect this zoom off cheerfully to do their duty. But unlike Star Trek, in which order prevails, the nerves of this crew are becoming increasingly frayed to the point of psychosis. Their captain has been killed by a radiation leak that also destroyed their toilet paper. "Don't give me any of that 'Intelligent Life' stuff," says Commander Doolittle when presented with the possibility of alien life. "Find me something I can blow up." When an asteroid storm causes a malfunction, Bomb Number 20 (the most cheerful character in the film) has to be repeatedly talked out of exploding prematurely, each time becoming more and more peevish, until they have to teach him phenomenology to make him doubt his existence. And the film's apocalyptic ending, lifted almost wholly from Ray Bradbury's story "Kaleidoscope," has the remaining crew drifting away from each other in space, each to a suitably absurd end. Absurd, surreal, and very funny. John Carpenter once described Dark Star as "Waiting for Godot in space." Made at a cost of practically nothing, the film's effects are nevertheless impressive and, along with the number of ideas crammed into its 83 minutes, ought to shame makers of science fiction films costing hundreds of times more. The DVD contains both the original 68-minute release and the director's full version. --Jim Gay

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
For the first 20-25 minutes of Dark Star, I sat here thinking this could well be one of the most awful science fiction movies of all time. By the end, though, my tune had changed rather drastically. I would say the film is brilliantly funny despite its treasure trove of bad movie qualities. It is definitely uniquely absurd, the rare science fiction black comedy that actually manages to deliver. Undoubtedly, some viewers will label Dark Star a disaster and wonder how anyone could like a single thing about it. If you appreciate droll humor and are willing to conform your own thinking to that of the film (rather than waiting for it to conform to your expectations), you're liable to be in for a most unusual treat here. In case you haven't noticed, this is indeed a John Carpenter film. Carpenter co-wrote (along with Dan O'Bannon), directed, and produced it. Don't be expecting a Hollywood theatrical production, though. Dark Star is by and large a student film brought to life by Carpenter and O'Bannon. It was later picked up for a theatrical release (for which an additional 15 minutes or so of action was filmed and added), but the whole movie was made on the smallest of budgets. Some of the special effects aren't bad at all, surprisingly enough, but there's no mistaking the fact that Carpenter and company had to make due as best they could in scene after scene.

Here's the premise. It's the future, and the crew members of the Dark Star have been sent out on an extraordinarily long mission to blow an array of unstable planets throughout the galaxy to smithereens. I'm not sure these guys were perfectly sane to begin with, but twenty years in space, trapped inside a cramped spaceship, have definitely taken a toll on each of them.
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As every film buff knows, Dark Star started off as a student film. The work so impressed producer Jack H. Harris (The Blob) that he gave the 'kids' some extra money to pad it to feature length. The rest is history, sort of. Dark Star is a deserved cult classic. For one, while it is bargain basement filmmaking, nonetheless the movie manages to look fairly good and does not bog down with filler (each scene is fresh and entertaining and adds something to the overall feel). The alien escaping into the ship and Pinback's giving chase (which alternates easily between hilarious and harrowing) is undoubtedly a highlight (both for being so entertaining and for forshadowing O'Bannon's script/story for Alien). As is Bomb #20. The second reason is that many of the crew (Carpenter, O'Bannon, and the effects creators) all went on to successful careers in the film making industry. If you can get past the tape and cardboard look (and the movie is so inventive and funny that it is easy to do) then Dark Star is a fun ride and an essential addition to any sci-fi film buffs library. Highly recommended.
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2.0 out of 5 stars "John Carpenter's Dark Star" July 11 2002
Dark Star (G) **/5
Brian Narelle, Dre Pahich, Ycal Kuniholme, Dan O'Bannon, Joe Saunders.
Directed by: John Carpenter.
Synopsis: A group of astronauts who destroy unstable planets must try to survive when a bomb gets lodged in the launch bay.
Special Features: Contains Extended and Theatrical Cut of the Film, Trailer, Biographies.
Review: A loopy cult sci-fi comedy. This was made as a student film, but somebody decided to release it. It has a lot going for it, but you know it just didn't have the budget. Several great scenes are in there though like attack of the killer beach ball, and philosophy discussions with a bomb. So the plot is what you ask? Several astronauts are on a ship that destroys unstable planets, but a bomb gets lodged in the bomb bay, and they must scramble to save their lives. The actors all do a respectable job with what they have to work with. Carpenter comes through in directing, and he gives us a hint of the greatness to come. As for the DVD? While the special features and two versions of the film are fascinating this is really only a pick up for Carpenter fans, or perhaps fans of cult sci-fi films.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Early Brilliance June 30 2002
Much like George Lucas' THX-1138, Dark Star had its beginnings as a film school project which was later expanded into a full-length movie with the help of later investors. However, while Lucas became far less serious when he started working with big budgets, the opposite phenonmenon occured with Dark Star's creators Dan O'Bannon (later scripter of such hits as Alien and The Abyss) and John Carpenter (later director of such hits as The Thing and Halloween). In fact, Dark Star often seems to make fun of elements found in Carpenter and O'Bannon's later works, as if they knew what directions they would later be taking and decided to parody themselves before anyone else got the chance. For example, there's an alien that looks like a blown-up beachball bouncing around the ship and causing trouble, providing a very silly alternative to the insect in Alien. Of course, other classics are billiantly parodied in this movie as well, especially 2001 with its out of control, intelligent computer and in the scene of astronauts floating off into space.
Much like Monty Python, the humour works on many levels. In addition to slapstick, you get rather intelligent and philosophical humour. Not all of it works, but there are enough hits to make up for all the misses.
Given the original budget of the film, don't expect a visual spectacular. Comparing Dark Star to the creators' later works is like comparing Lord of the Rings to Peter Jackson's first film, Bad Taste. This first film has a sort of roughness and lack of polish to it which really emphasizes its moments of brilliance. Too bad the film isn't longer.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
a classic
Published 2 months ago by herick69
5.0 out of 5 stars The future is absurd
Dark Star doesn't forget to include liberal doses of the Human Condition in its depiction of The Future (tm). Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ross
5.0 out of 5 stars An old time classic!
One of my old time favourite science fiction movies. Early classic from John Carpenter.
Good effects, story everything a movie must have. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Bernhard Ruis
5.0 out of 5 stars Love it. Great Documentary extras.
Very good extras including the true story behind the cult classic Dark star. I'd say a must have for every fan.
Published 15 months ago by Wes Sargent
1.0 out of 5 stars Garbage
I Thought it would be good with some of the people that were in it but it was terrible. Not funny, not well written and after watching it, I through it in the garbage.
Published 22 months ago by Joanne
5.0 out of 5 stars Boredom Has never been so funny!!!
Made with their own money! John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon made this quite bizarre tale of boredom in space. Read more
Published on July 7 2004 by Andrew
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem in the rough is still a gem
What's also amazing is the sensitivity to characters and personalities in this movie. Each crew member is different, and has his own unique coping mechanisms (or none at all) for... Read more
Published on March 16 2004
2.0 out of 5 stars Only for John Carpenter fans
If you're a John Carpenter fan (Starman, Alien, etc.), you might be interested in seeing his early work, but if not, skip this DOG of a film. Read more
Published on Feb. 27 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars In Space, No One Can Hear You Yawn...
DARK STAR is the most un-romantic, stark, hysterical vision of space exploration ever filmed. Carpenter and O'bannon capture the suffocating boredom perfectly! Read more
Published on Nov. 17 2003 by Bindy Sue Fr°nkŘnschtein
1.0 out of 5 stars Good movie, miserable DVD quality
Much has been written about this movie, so I will spare you any repetitions. Anyway, chances are you will be interested in Dark Star" only if you already know it... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2003 by H. Krohn
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