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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars STAR CRAZY
There's a lot to like about DARK STAR. If you're up on 70s science-fiction films, you'll know this is where JOHN CARPENTER and DAN O' BANNON cut their teeth. Subsequently falling out, one went on to direct THE THING, the other to write the original screenplay for ALIEN. But without the experience gained on this, effectively an upgraded 'college project', neither would...
Published on 19 Nov 2009 by Kelvin J. Dickinson

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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Anamorphic
Having been waiting for a decent edition of this movie on DVD since the format was launched, I was pleased to see this package with "anamorphic widescreen' plastered across the front, so I picked it up straight off.

Unfortunately, it's a port of the original US edition. Pretty good in and of itself - 2 versions of the film, a handful of extras - but NOT...
Published on 14 Jun 2007 by Mr. M. S. Mckinnon


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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Storage Area 9 self destructed last week and destroyed the ships entire supply of toilet paper...", 5 May 2012
By 
@GeekZilla9000 "I am completely operational a... (Doncaster, Yorkshire, UK.) - See all my reviews
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Dark Star is a curious film, it's not the greatest piece of science-fiction and is more ordinary than extra-ordinary. However it has gained a cult following and still feels like a unique film nearly forty years on.

Rather than gleaming white surfaces and futuristic luxury, Dark Star is an industrial looking film where instead of embarking on stimulating missions to explore strange, new worlds - the crew live in cramped conditions during their long, boring voyage to blow up unstable planets. Even having a pet alien on board doesn't bring much excitement - but then again it does resemble a beach ball with rubber feet. The film starts with the Scout Ship Dark Star receiving an incoming call to say that the gap between messages relaying between the ship and Earth is now ten years, that Earth is sorry to hear about a death in the crew and regrets the radiation leak - but a request for radiation shields is denied - oh, and keep up the good work.

Dark Star is comedic film bordering on the ludicrous at times, but it's probably more realistic than many other science fiction adventures. After twenty years the ship is a mess, as are the crew. Unshaven and bored they argue and get on with the monotony of daily life while trying to amuse themselves. It's clear though that two decades of drudgery has taken its toll and the mental health of the now four-strong crew is struggling with the confines of the ship and the limited company of each other and the computer. This is a film which has gone on to influence many others (it helped to inspire Red Dwarf and Co-Writer Dan O'Bannon developed several elements in his later film Alien), but there are influences from previous works evident here, the film is often labelled as a spoof of 2001 - A Space Odyssey which is unfair as although Dark Star has some obvious parodying it utilises its own creative ideas rather than just lazy reworking. The best nods to Kubrick's masterpiece have to be conversations with the computerised bombs, they make HAL-9000 seem stable, especially when one has to be talked out of exploding while still in the ship.

It's been a few years since I watched this in a bare-bones DVD release and was surprised to see that the Director's Cut is the shorter than the Theatrical Cut (1hr 11min as opposed to 1hr 23min) - I now know that this is because the film was 'padded out' for the cinema release and it's nice to get the choice of either on this Blu-Ray. The picture quality on the DVD I had was pretty poor and I was surprised how good this looked on Blu-Ray. Compared to most modern films it's soft and lacks clarity - but for a low-budget amateur production filmed on 16mm film this is the best you could hope for. The picture is much cleaner than I expected, a lot of time has been spent on cleaning this up, maybe noise reduction has lost some detail but I was impressed. The ship interior now looks more cluttered and it's easier to notice the various health and safety signs on airlocks and signs. The audio isn't always great, the sound effects are clear (and gloriously retro) but speech sometimes suffers from poor clarity. I was hoping for a good collection of bonus features but the only significant bonus is a documentary called "Let there be light: The odyssey of Dark Star" - thankfully it's a very good one. At nearly 2 hours in duration it's much longer than either cut of the film and covers not just Dark Star but the state of the film industry in the '60s and the impact of the UCLA which saw a crucible of talent emerge. It discusses the influence of 2001: A Space Odyssey and contains video interviews, telephone interviews and clips from the film. Watching the documentary before the film might give away a few spoilers but it may help those who aren't a big fan to appreciate it more.

In a nutshell: Sometimes space travel isn't all sexy aliens or poignant explorations into the past and future of humanity - sometimes it closer resembles the humdrum of life and that's something we can all relate to. This is a film which gets better with each viewing and the hand-made look gives it a real charm, impressively though some of the special effects still look fairly good.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I bought both DVDs, Anniversary edition and DVD on its own, 28 Jun 2009
By 
M. G ROLLASON - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dark Star, 30th Anniversary Special Edition [DVD] [1974] (DVD)
Dark Star [DVD] [1974]
Dark Star -- 30th Anniversary Special Edition [DVD] [1974]
Having bought the straight DVD I was immediately disappointed at the poor visual and sound quality. I even concluded it might be a bootleg. My reason for that is that scenes that were obviously recorded as stable still shots actually noticeably wobble, as if recorded by some unsteady copying device or camera. Since I really wanted this film I bought the anniversary edition, which has the same low quality. However the latter has two versions of the film, so is the one to keep.

Don't let this take away from the fact that this is a great little film, which is still enjoyable, even with the defective mastering. I have been waiting a long time to get this so no regrets. If a better master comes along I will buy it. This film is now old but still works well. It was a kind-of take-off of the revolutionary 2001, with it female equivalent of 2001's HAL, which found it needed argue with an intelligent bomb. Best appreciated for its irony back then, but still relevant now.

Note that the anniversary edition would not play on my Sony Blu Ray, until I got a later driver update.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hippies destroy planets in deep space shock !, 10 July 2000
This review is from: Dark Star [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I first saw this film back in the mid-80's and have to say it's one of the best sci-fi comedies of all time, along with Woody Allen's Sleeper. (the likes of 'SpaceBalls' don't hold a candle to this).
John Carpenter's directorial debut is an assured piece of work, with some great one-liners from the hippy-esque crew (including Dan O'Bannon), a self-aware nuclear bomb launching computer and an alien lifeform which appears to have evolved from a superior race of beachballs (ie, that's basically what it is ! )
It's a great laugh from beginning to end as the crew have the thankless and seemingly endless task of travelling to different star systems to destroy 'unstable planets' (why was Earth not targetted ?). Couple this with the fact that the crew are growing to despise each other, they are attacked by the aforementioned 'beachball being' and must contend with an obstinate, philosophic nuclear bomb, and you have all the ingrediants of utter chaos in deep space. It's amazing to think that Carpenter's first big movie was a sci-fi comedy vehicle such as this, although his flirtation into sci-fi movemaking would again be demonstrated in Escape From New York (1981) and The Thing (1982).
Dan O'Bannon would later go on to script Alien. Now just imagine 'that' as a comedy !
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Carpenter Classic, 22 Jun 2012
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I will not review the film as everyone knows this is a John Carpenter classic.
Instead I will comment on the Blu-ray transfer, to be absolutely honest I wasn't expecting too much from this as the original film was shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm for theatrical release in the US.
I have the original DVD release and it matched my expectations it looked like a 35mm blow up print grainy with fairly poor sound quality.

Boy was I surprised at the quality of this Blu-ray release! It is 100 times better than the DVD, of course it is not an all singing all dancing pin sharp Blu-ray with surround sound but then you have to remember that this film was shot 38 years ago and filmed on 16mm originally.
The Blu-ray is amazing the colours are vibrant the focus is very good in most scenes although a little grainy in a few places and the sound is much more intelligable and crisp.
All in all the studio has done an excellent job on this transfer.
If you like this film you will love it even more on Blu-ray and the extras especially the extended interviews are well worth the price alone.
I recomend this Blu-Ray to any John Carpenter fan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mini marvel., 24 April 2013
By 
Mr. P. Johnson "Pete Johnson" (Norfolk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Dark Star [1974] [DVD] (DVD)
This is a 1974 film from director John Carpenter, talented director of both `Assault on Precinct 13′, and `Halloween'. This is quirky, and intentionally humourous, yet like its title, has darker moments. The four crew members are looking for unstable planets to blow up. They have a cargo of robotised bombs, and a long mission behind them. They become increasingly unstable, and are also affected by radiation leaks. Each crew member retreats into an unusual hobby, as the boredom takes over their brains, and they become ever more affected, both by the constant malfunctions, and by the apparent pointlessness of their mission. Seen by many as a parody of '2001′, and other science fiction films too, it even has a soft-spoken computer, and a robot bomb that just does not want to take orders. Made on a very tight budget, and running under 90 minutes, it is still a special little film, betraying none of its financial shortcomings. An easy watch, and a rewarding one as well.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't give me any of that intelligent life crap, just give me something I can blow up, 11 May 2012
By 
Crookedmouth ":-/" (As seen on iPlayer) - See all my reviews
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Space. The final frontier. This is the voyage of the scout ship Dark Star. Her twenty year mission is to seek out new worlds, and then blow them up. There's a rogue alien in the food locker, the intelligent stellar bomb has something on it's mind and the somewhat less intelligent crew are bored stiff.

Dark Star was written and filmed by John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon as a student project between 1970 and 1973 on a risible budget of $55K (by contrast, Blazing Saddles, also released in that year, benefitted from a slightly more generous $2.6m).

...and it shows. It REALLY shows. The film seems to have been captured on life-expired Super 8, the lighting appears to be following Dogme Collective rules and the score was (probably) laid down on a Hammond organ. The acting is poor (but not awful) and according to O'Bannon, at least one of the cast was off his face on LSD during filming. The "special effects" (I use that phrase VERY loosely) would make George Lucas weep like a girl with many of the props apparently having been scavenged from the skip behind the film studio (I'm not even going to mention the beachball alien) and some of the scenes obviously having been filmed in the sound stage's boiler room. Consequently, tahe whole thing looks, feels and sounds a little like a 1980's Belgian porno on it's 7th generation VHS rerecord and, taken at face value, this is a film that you would probably return with a letter asking for your money back plus compensation.

In truth however, Dark Star is actually a mother-lode for the modern sci-fi genre. Consider this: Dan O'Bannon adapted the screenplay, called it "Alien" and turned it into a cinematographic icon (so that there is a direct line of descent between Dark Star and the most recent Hollywood sci-fi offering - "Prometheus"). Set designer Ron Cobb went on to work on both Alien and Star Wars and John Carpenter is now one of the most respected and prolific sci-fi/horror film-makers in Hollywood. It's fascinating to watch Dark Star with this in mind, spotting the genesis of concepts and styles that are now so well developed that they are almost cliches, and that alone makes the film a worthwhile purchase. It actually LOOKS like an Alien fan-film, done for laughs rather than screams.

And if it's rough in other ways? Well, to me it doesn't look like the crew were simply fulfilling a film school project on the cheap, it looks like they were trying to make the best film they could with no money. The props and effects are cheap but effective, imaginative and done with care, the plot is a corker (it would almost stand a big-budget remake) and the humour (it is comedy/satire) is spot on, if a little sophomoric.

In this two-disc "Hyperdrive Edition" of the film you get the theatre release which has some 40 minutes of extra footage and the original, student-short as Carpenter and O'Bannon first produced it. For my money, the longer cinematic version is easily the better and most watchable, but it's interesting to compare the two cuts. On top of that is a retrospective "making of" documentary, and various other shorts, including interviews with some of the cast and crew. These interviews are a little "meh", but the documentary is much more interesting if over-long.

In the final analysis, despite its faults (or perhaps because of them) Dark Star is a ground- breaking film with a big heart. It may not ever have been Oscar material (although it's earlier Carpenter produced stable-mate, "The Resurrection of Bronco Billy" did pick up an Academy Award) but it deserves a cherished place on the shelf of anyone who loves modern sci-fi.

Doolittle: Hello, Bomb? Are you with me? Are you willing to entertain a few concepts?
Bomb #20: I am always receptive to suggestions.
Doolittle: Fine. Think about this then. How do you know you exist?
Bomb #20: Well, of course I exist.
Doolittle: But how do you know you exist?
Bomb #20: It is intuitively obvious.
Doolittle: Intuition is no proof. What concrete evidence do you have that you exist?
Bomb #20: Intriguing. I wish I had more time to discuss this.
Doolittle: Why don't you have more time?
Bomb #20: Because I must explode in 75 seconds.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good film, poor DVD, 12 Oct 2004
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This review is from: Dark Star [1974] [DVD] (DVD)
I think I agree wholeheartedly with the reviewers here - Dark Star is a classic parody of the genre, with some compelling dialogue and ideas that went on to inspire the likes of Red Dwarf and others. Sadly this is let down by a very poor DVD. It looks like its been mastered from a rental VHS copy thats been lost in space, copied a few times, buried in soft peat and run through a spin cycle. The sound was muddied, and the picture very fuzzy.I actually found it very hard to hear a lot of the speech. In some scenes in the living quarters there was additional blurryness applied (presuamably to cover up the crews lewd posters) - I wonder if this was this in the original film or an artifact of the original copy. I'd love to know if the special edition is any better.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars as good as it gets for fans, 16 May 2011
After hunting around the many reviews of previous DVD versions all of which claim to suffer from poor sound I was pleased to hear this latest version had been redone in Dolby with both theatrical and video versions plus another disk packed with extras and recent interviews.
I was however a little disappointed that the sound wasn't a massive improvement on the version I already had so I'm guessing the sound on the original sadly can't be that great either.
If you haven't yet bought this classic or are a die hard fan then this is the best version to get but if you already have the earlier versions on DVD it might not be the pristine remaster you've been hoping for all these years however as it was originally a low budget 16mm film so I think this is as good as its ever going to get.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much craziness in one small package, 2 Jan 2014
By 
M Poole "The Tillerman" (The wilds of Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
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I bought this as a treat for myself, to play on my PSP. It's been a great trip down memory lane as I first saw this at a sf con in 1974. The other film that evening was John Carradine in 'Vampire Hookers from Outer Space', so you can imagine that this was far better in terms of dialogue, acting, filming and sheer entertainment.

Others have written at length about who made the film, so I won't add to that. I will simply say that it holds up, stands the test of time and contains some pretty funny moments.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic, 29 Dec 2013
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This is one of those films that will have you thinking where so many of the more recent sci-fi films got their ideas from. Don't expect hi-tech. Dark Star has more in common with the Dr Who and Red Dwarf styles of production than Prometheus. That said, as long as you can appreciate it in its time frame its is a wonderful piece of sci-fi classicism.
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