13 of 13 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..."
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...
Published 12 months ago by @GeekZilla9000
56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing
Have just tried to watch my newly received copy of the Dark Star 30th Anniversary Special Edition. What a disapointment. In what sense is this edition "Special"? No digital remastering, dreadful sound, and not even subtitles for the hard of hearing (and believe me, you need them to follow what the actors are saying). The "extras" are simply short biographies of some of...
Published on 26 Nov 2008 by The Supercargo
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13 of 13 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...",
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.
26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars STAR CRAZY,
This review is from: Dark Star - [DVD]  (DVD)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 have been associated in later years quite so vividly with the genre.
Spaced-out hippes travel the cosmos blowing up unstable stars on a pre-colonization mission plagued by continual mishaps, including an intelligent bomb with an existential death wish.
Dark Star is a black comedy which pokes fun at the underlying issues facing a group of hacked-off astronauts who have succumbed to the deep psychological problems associated with being trapped in a confined space - within the realms of infinite space. A perfect handle upon which to hang their subsequent disintegration. And, boy, do these guys fall apart at the seams (even the cryogenically maintained head of their former commander has stopped dispensing good advice and begun a steady decline into gibberish). Only when presented with imminent destruction by a short-tempered and fractious bomb do they actually pull themselves together for a brief but hilarious ethical debate, man and machine in imperfect harmony. Futile, of course, and it's clear by now that things have gone beyond pear-shaped. But moments before what appears to be the bleakest of endings, earlier foreshadowings are thrown into sharp relief (then cleverly realised) and the result - thanks to the sheer AUDACITY of universal order and chaos - is an unexpected pleasure. That's quite a feat to pull off as the end titles roll to a country & western song, playing Dark Star out in marvellously judged incongruity. From such uncertain beginnings does a low-budget classic emerge.
Inexperienced, almost amateurish. That's probably why it works so well.
Welcome to BLAKE'S 7 territory, but don't get sniffy; shaky spacecraft and wobbly sets are an intrinsic part of the tv show's and this film's lasting charm. As for the stowaway alien/beach ball...well, the puncture kit probably cost more than the finished product, but full marks to O' Bannon for making the most of limited resources.
The picture quality (from a lousy degenerated video master) is hopeless, with washed out colours and poor stability. Don't we deserve better than this? A top-notch print may well not be up to the technical scrutiny afforded from a Blu-ray release but, surely, a decent standard-def print is available somewhere. At least it's cheap. And as I said at the top, there's a lot to like about Dark Star...so, for those who take their sci-fi comedies seriously, owning even a flawed copy of this little gem should be a given.
56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very Disappointing,
This review is from: Dark Star, 30th Anniversary Special Edition [DVD]  (DVD)Have just tried to watch my newly received copy of the Dark Star 30th Anniversary Special Edition. What a disapointment. In what sense is this edition "Special"? No digital remastering, dreadful sound, and not even subtitles for the hard of hearing (and believe me, you need them to follow what the actors are saying). The "extras" are simply short biographies of some of the actors. There's nothing "Special" about this, the use of the word is just a con to get you to pay for something substandard. This is NOT a "Collector's Edition" unless you go out of your way to collect bad film-to-DVD conversions. My advice: don't waste you money.
6 of 6 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,
This review is from: Dark Star HyperDrive Edition  [DVD] (DVD)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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good value extras,
This review is from: Dark Star HyperDrive Edition  [DVD] (DVD)There are some interesting extras included with this Hyperdrive Edition. They include ;
A new text introduction to the film written by Dan O'Bannon who died just before this release.
The original version of the film (68 minutes).
A full-length audio commentary of the final version (83 minutes) by Andrew Gilchrist who tells you everything that is known about the film.
Let There Be Light (115 minutes) is a new, excellent 2010 documentary and includes interviews with many of the surviving cast and crew and archival interviews with John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon. You will find out how the students made the film over three years, exactly where the props and sets came from and how Carpenter and O'Bannon worked with each other.
An interview with Alan Dean Foster (34 minutes) who talks about his novelisation of Dark Star, his meetings with John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon and his other novelisations which included Star Trek and Star Wars, and how he met George Lucas.
An interview with Brian Narelle (40 minutes) who plays Lt Doolittle. He talks about his work on Dark Star, working with John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon, and other work in acting and animation.
A 3D Guide to the Dark Star ship which is a short animation showing you around a few areas of the ship.
The original trailer which gives away a few of the surprises in the film.
A trivia section which details 22 text items.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not Anamorphic,
This review is from: Dark Star, 30th Anniversary Special Edition [DVD]  (DVD)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 anamorphic/enhanced for 16x9 format.
The film itself is terrific. Funny, touching, tense, imaginative, beautifully designed, raw, bleak. And surprisingly sad coming from Howard Hawks-worshipping man's man John Carpenter. Dan O'Bannon's so funny, you wonder why he didn't really act again.
So... best available edition, but not what it claims.
43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great little film let down by careless DVD mastering,
By A Customer
This review is from: Dark Star  [DVD] (DVD)I'm fond of this film, which shows just how much can be done with how little, but I really can't recommend this region 2 pressing: the sound is very distorted, and the picture is soft and murky. Unless you're a die-hard fan, hang on until somebody finds a better print and makes a new master from it.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A low budget classic - the human side of space fiction,
By A Customer
This review is from: Dark Star [VHS] (VHS Tape)This is one of my top ten favourite films of all time - why? Especially as I'm not a science fiction fan. But I like the way it injects some humour, realism and cynicism into the "glamour" of space travel - how would you feel if you'd been stuck out in space with the same 3 guys for 20 years and Congress weren't going to pay for a rescue ship for a bit longer because of budget cuts? Low budget, but all the characters ring true. And any film with a guy hanging half in, half out of the bottom of a lift waving his legs frantically and listening to Rossini's "Barber of Seville", who has got there by a totally logical and natural sequence of actions, has got to have something going for it! How much you enjoy it probably depends on what appeals to your sense of humour.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's OK.,
...it's OK. It's not great, but it is an improvement on the DVD. The sound quality is definitely as good as it could ever be, and even then it just is what it is: it sounds like a pretty shaky 70s student effort.
The picture is improved, particularly in terms of dirt and damage removal. There's clearly been some extensive frame-by-frame clean-up here, and it shows. Aside from that, however, it looks soft, hazy, but I guess as good as non-professional 16mm blown up to 35mm can look.
What worries me is a smeary softness to the picture that suggests DNR, and I can't see much in the way of film grain. An earlier comment [now removed, but quoted by a later reviewer] suggests that DNR was used and then fake grain added back in. If this is the case - and the grain that is there looks suspiciously even for such a raggedy film - then that's a very stupid thing to do. No-one who's ever seen this film expects it to look pristine, and you must be aware that it's going to be more film-literate viewers who are the target audience for this. Grain removal is widely regarded as an unwise practice, and if you did that here you've disappointed a lot of people, including me.
The documentary is super-informative, but feels padded [with some ugly, repetitive computer-generated visuals and endless montages and clips of the movie], and I ended up listening but not watching.
So while I'm pleased with the package overall - it's a big improvement over existing DVD releases - realistically, it's just OK.
Buyers: temper your expectations accordingly.
Though if you've never seen the film, watch it immediately. It's a lovely, funny, sad, clever little movie, overflowing with creativity.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful film,
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Dark Star HyperDrive Edition  [DVD] by Brian Narelle (DVD - 2011)