Dark	  Star	  (1975)	  	                        John	  Carpenter’s	  first	  feature	  film	  	  The	  summary	  and	  not...
Pinback	  is	  trapped,	  the	  alien	  mischievously	  vandalizes	  the	  already	  damaged	  laser,	  causing	  an	  int...
questions	  and	  tries	  to	  make	  it	  decide	  for	  itself	  not	  to	  detonate.	  When	  the	  bomb	  says	  that	...
work.	  Time	  and	  Var	  gave	  it	  lukewarm	  reviews	  but	  complimented	  it	  for	  respecting	  the	  science-­‐f...
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Dark star

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Transcript of "Dark star"

  1. 1. Dark  Star  (1975)     John  Carpenter’s  first  feature  film    The  summary  and  note  for  this  entry  were  completed  with  participation  from  the  AFI  Academic  Network.  Summary  and  note  were  written  by  participant  Mae  Tidman,  a  student  at  Georgia  Institute  of  Technology,  with  Vinicius  Navarro  as  academic  advisor.      SUMMARY:  Centuries  in  the  future,  the  four  surviving  astronauts  of  the  scout-­‐ship  Dark  Star  ,  Doolittle,  Talby,  Pinback,  and  Boiler,  are  on  a  mission  to  eliminate  planetary  threats  to  Earth’s  space-­‐colonization.  At  the  farthest  reaches  of  space,  the  Dark  Star  obliterates  an  unstable  planet  by  dropping  an  artificially  intelligent  thermostellar  bomb.  After  the  drop,  the  Dark  Star  jumps  into  hyperdrive  in  order  to  reach  a  safe  distance  from  the  explosion.  After  Mother,  the  spaceships  artificial  intelligence  system,  confirms  the  destruction  of  the  volatile  planet,  Lieutenant  Doolittle  makes  an  entry  in  the  ships  video-­‐log  expressing  the  boredom  and  frustration  the  crew  feels  after  two  decades  in  outer  space.      During  the  trip  to  the  next  unstable  planet,  the  Dark  Star  collides  with  an  asteroid  storm.  This  collision  damages  a  communication  laser  on  board  the  ship,  causing  “bomb  number  20”  to  unexpectedly  descend  outside.  Mother  coaxes  the  bomb  to  return  to  the  bomb  bay  and  informs  the  crew  of  the  malfunction.  Doolittle  visits  ship’s  navigator  Talby  in  the  outer-­‐spaceship  dome  and  expresses  his  concern  that  Talby  should  spend  more  time  below  with  the  other  astronauts.  Talby  confesses  that  he  loves  to  stare  into  space  through  the  glass  shell.      He  also  tells  Doolittle  he  hopes  to  see  the  glowing  and  colorful  Phoenix  Asteroids  that  circle  the  universe.  Doolittle  responds  by  revealing  how  he  misses  surfing  in  Malibu.  Back  inside  the  ship,  Boiler  interrupts  Sergeant  Pinback’s  relaxation  time  by  recreationally  shooting  the  ship-­‐repair  ray  gun.      Their  argument  is  interrupted  by  Mother  reminding  Pinback  to  feed  his  pet  alien.  After  several  unsuccessful  attempts  to  feed  the  alien,  Pinback  finds  himself  stuck  in  an  elevator  shaft  hanging  on  for  his  life.  While  
  2. 2. Pinback  is  trapped,  the  alien  mischievously  vandalizes  the  already  damaged  laser,  causing  an  interference  with  Dark  Star  ’s  communications,  and  bomb-­‐20  inappropriately  deploys  again.  Requiring  more  persuasion  than  the  last  time,  Mother  eventually  convinces  the  bomb  to  return  to  the  bomb  bay.  Eventually,  Pinback  escapes  his  near-­‐death  situation,  finds  the  alien  and  kills  it.      Later  over  lunch,  Boiler  and  Doolittle  try  to  ignore  Pinback’s  repetitive  storytelling.  The  loner,  Talby,  descends  from  his  post  in  the  dome  to  search  for  the  cause  of  the  communications  error.  Pinback  then  enters  a  private  room  to  review  his  video-­‐log  entries  and  record  a  new  one.  He  retells  the  story  of  how  he  came  to  be  a  crewmember  on  the  Dark  Star  :  he  is  not  Seargeant  Pinback,  but  is  actually  fuel  maintenance  technician  Bill  Freud  who  witnessed  the  real  Pinback  commit  suicide  and  was  mistaken  for  the  dead  astronaut.  A  more  recently  recorded  Pinback  explains  that  the  ship’s  Commander  Powell  died  while  the  whole  crew  was  in  hyperdrive  and  is  cryogenically  frozen  aboard  the  Dark  Star  .  Over  this  series  of  video-­‐logs,  Pinback’s  mental  degradation  becomes  more  apparent,  and  he  appears  to  be  so  bored  that  he  is  losing  his  mind.      While  Pinback  is  watching  his  logs,  Talby  finds  the  communication  laser  has  been  damaged  by  the  asteroid  storm  and  the  alien.  He  puts  on  the  star  suit  in  order  to  inspect  the  damage.  As  the  Dark  Star  approaches  its  final  destination,  another  volatile  planet  to  be  destroyed,  Mother  warns  over  the  ship’s  loudspeakers  that  the  damaged  laser  controls  on  the  bomb-­‐drop  mechanism  need  crucial  repairs  before  they  can  be  used  again.      The  crewmembers,  who  did  not  hear  the  warning,  send  bomb-­‐20  out  once  again.  It  begins  its  twenty-­‐minute  countdown  to  detonation  as  Talby  tries  to  repair  the  now-­‐activated  laser.  He  accidentally  blocks  the  laser  beams  path,  causing  a  ship-­‐wide  malfunction  that  terminates  Mother  and  leaves  him  unconscious.  The  panicked  Pinback  and  Boiler  look  to  Doolittle,  who  quickly  decides  to  communicate  with  the  frozen  Commander  Powell  to  ask  what  they  should  do.      Pinback  tries  to  talk  the  bomb  out  of  its  countdown  while  the  former  commander  faintly  tells  Doolittle  to  talk  to  the  bomb  about  philosophy.  Floating  outside  the  ship  with  a  star  suit  on,  Doolittle  asks  the  bomb  
  3. 3. questions  and  tries  to  make  it  decide  for  itself  not  to  detonate.  When  the  bomb  says  that  there  is  no  evidence  of  error,  Doolittle  responds:  “You  have  no  proof  there  was  no  error!”  The  intelligent  device  decides  to  “think  on  this  further,”  delaying  detonation  and  returning  to  the  ship.  When  Doolittle  tries  to  re-­‐enter  the  Dark  Star  ,  Talby  is  ejected  from  the  airlock  into  space,  and  Doolittle  decides  to  go  after  him  leaving  Boiler  and  Pinback  in  charge.      When  Pinback  tries  to  give  bomb-­‐20  new  orders,  it  continues  its  philosophical  consideration  of  itself  until  it  reaches  a  conclusion,  “Let  there  be  light,”  at  which  point  it  explodes.  Doolittle,  Talby,  and  block  of  ice  containing  Powell  are  blown  in  opposite  directions  away  from  each  other.  Talby  joins  the  colorful,  glowing  Phoenix  Asteroids  and  fades  away  as  Doolittle  grabs  a  piece  of  the  ship’s  debris  and  surfs  into  the  atmosphere  of  the  volatile  planet  that  Dark  Star  had  intended  to  destroy.        NOTES     The  opening  credits  state  that  Jack  H.  Harris  Enterprises,  Inc.  copyrighted  the  film  in  1974,  but  the  film  is  not  included  in  copyright  records  until  1980.  The  working  title  of  the  film  was  The  Electric  Dutchmen  ,  and  it  was  originally  conceived  as  a  twenty-­‐minute  black-­‐and-­‐white  student  film  by  John  Carpenter,  made  in  part  while  he  attended  the  University  of  Southern  California.  Dark  Star  marked  Carpenters  feature  film  debut.  The  Cinema  Texas  Program  Notes  from  the  AMPAS  Library  production  file  on  the  film  adds  the  following  information:  Dark  Star  ’s  fifty-­‐minute  runtime  became  an  issue  because  the  film  was  too  short  for  theatrical  release  but  longer  than  most  festival  films.  Modern  sources  state  that  after  receiving  acclaim  at  the  university,  it  was  shown  at  Filmex  in  1973  where  it  was  seen  by  producer  Jack  H.  Harris  who  acquired  distribution  rights,  arranged  for  the  optical  blow-­‐up  from  16mm  film  to  35mm,  and  set  up  financing  for  shooting  an  additional  38  minutes  of  footage  to  bring  Dark  Star  to  acceptable  theatrical  feature  length.                The  film  received  positive  reviews  from  HR  ,  LAHE  ,  and  Box  ,  although  most  contemporary  reviewers  agree  with  the  comments  of  LAT  that  the  picture  is  “terribly  ambitious”  for  student  
  4. 4. work.  Time  and  Var  gave  it  lukewarm  reviews  but  complimented  it  for  respecting  the  science-­‐fiction  genre.  Dark  Star  ’s  praises  often  involved  the  film’s  special  effects  and  comic  payoffs,  which  counter  the  poor  reception  of  the  writing  and  acting.  According  to  the  Box  review,  the  picture  has  appeal  for  science-­‐fiction  fans  and  “could  become  a  cult  item.”  Most  contemporary  reviewers  considered  Dark  Star  a  satire  inspired  by  Stanley  Kubrick’s  1968  M-­‐G-­‐M  release,  2001:  A  Space  Odyssey  .  Modern  sources  cite  O’Bannon  recognizing  the  alien  mascot  in  Dark  Staras  inspiration  for  his  later  screenplay  for  the  1979  Twentieth  Century-­‐Fox  release,  Alien  .  Modern  sources  relay  a  "legend"  that  Carpenter  was  involved  in  a  late-­‐night  “break-­‐in”  during  which  he  stole  his  own  movie  after  a  conflict  with  the  University  of  Southern  California  staff.  Although  unmentioned  by  any  contemporary  reviewers,  modern  sources  credit  Ray  Bradbury’s  short  story  “Kaleidoscope”  as  the  inspiration  for  the  final  scene  in  the  film  in  which  the  astronauts  are  floating  away  from  each  other.        

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