Customer Reviews: Dark Star - The Hyper-Drive Edition
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon November 8, 2010
VCI Entertainment presents ~ "DARK STAR-HYPERDRIVE EDITION" (1974) (83 min/Color) (Dolby digitally remastered) --- Take for instance director John Carpenter who may be known for his other accomplishments of motion pictures we now realize were good even great --- But this film was the groundbreaking moment that gave us other films from other directors and writers, such as Star Wars --- Now enters co-conspirator Dan O'Bannon, the two filmed this with a zero budget, much like a student project and became a cult classic. --- Not bad for two college chums that started out as a student film and was eventually expanded into a theatrical feature, lucky for us fans, as they say the rest is history.

The copy of the film is quite good and the documentaries are an added plus for all collectors and film enthusiasts --- This new "Hyperdrive" edition is a great update thanks to its abundant special features. Let there be light, indeed --- A must have for your collection of rare and early films in this genre.

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Image: 4 1/2 Stars
Sound: 4 Stars
Extras: 4 1/2 Stars
Overall: 5 Stars [Both Versions of Dark Star & Bonus Features]

Under the production staff of:
John Carpenter [Director/Screenwriter/Producer]
Dan O'Bannon [Original Story]
J. Stein Kaplan [Associate Producer]
Jack H. Harris [Executive Producer]
John Carpenter [Original Score]
Douglas Knapp [Cinematographer]
Dan O'Bannon [Film Editor]

the cast includes:
Brian Narelle ... Lt. Doolittle
Cal Kuniholm ... Boiler
Dre Pahich ... Talby
Dan O'Bannon ... Sgt. Pinback

1. John Carpenter [Director/Producer/Writer/Actor/Composer]
Date of Birth: 16 January 1948 - Carthage, New York
Date of Death: Still Living

2. Dan O'Bannon [Director/Screenwriter]
Date of Birth: 30 September 1946 - St. Louis, Missouri
Date of Death: 17 December 2009 - Santa Monica, California

1. Interview with Sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster
2. Audio Commentary by "Super-Fan" Andrew Gilchrist
3. Interview with actor Brian Narelle - "Lt. Doolittle"
4. 3D Guide to the Dark Star Ship
5. Written Intro by Dan O'Bannon
6. Trivia
7. Original Dark Star trailer
8. Both Versions of Dark Star

1. "LET THERE BE LIGHT: THE ODYSSEY OF "DARK STAR" - An all new, feature-length documentary exploring the controversial making of the John Carpenter (HALLOWEEN) and Dan O'Bannon (ALIEN),
2. Exclusive interviews with actor Brian Narelle and cinematographer Doug Knapp

Special footnote, Won and Nominated Awards ~ Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films,(USA) Won Golden Scroll "Best Special Effects" (1976) recipients were Douglas Knapp, Bill Taylor, John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon --- Nominated for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America 1976 Nebula Award "Best Dramatic Writing" (1976)
for recipients John Carpenter and Dan O'Bannon --- Hugo Awards (1976) Nominated "Best Dramatic Presentation"

The talking bomb is one of the funniest characters to ever appear in a space movie, rivaling HAL and the robot in Forbidden Planet --- This is a deep and meaningful film inclusive with humor and thought provoking scenes ---There is a look of insight into the human spirit, plus the plight of the isolation --- You won't be disappointed as I highly recommend to fans of a good science fiction storytelling, who won't be hesitant to laugh out loud when the door of humor is opened --- It's an acquired taste, and if you're in the right frame of mind you'll love it --- The country song "Benson Arizona" still gets my funny bone -- good memories still linger.

Total Time: 83 min on DVD ~ VCI Entertainment #8550 ~ (10/26/2010)
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on March 29, 2011
This is one of those cult movies that you'll either love or hate. I vaguely remembered seeing this on TV ages ago, so after reading some of the reviews for the single disc version, I decided to get it. So I'm watching this thing, thinking "Okay, that line was vaguely funny." Snorting a couple times. Then, about 25 minutes in, one of the crew members (O'Bannon, later to write "Alien") has to feed the alien. And it's a beachball with feet. Yeah, I read the reviews, but you have to see this thing to believe it. The thing has personality! This will either make or break the movie for you. You'll either consider it to be so ridiculous that it's hilarious or you'll just think it's stupid.

Yes, they were obviously influenced by "2001: a Space Odyssey." Yes, they may have been influenced by illegal substances (I have no evidence of this, other than the movie). No, they can't act (but they're still funny). Yes, the special effects are very cheap. Still, I found it to be a lot of fun. Can't give it more than 3 stars, though.

Special features: there's a 30 minute interview with Alan Dean Foster who wrote the novelization (!) of this movie. There's a 2 hour (longer than the movie!) documentary covering every possible aspect of the film (more than you want to know, probably, unless you're a film school student.) Various other and sundry doodads. The most important reason to get this version as opposed to the single disc version (I gather from reading those reviews) is that they've cleaned up the picture quality tremendously. If you want this movie, this is the version to get.
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on October 23, 2010
This first, major John Carpenter film release, is a fun trip through outer space. Everything is run by computers, even a Bomb. The Bomb goes haywire when damaged and lodges in the bay and starts to 'count down'. The crew tries everything they can to try and stop the count down. This when the fun really starts. Excellent direction, filmplay and acting. I highly recommend this film.

As far as buying this version in standard dvd format, you might want to wait for a Blu-Ray version, if one should come out later. I have the first version in standard format, but this version does have more and better specials. According to the product review, they have upgraded the print for this release. Also, check out the discusions on this topic, going on below.
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on September 16, 2013
I hope everyone's aware that when something is described as a "cult classic", that usually means there're quite a few rough edges but it is essentially sound. That's a fair description of Dark Star, a product of two college students with a budget of around sixty thousand dollars (in 1970s era dollars). Technologically-wise, sixty grand didn't go very far back in those days, and Carpenter and Bannon seem to have made the most of it judging by the non-so-bad quality of the sets and effects.

The acting is wanting but workable (the cast is also college-age).

The story is spotty. It starts with a message from mission control on Earth in which their request for increased radiation protection is denied. "Cutbacks in congress" don't allow the dispatch of a supply ship to the Dark Star. We proceed with the destruction of a planet in order to clear a way for the following colony ships. This scene serves to show the viewer the Dark Star's mission to destroy "unstable planets" and the talking Thermostellar Bombs with which it is accomplished. Then a space storm comes along and causes the next Thermostellar bomb (No. 20) to mistakenly believe it has received an order to detonate. The ship's computer orders it to stand down and it retreats back into the bomb bay after some arguing (it really wants to blow up).

Everything's good this far, but now we enter a long middle period during which the plot drags. The crew is very fatigued and is practically incapacitated with lassitude. They're in such a funk they can't even make repairs to their crew quarters, instead taking up residence in the food storage locker. They sit in the observation lounge staring at the stars and talking, playing notes on a makeshift xylophone made of discarded cans and bottles, take up target shooting at an unused hatch cover, etc. Then we have the celebrated beachball-alien sequence which is best left undescribed. The only significant thing that happens here is that the alien tampers with Communication Laser #17, which monitors the bomb release mechanism. Thermostellar bomb #20 is again activated and puts up a vigorous argument with the ship's computer when ordered to again stand down. It does, saying "Alright, but this is the last time."

Talby suggests to Doolittle that they should look at the bomb and figure out what's wrong, but Doolittle overrules him with the excuse, "Well, we'll find out the next time it happens." And the crew goes back to goofing off while the bomb stews in the bomb bay. (ship's computer also announces the problem and declares that it will work on the problem)

In the end sequence, the Dark Star arrives at the target planet in the Veil nebula and the crew prepares Bomb 20. Then Talby, having himself taken charge of the bomb problem, stumbles into the way of communication laser #17 and sends an electrical surge through the ship, preventing the bomb from separating from its launcher. After numerous attempts by Pinback and Boiler, the bomb is not so easily disarmed as it was previously: "Detonation will occur at the programmed time." The deceased but frozen former commander of the ship (killed in a previous mishap) suggests convincing the bomb that it cannot be certain it is perceiving what it believes it is. In his words, "teach it phenemology". So Doolittle suits up and goes EVA to talk with the bomb. Meanwhile, Boiler (ship's pilot) lights upon the idea of using the rifle to shoot out the retaining pins on the bomb and thereby releasing it from the ship. Pinback (bombadier) tells him to stop and holds Boiler back because as he says, "you don't know what you're'll miss the pins and hit the bomb" and "Doolittle's talking to it already". Doolittle's talk seems to work; the bomb goes back into the bomb bay and the computer indicates that it is disarmed. Talby is ejected out the laser hatch cover, and then the bomb announces, "Let there be light." and promptly explodes. Talby joins with the Pheonix Asteroids as he hoped to do, and Doolittle rides a piece of the ship's wreckage as a space surfboard into the atmosphere of the planet. The End.

I cannot vouch for how funny all this is (my fault no doubt), but the story is not without its good points. It seems to be about human failure, or perhaps about the propensity for fatalism that humans have in alienating, enervating circumstances. That, or the crew is simply a bunch of slackers too far gone even to attempt saving themselves.

The very fact that A.D. Foster was able to make a novelization out of the movie speaks for itself. I give four stars because the movie kind of makes sense when you think about it, which may make for the most interesting viewing experience of all.
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on December 8, 2012
When it comes to cult films, none are more love-it or hate-it than Dark Star. Dark Star is the film debut of genre masters John Carpenter and the late Dan O'Bannon. Dark Star is basically a science fiction film about characters who are far too smart for their own good doing heavy duty work that nobody will ever thank them for. These folks are not like the crew in Danny Boyle's Sunshine. Their goal is to destroy unstable planets with their detonation equipment. The film sort of depicts a typical day in the life of this group of societal outcasts, and all I can say is that nobody in the entire world could ever pay me enough to do such a thankless task. These guys have to deal with a renegade alien beach ball looking thing, malfunctioning equipment, and a bomb that grows self-aware and ends up posing a very real and dangerous threat to the entire crew. These guys are completely replaceable, and therefore none of these events truly mean much in the grand scheme of things. I've never seen a group of people look so damn bored while doing something so important. To many folks out there, watching this film will be like watching paint dry. To people like me, who can accept the uselessness of the entire goal, who can accept the utter absurdity of the series of events, and who can accept that these awkward, some might say, strange men are our heroes, (all of which, I admit, is hard to do), Dark Star is a motion picture gem that fully deserves its cult classic status. I hesitate to honestly call it a comedy like everyone else does, because to me it's a pretty spooky little film. Maybe it's a black comedy. However, that does not mean that anyone should be afraid to laugh when watching this picture.

Nobody I know who is my age likes the movie Dark Star. I'm not entirely sure why because I don't think that this film is any worse than the George Lucas production of THX-1138, and yet I know folks who are my age who claim that to be a masterpiece. What is it about Dark Star that doesn't resonate with most folks that completely resonates with me? To me, I think that it's all about atmosphere. Yeah, Dark Star is undeniably a student film. However, that doesn't keep it from being a friggin' awesome film that I loved every strange, quirky little moment of. Similarly to The Room, Dark Star feels like a very alien film that was filmed on an entirely different plain of existence. Throughout the picture are so many unorthodox little details and references to various cultural influences and artistic outlets that have been around for ages and have been celebrated and cherished throughout the years for their enormous influence on many of today's most iconic works. Dark Star, like Kevin Smith's Clerks, was made for the people who it is about. The people in this film are people who never came out of their shells. They never grew up. They wanted to keep learning and learning and learning about the world around them and embraced every imaginative and fantastical image that came their way, be it Heavy Metal magazine or Dungeons & Dragons. These characters remind me very distinctly of my own father, who considers Dark Star to be one of his favorite films. He showed this film to me many times as a child. Dark Star is a film that I, inadvertently, grew up with, similarly to Ralph Bakshi's Wizards. Back then I loved Dark Star just because it's so unlike anything else. Now that I am older I can properly analyze the picture and come to a more concrete conclusion. Many people may frown at people like these characters who come across as anti-social and would prefer to just hang out in bubbles reading comic books and talking techno babble. To me, however, these people helped give me guidance and helped me figure out who I was and what my place in the universe is. Personally, I take comfort in watching this film because it is like re-visiting older friends who I learned a lot of the coolest stuff from.

Putting all of that aside, however, I think that Dark Star is actually quite effectively made (notice I said EFFECTIVELY made and not WELL made) and boasts plenty of atmosphere and intensity, especially in the most quiet moments. Dan O' Bannon wrote this before Alien, and he totally captured that same kind of lonely, dark, clinical tone of the corridors of a space ship. John Carpenter displayed his signature brand of over-the-top imagery and situations that grow progressively out of hand. I actually find aspects of Dark Star to be quite horrific and bizarre in a way that would have been slightly ahead of its time had 2001: A Space Odyssey not existed and hadn't perfected the idea of a threat in space. Dark Star is obviously very low-budget, but Carpenter doesn't allow the budget to hold the film back. If anything, I think the picture's low budget actually enhances the experience and makes it that much more unique. Occasionally I will run into someone who secretly loves the hell out of this film, and when I do it's always so exciting. I love to randomly quote this picture, and nothing pleases me more when people hear me spout off a random phrase and then identify it as being from the underground masterpiece known as Dark Star, one of the weirdest, creepiest, and most underrated sci-fi gems of the 1970s. How many science fictions can you think of that boast a rocking surf soundtrack? How often have you seen a bomb decide to disobey orders and begin to question its very existence and argues about the meaning of life with the human beings whose lives it is risking by disobeying said orders? Machinery is just as receptive to suggestions as human beings are. I bet you didn't know that. Are you scared? You should be. Watch Dark Star.
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on August 22, 2014
John Carpenter produced Dark Star as a film school project. Surprisingly, it doesn't look like a film school project. The premise of an intersteller space ship destroying unstable planets is a setup for the final scenes involving an intelligent bomb. The theme song, "Winslow, Arizona", will get stuck in your head. Enjoy it.
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on November 10, 2013
Dark Star - you need to see Dark Star. If nothing else it's a testament to human ingenuity - proof that a bunch of people in a room who have only the slimmest idea of what they're doing can yet, with a bit of gumption, create something marvelous. A little rough around the edges, but marvelous.
It's...sometime in the future. A bunch of guys have spent 20 years blowing up unstable planets. Their captain recently died a stupid and embarrassing death. They have a pet alien that nobody likes. And that's...sorta it as far as plot goes.
Made by a bunch of film students with about the same amount as money spent on providing half decent catering on a Hollywood film for a week, Dark Star overcomes its humble origins with better than you'd expect special effects and a really winning story from fledgeling writer Dan O'Bannon, later to pen the infamous 'Alien'. The crew are a desperate bunch of bored, shaggy loosers, but there's pathos in the story of a working joe who realizes that he was never happier than when he was surfing the beaches of long-distant California, or of the crew member who sobs to himself when he realizes that he's trapped in a decade's long mission with a bunch of guys who couldn't even be bothered to wish him happy birthday. It's thoughtful, bleakly hilarious stuff, and that's even before the talking bomb shows up.
So sure it looks like the film has been put together with duct tape and super glue (it was), but if you can get over your contempt for special effects that were far from special even in the 70s, then you can find that this film possesses something that all the blockbuster directors would kills to possess more of - raw talent, and the love for the medium to see a story through.
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on March 10, 2014
Well, that's a matter of opinion of course, but who can resist the comic precursor to Alien? It's not for everyone, and although it's not what you might expect from either John Carpenter or Dan O'Bannon, their genius and talent shows through here in spades. Let there be light.
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Director/writer John Carpenter's short college film project of DARK STAR was, some months later, augmented by him to feature-length. Despite its meager budget look, there's an undeniable realism in this story of a crew of four who've been stuck together for 20 years on a mission to eliminate planets that, if left alone, will cause cosmic chaos (crashing into suns, and so on). Their commander is dead but can still communicate with visitors even though he's cryogenically frozen into a block of ice.

The nominal main character, Sgt. Pinback (O'Bannon) isn't even who he's supposed to be; donning another man's uniform at the wrong moment was all it took to launch him into space, maybe forever. The ersatz Pinback laments his bad luck and the crew he's trapped with, also an alien life form that looks like either an underinflated beach ball or an overgrown pumpkin. He's responsible for feeding this mischievous mushy orb, and the chore is a real pain. Pinback particularly hates Lt. Doolittle, the new chief astronaut whose fondest wish is to surf a big wave.

Talby, a gentle but somewhat anti-social crew member, spends his days in an observation bubble, just hoping to catch a glimpse of a colorful meteor swarm that circles the universe once every trillion years or so.

When Talby stumbles into a laser beam, he causes a system malfunction that prevents a planet-busting bomb from launching. The talking nuke will detonate in just a few minutes. It can't be budged from beneath the ship and refuses to disarm and return to the cargo bay. What will the men of Dark Star do to avert destruction?

Parenthetical number preceding title is a 1 to 10 IMDb viewer poll rating.

(6.5) Dark Star (1974) - Dan O'Bannon/Dre Pahich/Brian Narelle/Cal Kuniholm (uncredited: John Carpenter - voice)
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on May 9, 2015
have loved this movie since it came out. the irony and wit are priceless and are worth watching the movie. I kind of wish there was a series featuring the misadventures of smart bombs and the perils of protracted trips in a confined space ship.
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