This is one of those films that has legendary status - the debut from John Carpenter, the all-directing, all-writing, all-composing talent behind such excellent movies as Halloween and Assault On Precinct 13.

Set on the spacecraft Dark Star, it follows a group of astronauts who have been out there for 20 years on their God Knows How Many Years Mission to boldly destroy uninhabited planets that lie in the way of Earth's colonisation of the universe. As the film begins, we see a message from base telling our heroes, sorry, there are no funds to improve radiation shielding, despite the captain having recently died - fear not, he's still able to offer advice from a cryogenic chamber.

Copy picture

The astronauts don't seem to be that bothered, having long since lost whatever zeal they had for the mission; they're just workaday Joes, carrying on because they've nothing else to do.

"Do you think we'll ever find alien life?"

"Who cares?"

There are distractions: a runaway alien, rubbish computer systems and a way-too-smart bomb - it thinks it's God and decides to blow up the ship. Oh dear.

There are some nice ideas here, but not enough, and too many long sequences of not much happening. This may be a deliberate attempt to portray the ennui felt by the crew, but it made me want to boil my head.

The highlight of the movie is the chase sequence, involving a scary alien - a pair of rubber gloves attached to a beach ball (no one even bothered to wipe out the segment lines). I'm not saying the beach ball is bad. Indeed, its acting is far better than that of the humans, who include the movie's special effects man Dan ("I have a beach ball and a piece of string from which to dangle an Airfix kit") O'Bannon. The actors are singularly incapable of playing believable explorers. They are beards in moonsuits, with the exception of Commander Powell (Joe Saunders), who is a beard in an ice cube.

There's no sign of the talent Carpenter later showed for suspense, a little of which would have gone a long way to shore up the comedy. The great man's music is better than usual, it must be said, less Bontempi than in later works and the only thing keeping me awake.

Reviewed on: 22 Apr 2004
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Dark Star packshot
Parody of early sci-fi epics, especially 2001: A Space Odyssey
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Director: John Carpenter

Writer: John Carpenter, Dan O'Bannon

Starring: Brian Narelle, Cal Kuniholm, Dre Pahich, Dan O'Bannon, Joe Saunders, Miles Watkins, A Beach Ball

Year: 1974

Runtime: 83 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US


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