John Carpenter’s hilarious cult favourite began as his film school thesis. Four astronauts are twenty years into their mission to blow up unstable planets; their ship is radioactive, their captain is in the deep freeze, and they’re all out of toilet paper. Highlights include a philosophical debate with a self-destructive smart bomb, and an episode with an alien lifeform resembling nothing so much as an angry beachball.
Carpenter would progress to turn Howard Hawks’ western Rio Bravo into the urban thriller Assault on Precinct 13, went on to helm the horror hit Halloween, remake Hawks’ The Thing, and wrote and directed many another genre classic. Screenwriter Dan O’Bannon reworked this scenario into a very different film with a very similar story: Alien.
Comedy and sci-fi rarely mix… John Carpenter’s debut movie Dark Star is almost unique in getting its laughs naturally from the desperate situation of its protagonists and their conflicting characters. But alongside the gags Dark Star has at its heart a strangely touching sense of the loneliness and isolation that must accompany space travel. It also originated the grungy, ’realistic’ look to the future which would influence both Blade Runner and Alien.
Adam Smith, Empire
July 20 & 23: Introduction from filmmaker Will Ross
Jack H. Harris
John Carpenter, Dan O’Bannon