John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974/Sci-Fi/Comedy/VCI/DVD-Video)
C Sound: C Extras: C
creators of Dark Star, director John
Carpenter and writer Dan O’Bannon have sadly never teamed again since this
film, which had initially been created as a film school project. Producer Jack Harris, who asked for new
footage to be created for it, soon picked it up. Once this had been accomplished, the film was
released theatrically and launched the young men’s careers and sent the movie itself
onward to become something of a buried cult classic.
people treat John Carpenter’s film Assault
on Precinct 13 (1976) as his first foray into feature-length production. While that movie is far more taut and
suspenseful, as many of his later films would be, you can see how essential Dark Star was in honing his
sensibilities. It’s definitely something
more loose and unpredictable, with substantially more dialogue than most other
Carpenter films I can draw to memory. If
anything, it’s best companion in his film catalogue would be The Fog, which, like this movie, also
bears several strong EC Comic touches and has a vaguely similar flair.
most part, however, it carries the hallmarks of what would come to be
O’Bannon’s own film style, with its overtly camp flavor. With this in mind, it’s doubtful that much at
all had been changed from his original script - something that can’t be said of
the later Ridley Scott film, Alien,
which O’Bannon also wrote. That movie
feels like a truly different animal, set apart from the rest of O’Bannon’s
cinematic output - something I‘m sure that he would agree to. Here though, with he and Carpenter sharing the
reigns, there is a harmony in place that I’m not sure could have worked again
in another film had they attempted such a move later in their careers.
picture is letterboxed and presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The quality of the print and transfer is
consistent between the original footage and the optional bit of film that was
later added to beef the running time up. Sadly, the print isn’t in pristine shape here,
and there is surely more restoration that could be done, but this is an early
DVD release. As it is, the picture is
acceptable and will do until new restoration work can be brought about sometime
in the future. The sound has been
remixed into a fairly lackluster 5.1 Dolby Digital. While the sound isn’t bad, there is some
noticeable hiss and mild pops that are still present on occasion throughout the
O’Bannon nor Carpenter returns to offer commentary or interview footage. A shame, since it could have been an
opportunity for a lively discussion and since Dan O’Bannon’s appearance on The Return of the Living Dead DVD is
excellent and goes to show just how interested in this material he truly is. The only features are the inclusion of the
theatrical trailer and some short biographies on the aforementioned creators.
from VCI is worthwhile to own, but it feels a little shoddy overall. With such great talent behind this movie, you
would expect them to lavish better treatment upon this release, as it is
something that could quite easily warrant more than one disc. As valuable as this movie is, I doubt this
will be the final edition we’re likely to see of it. Certainly down the line, some company will
take advantage and further spruce up this early collaboration from these two
very important and influential filmmakers.
This may be one of VCI’s first HD releases, so we’ll see.
- David Milchick