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Dark StarUSA 1974
Directed by John Carpenter
Running time 83 minutes
The Furry Freak Brothers meet 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Very Poor Man's 2001, whatever you want to call it, Carpenter's first feature is a dead-pan spoof of the 1968 Kubrick icon with a side trip to Douglas Trumball's Silent Running (1972), and is simply silly rather than absurd, a difference which makes it effectively unwatchable to anyone for whom silliness does not appeal..
Begun at University of Southern California Film School where Carpenter was a fellow alumnus of George Lucas whose short film THX-1138 had spring-boarded a stellar career, Carpenter had similar plans. As it turned out the film, which started off in 16mm, took 5 years to make and passed through the hands of a couple of exploitation distributors before being released and going belly up. It was only after the success of Carpenter's Halloween (1978) that the film was dusted off and gained a cult following although I'm not so sure that the following was ever very large and even exists today.
Carpenter's partner, Dan O'Bannon, who co-wrote, edited and did the special effects and set design deserves considerable recognition and he went on to a considerable presence in sci-fi, notably as the writer of Alien, whilst Carpenter went on to make a better-known name for himself in the slasher-horror genre.
I've tried three times to get through this but never managed more than about half an hour before becoming acutely aware that life is too short to bother and reaching for the fast-forward, however chronic sci-fi nerds and seriously-wasted pot-heads may well appreciate its low budget charms.
DVD Extras: Umbrella Entertainment's release has both the 73m original theatrical release as well as the 83m "Director's Cut", includes bios for Carpenter and O'Bannon, a picture gallery and the original theatrical trailer.
Available from: Umbrella Entertainment