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Two Years Before "Star Wars"
Dark Star
 John Carpenter/Dan O'Bannon (writers/directors)
A lot of people i know who are not aware that this film was originally released in 1975 fault it for being derivative, when, actually, if anything, the shoe is on the other foot.

Dan O'Bannon's special effects sequences are incredible, especially since the entire budget for the whole film wouldn't buy coffee for an effects house working on teevee commercials today; i am especially taken with the utterly convincing planet-buster bombs made from an HO-scale piggyback trailer turned upside down with engine parts from a 1/25th scale model car attached (if you look closely on a good copy you can still read the logo of the car manufacturer on the valve cover used as part of the bomb's drive mechanism).

So many great lines and sequences in this film -- Pinback and the beachball and the elevator may exceed the Maximum Allowable Funny Quotient for a minor film, and Doolittle's conversation with the intelligent bomb (capable of destroying an entire planet) that plans to detonate right alongside the ship, as he leads it into beginning philosophy and convinces it that it can't prove that it actually heard the "go" code...

The theme song, "Benson Arizona", one of the more warped country songs one will ever hear, is a hoot; the original is by Carpenter and a lyricist whose name i have lost, and SF fans have been adding verses to it for years.

Watch for the "THX-1138" gag -- for many years (if not still) the only time the *whole* title has been used in a film reference.

O'Bannon worked on special effects on the first "Star Wars" film, and basically borrowed his own "computer search of the blueprints" sequence from "Dark Star" for that film.

The basic design of the "Dark Star" itself is by futurist/cartoonist/satirist Ron Cobb, background astronomical paintings by Jim Danforth, and the design of the crew's spacesuits is determined by the fact that they used a commercially-available toy spaceman for effects shots.

As an example of the sort of audience this film appeals to -- it was briefly re-released theatrically in the latter Seventies; a friend here in Atlanta (a music journo) went to see a matinee at a theatre in the same shopping center as the Great Southeast Music Hall of blessed memory, and realised that the only other people in the dark with him were Joey Ramone and his girlfriend and the Ramones' manager.