Dark Star 1974

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John Carpenter’s 1974 sci-fi comedy drama is often mentioned in considerations of the genesis of Alien; it’s actually a quite different kind of film, aiming for black comedy somewhere between MASH and Dr Strangelove. The four-man crew of the Dark Star spacecraft are bored out of their minds by space travel, and their mission to blow up unstable planets has taken second place to niggling arguments and alienation from each other. The mischievous behaviour of a ball-shaped alien they’ve adopted as a pet leads to further conflict, and Carpenter’s film captures both the outlandish comedy and the worn pathos of men on a mission so long they can barely remember why they ever wanted to do it. The budget may be low, but the standard of invention is high; the interaction with computers and the use of video diaries are all spot-on.

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