The 1970s Sci-Fi Bizarro Space Comedy From A Master Filmmaker, Stream Without Netflix

By TeeJay Small | Published

Legendary filmmaker John Carpenter is best known for his works such as The Thing, Escape From New York, and the original 1978 Halloween. His very first film, Dark Star, is currently available to stream for free on a myriad of platforms, offering film fans and aspiring filmmakers deep insight into the brilliant mind of the auteur director. Dark Star began as Carpenter’s student film while he was attending the University of Southern California, before eventually growing to become his first feature-length project.

Dark Star By John Carpenter

Dark Star was first conceived by Carpenter and Alien screenwriter Dan O’Bannon in 1970, while the pair were attending school together in California. It was originally titled The Electric Dutchman and stemmed from a story idea by Carpenter, which was fleshed out into a full screenplay by O’Bannon, with some assistance from other students and professors who saw great potential in the work.

Making The Film

By the time the pair graduated, the project was a fully-shot 45-minute film, with a budget of $6,000.

$1,000 of the Dark Star budget was paid by the university, while the rest was crowdsourced and fundraised by the filmmakers themselves.

After graduating, Carpenter continued to pursue additional rewrites and reshoots with the intention of evolving the film into a full-length theatrical project, which included over 50 minutes of additional footage.

Limited Run And Mixed Reviews

dark star

Eventually, John Carpenter caught the attention of renowned comedy filmmaker John Landis, who shared the film with a number of Hollywood producers.

After a few additional reshoots, some sharp editing choices, and a total budget of $60,000, the film became what it is today, and achieved a limited theatrical run.

Dark Star received mixed reviews and little audience attention in its day, though it later went on to be a beloved cult classic.

A Space Mission Going Wrong

dark star

Dark Star centers on an eponymous spaceship full of human travelers in the distant future of the mid-22nd century. The prime objective of the interstellar travelers sees them warping throughout the cosmos, targeting so-called unstable planets that threaten mankind’s deep-space colonization efforts.

After 20 years performing this mission, the ship has fallen into a state of near disrepair, and frequently malfunctions to disastrous effects.

Major Space Issues

dark star

One major malfunction results in the Dark Star commanding officer being electrocuted to death, as the remaining begin to grow mad with cabin fever.

One crew member hordes an alien life-form on board, and uses it as a source of entertainment, as a series of deep-space rays threaten the ship’s electromagnetic functions.

As the film builds to its thrilling conclusion, the crew of the Dark Star is put to the test, with a few trademark John Carpenter practical effects standing in for alien life forms and robotic computer systems.

Streaming Dark Star

Dark Star is clearly a product of its time, but still has a lot to offer viewers over five decades since its initial release. For those interested in catching the film, it can be streamed via Peacock, Fubo TV, The Roku Channel, Hoopla, Tubi, and more. Those looking to break into the film industry may utilize the film as a guide to low-budget filmmaking, and high-concept script writing.