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To Dark Stars by Hard Ways: Alien screenwriter Dan O'Bannon dead at 63



Today we mourn the loss of genius screenwriter Dan O'Bannon, who died Thursday in Santa Monica at age 63. Best known for writing the screenplay that would become the groundbreaking film Alien, O'Bannon also penned the script for Total Recall and both wrote and directed Return of the Living Dead, the deathrock zombie movie that taught us the difference between brains and BRAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIINS. But let's not overlook his first work: 1974's Dark Star.

Dark Star started as a 45-minute student film written by O'Bannon and directed by John Carpenter; and after a positive reception, it was expanded and released as a full-length feature. It's a loopy space comedy of five astronauts trying to hold it together (and failing) after 20 years together on a deep-space mission blowing up unstable planets. In its most famous scene, Lt. Doolittle convinces a bomb not to explode by teaching it the 1900s philosophy of phenomenology:



There are early echoes of Alien here. For one thing, he portrayed the ship's crew as regular joes instead of hyperskilled astronauts, a revolutionary twist at the time. Dark Star also features a dangerous alien running free and wreaking havoc on the ship. In this case, though, the crew brought the creature on board because "the ship needed a mascot," and it's more of a beachball with flippers than a sleek H.R. Giger beast:



So as we pay tribute to O'Bannon's work, let's not forget this strange little gem. And take heart, Dark Star fans: O'Bannon's not lost ... he's loose

--Dave Barker

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