Starring O'Bannon himself as ultra-neurotic spaceman Pinback, plus a cast of hirsute unknowns, the movies covers the last days in the life of four deep-space stoner garbage men trapped in a rusting starship and lumbered with a brain-numbingly tedious 20 year bombing mission. Highlights include Pinback's running battle with an alien space hopper, wobbly conversations with the ship's deep-frozen captain and a lengthy philosophical debate with a sentient, megalomaniacal bomb which has become convinced it is God.
DAN O'BANNON: I was working on my first sci-fi film, John Carpenter's Electric Dutchman, which would ultimately metastastize into the feature-length Dark Star. I tried to reach Cobb to get him to design the whole film, but he was unreachable. For weeks his phone rang without an answer, and then it was disconnected, and then I got his new unlisted number but it was invariably answered by one of the girls who were living with him, who always told me he was out. It was impossible. It took another year and a half to track him down and get him to agree to design us a nice, simple little spaceship for our simple little movie.
Finally, one night about ten p.m. Carpenter and I drove over to Westwood and rousted him out of a sound sleep. He was hung over from an LSD trip and I felt kind of guilty, but I had to have those designs. We took him over to an all-night coffee shop and fed him and got him half-way awake, and then he brought out this pad of yellow graph paper on which he had sketched a 3-view plan of our spaceship. It was wonderful! A little surfboard-shaped starcruiser with a flat bottom for atmospheric landings. Very technological looking. Very high class stuff.
But it was'nt quite finished, and Cobb sat there hunched over a cup of coffee, shivering, and sketched in the rest of the details.
We took it away and built it to specs, and it eventually became one of the better-known spaceships among the science-fiction underground. An encyclopedic magazine called it "one of the most amazing of all motion-picture spaceships."
JOHN CARPENTER: Ron Cobb was someone Dan O'Bannon contacted. Dan saw his cartoons in the Free Press. He never really did a great deal on the film. He designed some of the things we never used. I think the closest thing that he did was a design of the Dark Star, the ship, which Dan subsequently altered and designed himself. The credit really goes to Dan, but Dark Star was where their freindship began and then they've gone on to make Alien.