Tarantino Called This Classic Carpenter Horror a Science-Fiction Masterpiece

Tarantino Called This Classic Carpenter Horror a Science-Fiction Masterpiece
Image credit: Legion-Media

Auteur, cinephile, and filmmaking genius Quentin Tarantino doesn't like to throw the word "masterpiece" around.

When he does, his fans listen. Recently, he bestowed that label on a 1974 John Carpenter classic.

Tarantino and longtime collaborator Roger Avary host the weekly podcast "The Video Archives" – named after the video rental store where Tarantino first worked.

On the first episode, Tarantino wanted to stress to fans one important rule for his podcast: Avoiding the "m-word" – "masterpiece," because it has to "mean something."

Soon after, he said it applies to the Carpenter film Dark Star, the focal point of the first episode.

Carpenter directed the sci-fi comedy and wrote the script with Dan O'Bannon. It was Carpenter's first feature-length film, having originally been a student film while he attended USC.

It follows the crew of the Dark Star, a spaceship that scouts planets in the 22nd century. Their mission is to destroy "unstable planets" that threaten their desire to further colonization.

The Dark Star had been on its mission for two decades, and in that time had suffered frequent comical malfunctions.

Tarantino made sure to heap praise on the portrayal of Lt. Doolittle by Brian Narelle. He said that in the first half of the film, he doesn't care at all about Doolittle. But by the end, the character had grown and become a very interesting and philosophical character.

He also touted Carpenter's ability to make the set realistic, despite being made on a measly $60,000 budget ($380,000 adjusted for inflation). He said Carpenter did the best he could to "make it look like a real movie, a real spaceship, and real space travel."

It didn't garner any Academy Awards nominations, but its special effects did win at the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Horror Films in 1976. Even more than that, Tarantino said he believes Star Wars was in part influenced by The Dark Star.

Many critics loved the film as much as Tarantino; Empire said its desperation and pathos lifted it "high above the realm of a mere spoof." Others were less impressed, with Variety calling it a "limp parody" of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick's groundbreaking space epic from six years prior.

Tarantino hasn't delved much into science fiction in his three decades as a filmmaker, but he's often listed films of the genre among his favorites.

He's called Godzilla director Ishiro Honda one of his favorite directors; said Back to the Future is on the short list of "perfect movies"; and heaped praise upon Carpenter's The Thing.