Thank you, Mr. O'Bannon

>> Friday, December 18, 2009


That's what I thought when I brought up Twitter and saw a tweet from Deus Ex Malcontent's Chez Pazienza memorializing the passing of Dan O'Bannon at age 63.


Here's the Dan O'Bannon movie everybody knows: the one where he told Ronald Shusett about this crazy, insane idea he had about a crew of astronauts--real blue-collar guys, not your usual Star Trek types--who land on a planet where one of them (a man, though the genders of the rest of the crew are optional) is raped and impregnated by this really disturbing alien monster, and gives birth through the chest to this awful thing that eats the crew. O'Bannon and Shusett sit down and they pound out a script, which bounces around until it finally comes to the attention of a Holywood production team consisting of director Walter Hill and some of his friends, and they end up eventually putting together a budget and hiring an advertising guy named Ridley Scott to direct. And this movie, Alien, of course it ends up being one of the craziest, most original horror-SF movies ever made, this crazy haunted house-in-space thing full of primally disturbing quasi-sexual imagery set against the most plausibly industrialized version of space travel ever imagined by anybody; space truckers (well, oil riggers, more like it) who bitch about their salaries and find themselves being assaulted by this phallic-mouthed Lovecraftian horror that only exists, like the shark in Jaws, to eat and make babies, babies that explode out of human chests in a grim parody of birth. It's so basic, so fundamental, and so original, something nobody had ever really thought of doing before or doing like that; there's are a lot of reasons that franchise refuses to die, but maybe one of the biggest and most important is that the very first movie in the series remains so brilliantly plausible and horrifying.

But that's not my favorite O'Bannon moment, or my favorite O'Bannon collaboration.

Back in film school, at USC, O'Bannon, already interested in writing and special effects, ends up joining forces with this aspiring director/writer obsessed with surfing and Howard Hawks, a guy named John Carpenter. And for a student film, they do this insane little no-budget hourlong 2001 parody about a gang of astronauts--blue collar guys again, working stiffs (there are a whole lot of precursors to Alien in this thing)--who go around blowing up "unstable systems" for no really discernible reason except it's their job. Carpenter and O'Bannon wrote the script for Dark Star, Carpenter directed, O'Bannon oversaw the crude but effective SFX, and O'Bannon also--this is my favorite O'Bannon thing right here--got in front of the camera in the role of Pinback, a hapless fuckup who nobody likes. There's an alien intruder in Dark Star, too (another one of these pre-echoes of Alien) that runs amok, but it didn't sneak aboard, no, Pinback (the moron!) thought it was "cute"--an observation that plays nicely off the fact that the creature in question is in fact a tomato-colored giant inflatable beach ball with absurd little latex-glove feet.

But the apotheosis of Pinback is his mess of a video diary. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Dan O'Bannon:

O'Bannon would go on from Dark Star not just to Alien but also to working on the SFX crew of the original Star Wars (the one you kids call "Episode IV") and several other films, to write a number of movies, and to direct a couple. Alien sort of eclipses everything because it was so something else entirely and no doubt Mr. O'Bannon was probably tired, sometimes, of being "the Alien guy"; his resume beyond Alien wasn't anything to sneeze at, from his contributions to Heavy Metal magazine (including "B-17," a piece that was adapted for the first Heavy Metal film) to his riffs on the Living Dead 'verse that exists parallel to George Romero's--the now-iconic zombie obsession with/refrain of "BRRRAAAAAINNS," my friends, is pure Daniel O'Bannon; Romero's undead are simply flesh-eating ghouls).

Dan O'Bannon was one of those people I wanted to meet one of these days, and now he's gone and I can't. On top of whatever wonderfully ooky things he might have still offered to the world, especially to those geeky niches obsessed with things fantastic and horrible and science-fictioney, it's awful that I can't walk up and thank him for making my life more beautifully, wonderfully disturbed and interesting and weird than it could have been without him. I have to note that O'Bannon's career, starting roughly in 1974 with the official release of Dark Star, intersects rather nicely with my life (I was born in '72): throughout my life, Dan O'Bannon has been a constant presence out there, making weird shit up--there's a sense in which I actually grew up with Dan O'Bannon, his career blossoming as I came of age in time to enjoy it. Fuck, he'll be missed.

I just would have loved to thank him.


Carol Elaine Friday, December 18, 2009 at 2:39:00 PM EST  

Last year CuteFilmNerd took photos of Dan O'Bannon when he spoke at a Q&A for a screening of Return of the Living Dead and I was fortunate enough to be present. He was a very cool person - very funny with a great energy. I was saddened when CuteFilmNerd told me about O'Bannon's passing this morning.

Since I've never seen Dark Star, perhaps I should watch CFN's DVD tonight.

Jeff Hentosz Friday, December 18, 2009 at 3:19:00 PM EST  

::sigh:: Spoiler...


"In the beginning there was darkness, and the darkness was without form and void. And in addition to the darkness there was also me.

"And I moved upon the face of the darkness. And I saw that I was alone.

"Let there be light."

--one of the sentient, neurotic, nuclear bombs in Dark Star


You can watch the whole movie on AMC's site here. Look for the Sci-Fi tab under B-Movies.

Warner (aka ntsc) Sunday, December 20, 2009 at 12:17:00 PM EST  

The alien growing in the human body shows up in AE Van Voght's The Space Beagle, as I recall the humans are alive but not conscious.

In John Norman's The Priest Kings of Gor. In his book the human, beautiful slave girl - it is Norman, is alive, conscious and aware she is a food supply, but paralyzed.

Alien was pretty horific

Post a Comment

Thank you for commenting! Because of the evils of spam, comments on posts that are more than ten days old will go into a moderation queue, but I do check the queue and your comment will (most likely) be posted if it isn't spam.

Another proud member of the UCF...

Another proud member of the UCF...
UCF logo ©2008 Michelle Klishis international gang of... international gang of...
смерть шпионам!

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.

...Frank Gorshin-obsessed bikers.
GorshOn! ©2009 Jeff Hentosz

  © Blogger template Werd by 2009

Back to TOP