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Worth a Watch? Maybe Not?

Today a trio of groundbreaking works that need to be remembered. They just aren’t worth a re-watch. Trust me on this. Years of recommending all three. Decades of scorn and contempt in return. Well, not that much, really. But enough to make me more than a little hesitant.

The three?

Silent Running Freighters
Silent Running

Trumball’s debut. Earth is a human utopia. No disease. No war. No poverty. It is also an ecological wasteland. What’s left of Mother Nature has been shoveled into domes on three greenhouse spaceships–the Valley Forge, Sequoia, and Berkshire–and blasted into the deep. Because reasons.

Silent Running Lowell and Drones Huey and Dewey

Bruce Dern’s performance is sublime. His character is at ease with nature or the drones. He is painfully awkward around other humans and Dern makes sure we feel that pain. He pulls us into Freeman Lowell and we share his ease, his simple happiness. Short lived happiness, as…

Silent Running Greenhouse Dome Interior View
Silent Running Greenhouse Dome

You know, watch it. Yes, there are plot holes. But the message is timeless, Dern’s performance disturbing and solid, the robot drones groundbreaking. Trumball and newcomer John Dykstra pull off some first rate visuals, and the soundtrack–oh. That. Soundtrack aside, it remains one of my favorite films–yes films–of all time. Holes and all.

Dark Star Spaceship and Bomb
Dark Star

An intelligent planetbuster with delusions of godhood. A cheeky beachball alien. Blue collar company jocks just trying to earn a paycheck and one crew member who may or may not be who he says he is. Dark Comedy? Yes. Shoot ’em up Space Opera? Not so much.

Dark Star Control Room
Dark Star Crew Quarters

John Carpenter‘s college film sort of a debut starring none other than Dan O’Bannon–no that is not a typo–is far from perfect. But it hits so many marks so well. No wonder it is a cult classic. Not for everyone, mind you. Variety called it limp and sophomoric. Roger Ebert declared “This is a fun movie, and a bright and intelligent one.”

Iconic Dark Star Movie Scene Surfing Astronaut

Dark star is all of these. Love it or hate it, it deserves its place in Science Fiction history. Watch it for yourself and decide if it deserves a slot in your digital cloud. Liquid fuel specialist Bill Frug will thank you.

Hardware Wars Opening Titles

Fluke Starbucker, Chewchilla the Wookiee Monster, Ham Salad, and Augie “Ben” Doggie. 4-Q-2 and Artie-Deco. Flying toasters. Waffle Iron superbases. This super inexpensive Star Wars parody is known more for the dialogue than the visuals. Or is it the other way around? I mean, the Tractor Beam. The intentionally lit strings supporting models. Hardware Wars is all these.

Hardware Wars Cockpit Scene

Nah, it’s the dialogue, hands down. So many clever tie-ins and shout outs. Many decorate the walls of my Broca’s and Wernicke’s library.
“But Basketball is a peaceful planet!”
“Take it easy kid, it’s only a movie.”

Hardware Wars Princess and Darth Robot Chicken-style
Hardware Wars Basketball is a Peaceful Planet

Interestingly, voice-over was done by the Man of a Thousand Voices, the late Paul Frees.
Hardware Wars was given the Pioneer Award at the 2003 Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards. A digitally enhanced version released in 1997 is considered anathema by true fans. Yah, okay, I was wrong again. See it. At least once.

Who am I kidding? Watch all three. Now! Go!!!

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