On The Bench 221b: Ward Shrake’s Dark Star part 1


I’ve been working for several years, on and off, on several projects related to the cult sci-fi film “Dark Star”. I’ve done a ton of research into that film’s models, and how the film was made, and so on. (I enjoy research projects almost as much as building models.) Print magazine articles from the 1970’s and 1980’s were sought out, studied in depth, and compared. Tom Seiler was kind enough to supply me with great copies of his excellent archival-style photos of the Dark Star spacecraft, as it sat (somewhat modified) in Greg Jein’s offices in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s. Over 250 DVD and LaserDisc screengrabs were made by me — clean and almost uncompressed — and studied in painstaking detail.

I’ve learned a lot of new tricks, by doing this all on my own. Well, almost on my own: Tom Seiler and David Merriman have cheered on my “behind the scenes” efforts, for some time now. (And a few folks at a Yahoo! Group dedicated to the Dark Star film have offered occasional support, even though they are not modelers. Mark Dowman helped the most, amongst those folks, in giving me some early screengrabs and some usable but iffy copies of Tom Seiler’s photos.) D


One research tidbit that fans of Dark Star may think is pretty nifty: I have positively identified (and confirmed in several different ways) the exact 1970’s AMT kit that Dan O’Bannon used as the basis for his model of the film’s “Thermostellar Triggering Devices” — that is, of Bomb’s #19 and #20. It is AMT kit #T507 as shown in the supplied photos: a Fruehauf brand trailer model, turned upside down and backwards, to which O’Bannon added lots of other kit parts and decals. (You heard it hear first, folks!) I went down a lot of dead ends, finding this kit’s identity: but the decals clinched it, and some other things confirm it. (I’ve even seen untrimmed sprue in one place in the film!)

The news of probably the most interest is that I’m working on drawing up accurate, full-sized plans or blueprints of the Dark Star spacecraft model. No kit manufacturer to date has gotten that ship’s contours right — some didn’t even get the basic shape or proportions all that correct — due to the great difficulty of doing research into this model. That’s soon to be a problem of the past.

I’ve drawn up two revisions of my working drawings, in full studio scale, to date. The first set mainly seemed to be right within a quarter or half inch; or so it seems now. The second set, seen here in the pics, are presumably right (in most easily-understood areas) to within one eighth of an inch. I hope!

The photos and captions should explain the rest. Enjoy!

Ward Shrake

Photo 1: The full-studio-scale plans I drew. Each drawing is 40 inches wide, as shown. I still have to draw up two end views and (36 or so) cross sections, plus a detail drawing or three. This is version two of these drawings, of three planned revisions.

Photo 2: Some diagrams of cross sections I pulled off of an old (known to be incorrect in numerous ways) study model I made years ago. Mostly, I wanted practice with a contour gauge; I won’t be using those contour maps for any of my drawings.

Photo 3: My old quarter-studio-scale (9″) study model, after it was re-contoured in key areas. It is being cast in plaster molds, to allow me to make it into a more accurate replica. (I plan to make copies of it, using a mixture of Bondo brand auto body filler and fiberglass resin, so it is all one substrate, which will make further reshaping easier.) I can then pull better contour maps off of that one; and draw those up full-sized to complete my Dark Star blueprint set.

Photo 4: Kit parts for two Bomb replicas, including the exact AMT kit (#T507) that Dan O’Bannon used in the Dark Star film as the basis for Bomb’s #19 and #20. (No fair driving the price up on eBay: I still want one more copy of this!)

Photo 5: Size comparison between 1:25 scale kit and 1:87 (HO) scale trailer kits. The smaller one would be acceptably in proportion with the three-foot replica of the Dark Star ship that I plan to build, which is why I sought it out. (A “hero” model of the DS belly was used for bomb / bay shots: the bomb model was 4x too large to use with the DS model.)

Photo 6: Note the incredible detailing on A-Line’s HO scale kit. This one part is only 1.1″ wide by 1.3″ tall (28mm by 33mm) in real life! This is one reason it would be great as an added prop to go with my studio-scale Dark Star replica.

On to part 2

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