Dark City 1998

A man struggles with memories of his past, which includes a wife he cannot remember, and a nightmarish world without a sun.

The Cast

Rufus Sewell-John Murdoch
William Hurt-Inspector Frank Bumstead
Kiefer Sutherland-Dr. Daniel Schrebe
Jennifer Connelly-Emma Murdoch
Richard O'Brien-Mr Hand
Ian Richardson-Mr Book
Bruce Spence-Mr Wall
Colin Friels-Walenski

The Director: Alex Proyas
The Writers: WGA, Alex Proyas, Alex Proyas, Lem Dobbs, David S. Goyer
Music by: Trevor Jones
Certificate : 15

Film Trivia

A number of pieces of the set, including those used for the rooftop chase, were sold to the production of The Matrix (1999) at the end of shooting.
There were many deliberate anachronisms to give the viewer a feeling of confusion about the time period of the film.
New Line Cinema forced Alex Proyas to include the opening narration by Kiefer Sutherland, which gives away several plot reveals. Proyas objected to it, saying it was unnecessary, and he subsequently removed the narration from his director's cut.
Has one of the shortest Average shot lengths (ASL) of any modern narrative production at 1.8 seconds. This means there is a cut almost every 2 seconds.
An over-sized version of Dr. Schreber's syringe (roughly a meter long) was built for the close up shots of the needle being extended so that its surface details would be visible in the focal plane of the camera lens.
The name of Kiefer Sutherland's character, Daniel Schreber, is the same as that of an author of an early twentieth century book entitled "Memoirs of My Nervous Illness". He wrote it while he was institutionalized for schizophrenia, originally as an argument for his release. The book has become standard reading for many psychiatrists and psychologists, and many of the theories of both Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung were based on it (Freud never actually met Schreber, though). "Dark City" borrows heavily from the concept of "fleetingly-improvised men" which are found within Schreber's "Memoirs".
Alex Proyas got the idea for the buildings changing and growing while the crew was moving pieces of the set around during filming of The Crow (1994).
Alex Proyas wrote the part of Mr. Hand especially for Richard O'Brien.
An earlier draft of the script had Dr. Schreber (Kiefer Sutherland) being skinned alive during the finale.
Roger Ebert called this movie the Best Film of 1998. He recorded a special audio commentary track for the dvd release of the movie.
Mr. Sleep is played by twins, a girl (Satya Gumbert) and her brother (Noah Gumbert). Both were fond of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975), and they (and the rest of the cast and crew) were frequently entertained by Richard O'Brien, who played Mr. Hand in this film and Riff Raff in "Rocky Horror", with recitations from that film.
Melissa George's movie debut.
(at around 10 mins) The music which Inspector Bumstead is playing on his accordion in his very first scene in the movie is a song written in 1939 by a Polish-Jewish composer Jerzy Petersburski which was originally called "Mala blekitna chusteczka" ("Little Blue Handkerchief"). The lyrics were later translated (with slight differences) to many languages and it became especially popular in Soviet WWII era under the title "Siniy Platochek" ("Blue scarf"). The song lyrics tell about an unhappy, lonely man who wanders aimlessly around the world thinking about his lost love which is gone forever. His only memento of his beloved one is the blue handkerchief from the title. As the movie is about our memories, the song actually fits the movie mood quite well.
Although Alex Proyas wrote the original screenplay, very little of the plot was retained (besides the fact that the lead is wanted for murders) . Lem Dobbs wrote the final draft and reformed the plot as it appears in the film with the exception of the special effects sequences. Although the powers of the Strangers were alluded to they would never actually be depicted . David Goyer was hired to write the shooting script when they had secured a bigger budget. He added all the action scenes that appear in the film and which show explicitly the operating background of the Dark City.
The filmmakers cite 1940s-50s films noir (particularly The Maltese Falcon (1941)) and the sci-fi features Metropolis (1927) The Twilight Zone (1959) and Akira (1988) as an influence on the film.
(at around 50 mins) All of the fish in Neptune's Kingdom are Oscars.
The number of the motel room in which John Murdoch wakes up at the start of the film is 614. In the Bible John Chapter 6, Verse 14 talks about the coming of the Saviour.
The main character, John Murdoch, shares the name, and the quest, of a Scottish liberal in the 1870s and 1880s. The Scottish Murdoch led a major campaign for Scottish farmers to own their own land.
In his Bluray commentary for The Crow (1994), Alex Proyas recollected that he had the idea for Dark City in his head while filming The Crow. He later stated, in an unrelated moment, that he and Brandon Lee would often take breaks from filming (to a local cinema) and would talk about future projects that they would have liked to have done together after filming on The Crow was complete. One can then assume that Brandon Lee would have played the lead character of John Murdoch in Dark City, Alex Proyas' next film, if his mortal accident hadn't have happened.
The song from the film's trailer is "Sleep Now" by Hughes Hall. The song was also used in the trailer for Full Moon's 1998 horror movie "Talisman" that was produced by legendary B-movie filmmaker Charles Band.
The film is included on Roger Ebert's "Great Movies" list.
American heavy metal band Iced Earth wrote a song titled "Dark City" that is directly inspired from the movie. The song is from their 2011 release "Dystopia" and features the lyrics, "Experimenting to understand the human soul, endangered they'll fade away" and "Fill our heads with false identity, synchronizing our confusion".
This was the last movie watched by Argentine rock idol Gustavo Cerati before he suffered a stroke that left him in a coma for four years, which resulted in his death.
The film was originally going to be released in the fall of 1997, which is presumably why it bears an MCMXCVII (1997) copyright year in the credits.
The repeated theme of circles and spirals noted elsewhere, and established by the blood patterns left on the bodies of the murdered hookers, the scrawls the obsessed Walenski has on his walls and in his office notes, and the repeated closeups of fingerprint whorls, is culminated and resolved at the end, when the wisps of cloud visible over the city take the form of a broken spiral.
On the DVD commentary, co-writer David S. Goyer reveals two possible explanations for the origin of the inhabitants of Dark City. In his original story outline, director Alex Proyas believed the humans to have been passengers aboard an interstellar spaceship which was captured by the Strangers. Goyer favors a more spiritual approach, supposing that the humans are in fact dead and that Dark City is a sort of purgatory made up of people the Strangers have selected or abducted from different eras in history.
This film deals with 'Last Thursdayism', a philosophy described in a satiric comment by 20th-century historian Bertrand Russell, referring to the "Omphalos" papers (1857) of Philip Gosse. Last Thursdayism says that the world (with us and our own basic memories included) could have been created recently, even last Thursday, but we cannot demonstrate such a thing because the world would have been created to look like an older world.
(at around 1h 16 mins) According to Director Alex Proyas's commentary on the Director's Cut DVD, test screening audiences were "troubled" by the notion that the entire city wasn't sucked out into space once the Shell City Wall was breached. Thus, a last minute SFX addition of Bumstead and a Stranger drifting through a force field was created.
Near the end of the film, there's a shot of Jennifer Connelly (Emma/Anna) at the end of a pier looking at the ocean. This shot was repeated in Connelly's later films "Requiem for a Dream" (2000), and "The House of Sand and Fog" (2003).
The movie appears to take place in the late 1950's/early 1960's. Cars and clothing appear almost exclusively from that period. Also, in the flashback of Keifer Sutherland's character being forced to erase his own memory he's seen wearing an old-style medical smock favored by doctors of the period. This reinforces the idea that he was a kidnapped psychiatrist being used by the aliens to manipulate human memory.
(at around 2 mins) At the beginning of the film, there is a brief shot of the movie theatre which says "Now Showing, The Evil, Late Show Nightly" and to the right, "Coming Attractions, Book of Dreams" (a previous film by Alex Proyas). At the end of the movie the marquee still says Book of Dreams: 'Welcome to Crateland' (1994) is coming soon, even though the theater and marquee have changed.
The first draft of the script by Alex Proyas was vastly different from the finished film. It includes the appearance of the Strangers, the setting of a perennial Dark City, and the fact that John Murdoch is wanted for a series of murders that he does not recall committing. Notable aspects of the initial script include an evil robotic puppy accompanying the Strangers (which would attack savagely with its steel jaws) and a climactic trial for John Murdoch. The reanimated corpses of the victims would testify against Murdoch in the trial, and even John's wife would be a witness.
Major themes in the film's design are circles and spirals. This fits as the Strangers are constantly remaking the City.
Both Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt have connections to the Incredible Hulk. Connelly played Betty Ross in the Ang Lee's Hulk, while Hurt plays General "Thunderbolt" Ross in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
(at around 14 mins) According to the list that Bumstead shows to Emma, the names of Murdoch's victims are Michelle Davies, Alison Montgomery, Samantha Richards, Kathleen O'Shea, Simone Shaunessy and Beth Mulligan.