A computer screen flashes: "FUCK YOU HARRIS" during the film. This was a message directed toward Jack H. Harris, the producer, who annoyed director John Carpenter during production. Supposedly, the offensive sentence was his revenge. However, many people have a hard time finding it.
Co-writer Dan O'Bannon later reused the "alien mascot" section of the film as the basis of his script for Alien (1979).
The idea to deep-freeze the dead (Commander Powell) and be able to speak to their half-living souls through an electronic device is inspired by sci-fi short stories and novels by Philip K. Dick, in such works as "What the Dead Men Say" (1963) or "Ubik" (1969). The frost, the radio tuning and the clouded, feeble and fainting thoughts are exactly as described by Dick.
The space helmets used were part of Ideal Toys' "S.T.A.R. Team" toy line produced from 1968 to 1971. The helmets are obviously sized for children as is evidenced by the poor fit on the actors' heads.
The double rows of large buttons on the bridge consoles are ice cube trays illuminated from beneath.
Cookie Knapp got the computer voice gig because she answered the phone for cinematographer Douglas Knapp and John Carpenter loved the sound of her voice.
Someone has already mentioned the ice trays on the control panels, and the styrofoam packing ends on Talby's spacesuit backpack. There is one more fun "budget" effects item. On the front of Talby's spacesuit is a six-muffin muffin tin.
The talking bombs were made out of plastic model kits for cars and trucks.
Sergeant Pinback's video diary is an 8-track tape, and the machine he uses to read it and record it is a microfiche reader.
The film takes place in 2150.
Talby's spacesuit chestplate is made from a muffin tray.
Dre Pahich, who played "Talby", had a heavy accent; eventually all of his dialogue was re-dubbed, allegedly by John Carpenter himself.
The knife trick performed Boiler (Cal Kuniholm) is paid homage to years later in "Aliens" (1986) by Bishop (Lance Henriksen). Dark Star which was co-written and starred by Dan O'Bannon, who also wrote the story and screenplay for the original Alien (1979).
In the "elevator" sequence the bottom of the elevator is actually rolling on the floor. The device used to roll the elevator base was actually a Moviola camera dolly normally used on the small sound stage in the old USC Cinema building (itself once a horse stable). The steering end of the dolly can be seen as part of the "elevator" underside.
The bombs are made from an HO scale piggyback trailer kit and parts of 1/25th scale model car kits; "Matra", the name of the car, can be seen on some parts in some shots.
This was John Carpenter's only theatrically-released film that wasn't shot in Panavision, until he directed The Ward (2010), which was shot in Super 35.
Indie rock band Pinback took their name from the character Sgt. Pinback, and have sampled the movie in several songs, including Sgt. Pinback's line of dialogue "I do not belong on this mission, and I want to return to Earth!" in their song "Rousseau."
The space suits are made to resemble the space suit of the Mattel action figure "Major Matt Mason", which was used in slightly modified form as a miniature for effects shots.
Ron Cobb drew the original design for the "Dark Star" on a napkin while eating at the International House of Pancakes.
The Playboy posters are blurred in the bedroom scene, although the bedroom scene is not in all versions of the movie.
When Sgt Pinback is shown sleeping, he holds a magazine to his chest. It is MAN'S BOOK, October 1972, with a cover by Basil Gogos.
Many special effects were done by Dan O'Bannon, ship design was by Ron Cobb, model work by O'Bannon and Greg Jein, and animation was done by Bob Greenberg.
The scene in which Pinback is stuck in the service elevator with his legs dangling through the floor hatch is clearly filmed in a corridor with the lift base being pulled horizontally along it.
Talby's starsuit backpack is made from Styrofoam packing material - probably from a TV set.
Ron Cobb drew the original design for the Dark Star ship on a napkin while eating at the International House of Pancakes.
Is frequently considered musician Rob Crow's favorite film. His band Pinback is actually named after the main character and many of the films sound effects can be found in Pinback songs such as "Concrete Seconds" and "Rousseu"
The end of the film was almost certainly inspired by and adapted from Ray Bradbury's sci-fi short story "Kaleidoscope." Bradbury's story is about a group of rocket men floating away from each other in space after their ship has exploded. Eventually only two men are left in radio contact; one of them is carried off by an enchanting, kaleidoscopic meteor swarm, and the other falls to earth as a shooting star. This situation is exactly recreated at the end of "Dark Star," and some of the dialogue is adapted directly from Bradbury's text.
During the asteroid storm, when Bomb Number 20 is shown on the computer room monitor emerging from the bomb bay, the monitor shows a single frame of a man's smiling face.
After the ship blows up, a piece of debris passes behind Doolittle. The debris is marked "toilet tank thx1138" as a reference to George Lucas's THX 1138 (1971), another feature film adapted from a student short film project at the University of Southern California (USC). (Electronic Labyrinth THX 1138 4EB (1967)).
Sgt. Pinback's real name, Bill Frugge, was based after John Carpenter's and Dan O'Bannon's film professor, William Froug.
While there is a visible flash and sound of some type of shot when Pinback darts the alien, in fact the gun used is a real anesthetic dart gun which uses CO2 to propel the dart and would have no muzzle flash.