Dan O'Bannon, the acclaimed science fiction/horror film screenwriter who was best known for writing the blockbuster hit "Alien" and who also directed and wrote the zombie fest "The Return of the Living Dead," has died. He was 63.
O'Bannon, whose credits include co-writing "Blue Thunder" and "Total Recall," died Thursday at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica after losing his 30-year battle with Crohn's disease, said his wife, Diane.
I've been a fan of Mr. O'Bannon's work since I first stumbled upon a showing of "Dark Star" on the Showtime cable network back in the late 70's. I and my friends would endlessly quote lines from the film, but it took a while for us to figure out that Sgt. Pinback was the same guy being interviewed in magazine's like "Starlog" and "Fantastic Films" for his work on "Star Wars" and "Alien".
At one point we ran a Traveller/Space Opera RPG campaign where we discovered the planetoid from "Alien", complete with the derelict space jockey ship from the film as well as the temple complex from the original script. Deep in the bowels of the temple complex we discovered this mural, which our referee had carefully cut out from a magazine:
In another chamber we found a second mural depicting the apex predator of the "Alien" ecology, a jellyfish like creature with dangling tentacles and an immense gasbag that allowed it to float through the air. Well, that was the adult form. The immature juvenile form looked like an inflated beach ball with feet. That's right, the one creature the ravenous, acid-blooded xenomorphs feared was the grown up version of the goofy alien from "Dark Star".
Good times, my friends. Good times.
As for his contributions to horror, Mr. O'Bannon was behind some of the most influential films of the genre, primarily "Alien" and "Return of the Living Dead". Others have said that "Alien" is probably the most successful Lovecraftian film in history, and it's probably the one he'll be remembered for years from now, but even O'Bannon's lesser efforts, like "Dead & Buried" and "The Resurrected", were worth watching. He will be missed.