This is an emergency dispatch from merchant vessel Hunter-Gratzner on route to the Tangea System with fourty commercial passengers on board.
We have been knocked out of our shipping lane and are currently entering the atmosphere of a planetary body at the following position:
X38 stroke 5
Y95 stroke 8
Y o u a r e n ' t a f r a i d o f t h e d a r k , a r e y o u ?
P I T C H B L A C K
The merchant vessel Hunter-Gratzner is hit by stray debris as it passes through the tail of an unmapped comet in the Taurus Star System.
Knocked off course and into the gravity well of a mysterious planet, it is up to Navigator Owens and Pilot Fry to land the ship and save the passengers and cargo.
With their Captain dead in his cryo-locker, there is no clear voice of authority for the crew of the out of control starship. Dumping the cargo, and almost dumping the passengers, Pilot Fry crashlands the Hunter-Gratzner. There are ten survivors, including convicted killer Richard B Riddick.
Pitch Black unfolds around an ensemble cast of several characters, with each one of them receiving their own moment in the spotlight - though quite a few don't survive it.
The main focus of the film are the characters of Riddick, Carolyn Fry, Johns, Jack and Iman, and they are a dysfunctional 'family' at best. The psychology of survival plays as a central theme to the film, and explores the question "what would you do to stay alive?"
With a cast of many central characters, the strongest are most certainly the three major leads - Fry, Johns and Riddick. We get a glimpse into the darker recesses of each of their souls throughout the often frightening journey that is the film.
After the ship crashes, the survivors discover that Riddick has escaped, and the Mercenary, Johns, goes after his bounty with relentless and aggressive determination. Johns eventually manages to subdue Riddick, but not before Riddick tries to permanently subdue Johns. Via a very interesting shoulder dislocation scene, Riddick escapes once again and the film catapults forward along what can only be described as a roller coaster ride of excitement and terror as the things that go bump in the night eat their way through the characters.
The first sign of something more dangerous on the planet than Riddick is when one of the passengers - Zeke - trys to bury the dead, only to join them.
While hunting for Riddick, part of the group discovers an abandoned settlement and a small ship - a skiff - that they can use to get off-world. Just as relevant as the skiff, Carolyn discovers a model of the solar system they have crashed in that plays as an important fact a little later on. Returning to the others to tell them, and to retrieve fuel cells for the skip, they come across a fleeing Riddick, an enraged Shazza, and a dead Zeke.
Riddick is captured again, and the remaining survivors believe it is he who killed Zeke. Riddick denies the possibility, telling Carolyn there is something far worse on the planet.
She goes into the series of caves and burrows underground that Zeke had been near when he vanished to discover the truth - which she does, almost at the cost of her own life.
Not sure about the creatures, they decide their best bet is to get off the planet as soon as possible.
Johns enlists Riddick's help, promising to cut him loose.
At the settlement, they come across more of the creatures after another in their group is discovered missing. Their realisation that the creatures are allergic to light allows them at least one weakness to exploit, but also creates a momentary delusion of safety that is soon shattered. In their exploration they come across core samples that the settlers had unearthed while mining. They are dated 22 years earlier. Fry rushes back to the model she found, and discovers that a lasting night is coming - the same lasting night that killed the settlers 22 years ago.
Fry insists on urgency, Johns insists on being careful because he believes Riddick will take advantage of the situation, but their arguements become moot as the approaching darkness makes itself known.
One by one the survivors are picked off by terrifying creatures allergic to light, and completely at home in the dark.
The movie becomes a race through the darkness - and not just the darkness of a planet plunged into a night that could last hours, or days. Each character comes face to face with the darkness present in their own hearts and one man is given a chance, through circumstance, to rejoin the human race.
P I T C H B L A C K
Vin Diesel as Richard B Riddick
Radha Mitchell as Carolyn Fry
Cole Hauser as William J Johns
Keith David as Abu-al Walid (Iman)
Rhiana Griffith as Jack/Jackie (Jacqui)
Lewis Fitz-Gerald as Paris P Ogilvie
Claudia Black as Sharon Montgomery
John Moore as John 'Zeke' Ezekiel
Simon Burke as Greg Owens
Les Chantery as Suleiman
Sam Sari as Hassan
Firass Dirani as Ari
Ric Anderson as Survivor
A Few Quotes...
"It's a story about a group of survivors from a crash that find out that there are predators on the planet that come out every 22 years whenever there's an eclipse."
"Pitch Black is about how these people get off the planet inhabited by these strange creatures."
"This story is about human nature in the harshest of conditions."
"All you people are so scared of me, but it ain't me you gotta worry about now. You got the wrong killer."
Behind the Scenes...
Pitch Black was filmed in the remote Australian town of Cobber Pedy.
The opening of the film, where the Hunter-Gratzner is seen against space, was not the original opening. The film originally began with Fry in her cryo-locker, waking up because of the alarms. The audience found the scene too disorienting - which is what David Twohy had wanted - but, in David's words: "Every once in a while the audience just needs to ground." So, the extra footage was shot, and Pitch Black received a new opening sequence.
To get the actors out of the cryo-lockers, they were literally pushed in the back to give the effect of falling out.
After Fry falls out of her cryo-locker, the Navigator (Owens) falls on top of her. There was no footage shot of Owens in his cryo-locker, or falling out of it. To get the shot Twohy wanted, he substituted footage of Johns in his cryo-locker, and coming out of it. The first 12 frames of 'Owens' coming to and falling out is actually actor Cole Hauser.
To achieve the effect of the vessel being shaken during atmospheric entry, Radha Mitchell was placed on a set that was attached to a gymbal - a machine that allows for motion, rather than having the camera or the actor do the shaking effects. During filming, the gymbal actually broke and the set, with Radha, came crashing to the ground! No one, luckily, was hurt.
As the merchant vessel comes into crash, the audience receives its first glimpse of Cobber Pedy. The footage was shot from a helicopter travelling at about 50 mph. The helicopter would keep coming in closer and closer, and at one point the skids of the helicopter actually struck the ground. I think everyone would agree though that the helicopters near miss was worth it!
The scene where Riddick drops from the 'ceiling' of the crashed Hunter-Gratzner to strangle Johns with his ankle manicles was not performed by Vin, but by his stunt double Ric Anderson. The scene took so many shots that actor Cole Hauser told Rick to "just strangle me!"
The young boys playing the Muslim Pilgrims with Keith David's character were, in real life, Muslim.
When you see the Muslim Pilgrims praying to Mecca, they are not facing Mecca, but each other. This isn't ignorance on the film makers part, but a clever use of actors and staging to show the audience that the planet is quite literally surrounded by suns.
The scene where Riddick is chained up and blind folded, and spies a break in the steel pole he is chained to and proceeds to dislocate his shoulders to escape, was a $60,000 special effect. Actor Vin Diesel came onto the stage one day, and pulled the scene off (with just the chains) without the need for a special effect. When manicled however, the effect was required, but three quarters of the scene where he is dislocating his shoulders, is actually Vin.
You may have noticed that when Riddick discovers the break in the metal gurder he is tied to, it is through a tear in the blindfold he wears. There was a scene filmed that explained how the tear came to be. In a very dangerous scene, the character of Riddick becomes aware of a metal spike. He guages it's distance from him, and lashes out quickly to cut the blindfold so he can see. Of course, if Vin had misjudged, he'd most likely be blind in one eye. The scene worked, but ultimately did not play, as the camera had to come in very tight. It was dropped from the final film print... despite the danger Vin put himself in, and despite the panic David Twohy no doubt felt about the whole process.
The name 'Iman', as Keith David's character is called on and off throughout the film, is not actually a name, but a Muslim Spiritual/Religious title that translates roughly as 'cleric'.
Cobber Pedy is a desolate location. Sand, rock, kangaroo's, and not much else. It is in the heart of Australia, generally thought of by much of the world as being incredibly hot. As it is, Cobber Pedy can - and did - get very cold. During the filming of Pitch Black it was so cold that it was actually painful for the actors. To achieve the effect of heat, the crew would spray the actors down with water, which of course made the whole experience a lot worse!
The shot of Riddick in Paris' sunchair on top of the wreckage was made up on the day. It was an inspiration Vin had, and David agreed to.
For those of you interested in set construction, the bones of the dead animals in the graveyard were made from styrofoam.
There was a scene filmed in the animal graveyard that was a cat and mouse 'chase scene' of sorts, between Riddick and Fry. The scene was cut though as a creative decision. David Twohy felt that the audience might grow impatient, and want to get to the creatures, so he made the painful decision to drop the scene entirely.
The scene where Riddick cuts a piece of Fry's hair off, smells it, then blows it away, is not thought of fondly by Vin Diesel. He calls it a 'hokey scene'. I always wondered about it... I also wondered how the hell she didn't feel it, and Johns didn't see it!?!
While doing his dialogue through the cut hair scene in the animal graveyard, Cole could see Vin very easily. He said it made it very hard to get it all out, watching Vin prowl up behind Rahda. Cole Hauser had a lot of issues about that particular scene, especially because he believed that his character should have been able to smell and sense his prey, rather than remain totally oblivious to his presence.
The small toy robot that is found by the Pilgrim boys on the groups way to the settlement actually had dialogue. During test screening David became aware that the audience actually thought the dialogue was meaningful to the plot. He dropped the dialogue to avoid confusion. Vin supplied the voice for the robot... an Iron Giant moment!
The man who gets shot by Zeke after making his way from the wreckage to where Shazza and Jack are working on the ship with Paris 'standing watch', was Vin's stunt double, Ric Anderson.
The scene where Shazza is bathed in the new arrivals blood was filmed once. David couldn't bare to do another take, because it was so messy and disgusting. No doubt he didn't want to put poor Claudia Black through that process more than was absolutely necessary.
The scene where Zeke is killed is styalised and fragmented to make the audience wonder "is it Riddick, or is it something else killing Zeke?"
The filming of Pitch Black was not an act of strict adherance to the script or storyboards. A few scenes were improvised on set and on location. The scene where Fry comes closer to see Riddicks eyes, while he is chained, was made up, like many others, on the day or during that particular week of filming.
When Fry enters the underground burrow of the creatures, Vin was worried that it wouldn't play having the creatures seen so early, and having Fry emerge unharmed. Of course, as Vin himself has stated, it did play... and very well.
The intercuts during that scene, where Fry is seen trying to escape the burrow, and Riddick is seen shaking his chains, was not scripted or storyboarded. Vin improvised the chain rattling on set one day, and David wanted to use it but didn't know where to put it. During the editing stages, he found the perfect place. That scene. It gave the impression that Riddick knew what was happening, and what he had sent Fry in to experience.
Despite Australia's international reputation of being a land of sun and surf, during the weeks of location shooting in Cobber Pedy, it rained most of the time.
The scene at the Coring Room, where Riddick pulls down the tarp to reveal Jack, did not come off as it was meant to. It worked on film, but it was complicated by accident. The tarp was not meant to be secured, but somebody secured it. When Vin went to pull it, he was forced to apply more strength than he thought and he ended up throwing his shoulder out... not a happy moment I'm sure.
During the scene where the group enters the Coring Room in search of the missing Pilgrim boy, and the creatures swarm out of the room where the poor boy met his untimely demise, Cole Hauser wanted to be allowed to shoot the creatures. The concept was that they were simply too fast, and it would not be possible to actually take any of them out. Cole actually improvised shooting one, but David edited it out of the film.
During the scene where Riddick enters the Skip to talk to Fry, after she has had an intense conversation with Johns, the dialogue "I've been meaning to catch up with you" was improvised on the day to make the scene more menacing.
The scene where Cole Hauser's character, Johns, shoots up via his tear duct was performed by Cole himself. His eye, his tear duct. The needle was retractable, but never the less the scene would have been uncomfortable. Cole came up with the idea himself while talking to a guy. He asked the man "where is the most disgusting place you have ever seen anyone shoot up?" The man replied with "in the tear duct." Cole thought that was great, suggested it to David, and it made it's way into the film.
When the group are making their way to get fuel cells in the sand cat, it was originally Johns who was meant to almost get hit by the overhanding bones, and be warned to duck by Riddick.
Rhiana Griffith, the actress playing Jack, was a 13 year old junior high school student at the time of filming. She had beautiful, long blonde hair, and had been making a successful career for herself as a model before the film. She volunteered to have her long hair shaved, which, David Twohy remarks, could not have been an easy decision for a girl so young, and one who was making a living at the time from her physical appearance. Vin describes Rhianna as the most pleasant person on the set, always cheerful, and always bringing a smile to everyone's face. Both he and David remarked on her dedication and determination during filming.
The character of Jack was originally named Audrey. When going through the process of writing and designing characters, David was struck by the reality that every character carried with them a secret - but 'Audrey'. So he gave her one. She would be a girl masquerading as a boy!
In the scene where Shazza and Riddick dive into a ditch to avoid the swarming young creatures, the character of Riddick actually held up a shiv (bone knife) into the flock streaming over their heads. After Shazza has been ripped in half and carried off, Riddick stands and throws something away. What he is throwing away is what is left of the shiv... but the scene where he held the shiv up to test the strength of the creatures was cut for cost reasons.
The special effect that denotes the creatures' 'sight' isn't actually them 'seeing' their prey. The creatures 'see' by bouncing sound waves off of their surroundings. They are blind, but blast out a sound and that is how they 'see' and are aware of their environment, through echo-location.
In the scene where Fry calls Johns a coward, and he pulls the gun on her, the shot where Riddick holds a knife to Johns' groin, tapping it, was made up on the day.
Lewis Fitz-Gerald came up with the idea of spraying alcohol from his mouth, into his cigarette lighter during his death scene, causing a huge flash of flame that illuminated the creatures surrounding him. It is, perhaps, one of the more memorable scenes in the film.
The scene where the last Pilgrim boy is dragged up the rock wall by one of the creatures was concieved on the day of filming.
In the scene where Fry and Riddick return to bring Iman and Jack back to the skip, Keith David (Iman) improvised the line "There is my God", in reference to Riddick.
The scene were Fry rescues Riddick, and is killed by the creatures, was a very emotionally taxing day, according Vin.
After Fry has been carried off, impaled by the creature that attacked her, Riddick falls to the ground. As he falls to the ground and strikes it, there is a camera bump. That bump should never have been in the film, but David did not intend on including the scene. Vin said to him "I have more to give", in regards to his emotional response to Fry's death, and David humoured him, letting him add in the fall and the angst ridden expression. When David viewed the footage later, he loved what Vin had done. As there was only one cut of the footage, he used it despite the camera bump.
The original ending of the film did not have the character of Riddick powering down the Skip and waiting for the creatures to surround it. They were just going to take off. When they decided to change it, they originally wanted to donut the Skip in a full circle, so as many of the creatures as possible could be wiped out. They couldn't do that because there wasn't enough money, so they settled on letting the creatures get close, then incinerating them, and mowing through them.
A technical note... as the Skip leaves the planet, cruising up through the atmosphere to space, the wings are disolving as the Skip travels. This is intentional, as in design the Skip wings are made of material and are intended to disintergrate on launch.
Ted Field, a producer on Pitch Black, was responsible for Vin Diesel getting the role of Riddick. Ted... from the bottom of our hearts we thank you!
The above is taken from the Film Commentary found on the Special Collectors Edition of the DVD.
There are two sets of commentary, only one of which I provided some highlights from on this page. I didn't want to spoil everything for you, just give you a taste of the wonderful extras in this DVD. The first commentary is made by David Twohy, Vin Diesel and Cole Hauser. The second commentary is made by David, and the Special Effects creators and Designers of the film.
Both commentaries are excellent.
One thing you realise, while sitting there watching the film, and listening to these guys talk, is the enthusiasm they have for the project.
Throughout the commentary they were a part of, Vin and David and Cole would comment on their favourite scenes with such passion it was contagious. Vin in particular seemed to have a lot of "favourite scenes"! He could often be heard to say "I love this film!"
If you have the chance, rent or buy the DVD, the extra's are well worth the price.
All in all, no matter how much you know about the production, or don't know, Pitch Black is a fantastic film. The attention to detail, the choices in editing, lighting, camera angles and performance make it a beautiful work of cinematography.
I love the film, and being a science fiction fan boy, it's one of my all time favourites.
Best and Lamest Lines in the Film...
"You're fucking with me, I know you are."
"You know I am."
And then we have...
"Come on Riddick, there's got to be some part of you that wants to rejoin the human race?"
"Truthfully? I wouldn't know how."
And possibly the absolute best line...
"How much do you weigh, Johns?"
"Did not know who it was fucking with."
It's just corny!
Coming June 2004
The Chronicles of Riddick
The long awaited sequel to Pitch Black
Visit the Films & Projects page for regular updates!