Welcome to Commentary Commentary, where we sit and listen to filmmakers talk about their work, then share the most interesting parts. In this edition, Rob Hunter revisits the film that kicked off the Riddick franchise, Pitch Black.
It was recently announced that a fourth entry in the Riddick franchise is heading into pre-production soon with both writer/director David Twohy and lead Vin Diesel returning. Furya will reportedly see Riddick return to his home planet for some action/sci-fi/horror shenanigans. The news got me nostalgic for the best film in the franchise — that’s right, the very first one.
Pitch Black is a solid little B-movie on a budget — a far cry from the bloated cost of 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick and still cheaper than 2013’s back to basics Riddick — and it delivers fun thrills and cool shots as a sci-fi creature feature. The film recently made the jump ti UHD courtesy of Arrow Video, and in addition to numerous special features it also includes a commentary track with Twohy, Diesel, and Cole Hauser. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Pitch Black.
Pitch Black (2000)
Commentators: David Twohy (director, co-writer), Vin Diesel (actor), Cole Hauser (actor)
1. The opening credits originally played over interior shots with Fry’s (Radha Mitchell) character waking up from cryo-sleep. Early preview audiences were disoriented, though, and didn’t know where they were.
2. The opening voice-over dialogue wasn’t in the script, but it was added, again, to help orient viewers.
3. Vin Diesel had an anxiety attack while inside the cryo-chamber as he felt he was trapped in there too long. “I had control of that,” adds Cole Hauser.
4. The POV shots around 7:50 of the craft speeding closer and closer to the alien planet’s surface were filmed via a helicopter. Apparently they got too close at one point and the chopper’s skids grazed the ground at fifty miles per hour.
5. The out-of-focus shots are intentional, and Twohy recalls having to work hard to convince the cameramen to do it on purpose.
6. The Muslim pilgrims do their prayers towards Mecca, and Twohy had to convince the Muslim extras to face multiple directions as this planet has multiple suns.
7. It takes less than fourteen minutes before Diesel brags about his own abilities. The escape beat where he lifts his cuffed arms over the pole from behind was planned as an effects shot, but he managed to do most of it himself.
8. Those are all doubles walking up the hill at 19:22 — mostly evident by the hair on Hauser’s double’s head.
9. Hauser could see Diesel while reciting his dialogue at 21:32, but his character couldn’t He was worried that audiences would think he was stupid.
10. Riddick (Diesel) secretly cuts some of Fry’s hair and smells it, but Diesel hates the shot that immediately follows of him blowing it away as if he was making a wish. “It was made up on the day and just did not work and it just found its way in the final cut.” Twohy, who had control of the cut, just says “hmm.”
11. The robot originally had dialogue, apparently voiced by Diesel, but it was deemed unnecessary and removed.
12. The guy who’s shot at 26:26 is Diesel’s stunt double.
13. Diesel talks over Twohy to take credit for the crash zoom shot of Riddick sitting beneath the umbrella with a drink. The director corrects him on some aspects.
14. “I was concerned that Riddick looked too anemic here,” says Diesel of his character’s fight with Johns (Hauser), “so we had to find a way to rip off his goggles and realize that he was still kind of coming out of a deep sleep.”
15. Diesel was worried about showing brief glimpses of the creatures when Fry enters that cave, especially as they don’t succeed in harming her. He was eventually convinced otherwise.
16. Johns shoots up in his tear duct, and it’s something Hauser learned from a local man during production. He brought it to Twohy, and after confirming it’s a real thing and figuring out how to do it practically, the director added it to the scene. “You’re crazy,” says Diesel.
17. Riddick tosses something at 1:01:34 after the creature swarm attack, but it’s unclear what it is. Apparently they shot an insert of him holding a bone up into the wave of creatures only to see them quickly devour and destroy half of it as they pass. “It’s like Riddick testing how dangerous” these monsters are.
18. Diesel compares Jack (Rhiana Griffith) calling “Riddick!” to Shane (1953).
19. Diesel “wasn’t gung ho” about his dialogue — “He did not know who he was fucking with.” — after defeating the creature by hand. He was happy to be proven wrong by audience response to it.
20. “This whole talking over the film is probably really retarded,” says Diesel in reference to them recording a commentary track. “At the end of the day it must belittle the film. It’s probably one of the most asinine things ever created.”
21. Diesel’s view on Riddick is unsurprisingly bloated on the ego front. He was concerned with the beat where Fry jumps and knocks him off the ramp because he’s a big strong man, so they had Riddick be distracted by a sound. Diesel was also concerned about the scene where Fry comes to save him because he feared they were “giving her a little too much power in order to rescue” the big strong man.
22. The shot at 1:45:12 of the skiff leaving orbit shows a trail of debris. That’s the fabric wings which are designed to burn up leaving the atmosphere.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
“I love that Universal logo.”
“These guys get fired for shooting out of focus on an Oliver Stone film, or something.”
“I like the backs of people’s heads sometimes.”
“Keith David, the man who smiles and you smile along.”
“Young boys everywhere, you’re welcome.”
“I’m flexing as much as I can to warm my body.”
“This is a semi-dangerous set.”
“Not wild about my delivery or dialogue there.”
“That’s probably my favorite shot in the film. Thank god it was on me.”
Pitch Black remains a fun time, and while some of the effects have aged they never get in the way of the entertainment. This track is a good listen for fans as all three express their appreciation for various aspects of the film. Twohy offers up some technical details, Diesel makes himself look like something of a tool, and Hauser doesn’t talk nearly enough.
Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.