Before They Live, there was another campy, eccentric John Carpenter sci-fi/comedy cult classic — Dark Star — a film about an isolated crew of a space ship tasked with a decades-long mission to blow up unstable planets in the middle of nowhere. This was Carpenter’s first major film in 1974. Put together on a tiny budget, with a small cast, and with Carpenter partner Dan O’Bannon (who later used parts of Dark Star as a basis for Alien) doing nearly all of the production work themselves, Dark Star kind of bombed at the box office. This was because it was marketed as a serious science fiction movie (see the trailer below), when it’s really more of a scatterbrained take-off of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Members of the crew — absolutely bored by their long, tedious mission — play practical jokes on each other, talk philosophy, and chase a rouge alien beachball with legs around the ship. It’s weird, it’s existential, and it’s out on Blu-ray today, so you can catch all of those 1970s shoe-string-budget special effects in all their high-def glory.
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