As the directorial debut of John Carpenter, Dark Star has achieved a degree of cult status over the years. It's no masterpiece by any stretch and the acting, dialogue, and pace are a bit stale, but this spacey 1974 parody of Stanley Kubrick's classics, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Dr. Strangelove, is intriguing in that it features many of the elements that became staples of Carpenter films: a simple but effective score, anti-establishment sentiments, blue-collar characters, and a downbeat ending. Taking inspiration from 1958's It! The Terror from Beyond Space, Carpenter began the film while attending USC in 1970 and later expanded it to feature length. He was assisted significantly by future screenwriter Dan O'Bannon (who later wrote the very similar Alien), whose multiple credits on the film include a starring role. One scene featuring O'Bannon's character Pinback playing a game in which he stabs an ice pick between his fingers was later used by James Cameron in Aliens. O'Bannon's most impressive contribution to the film, however, were his special effects, which are startling for a film with such a low budget.