John (HALLOWEEN) Carpenter's first directorial effort, an intermittently hilarious satire on 2001--A SPACE ODYSSEY. Carpenter's spaceship is piloted by four goofy astronauts who live like slobs and are bored out of their skulls by their long, uneventful mission. The crew is leaderless because their commander has died during the voyage and is kept in a freezer; somehow he is still able grudgingly to give his men advice when need be. Also in the ship are two talking computers and a pet alien that looks like a red beachball with claws (one of the consistently funny things in the movie). The film is a series of vignettes detailing how the men deal with their boredom, and it eventually sees one of the crew, Narelle, surfing through space on a board-shaped piece of debris. Dan O'Bannon, who would later go on to write ALIEN, cowrote the screenplay and was in charge of the set design and special effects. Carpenter shot half the film on 16mm as his thesis project for the University of Southern California film school. Hoping to get major financing from a studio to expand the film (as George Lucas did with his thesis THX 1138), he dropped out of school and went hunting for investors. Eventually, a Canadian investor gave him enough money to blow up the 16mm footage to 35mm, which led to exploitation distributor Jack Harris financing the rest of the project (which allowed for a modicum of special effects). Unfortunately, Harris' company went broke, and the rights to the film went to Bryanston, who had distributed THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. The film eventually got some bookings, but it never really caught on until it hit the midnight-show circuit.