I know a lot of movie snobs that blame Star Wars for all the bad movies after 1977. I love that movie too much to join them. However, we can certainly blame George Lucas’ space opera for the sudden attack of science fiction adventures that flooded the cinemas in the late 70s and early 80s. 20th Century Fox was raking in the cash and all the other big studios wanted in on the action. Disney was no exception. It would be decades before they brought Star Wars under the power of the mouse, but before that happened, we were treated to this film.
The starship Palomino is exploring deep space when it comes upon a black hole of enormous size. Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster) and his crew are excited about the scientific discoveries they can make. Then they find something even more interesting, a long lost ship, the Cygnus, just hovering at the very edge of the black hole and seemingly unaffected by the tremendous gravity.
The Palomino attempts contact with the Cygnus but it is almost destroyed by the black hole. They land on the ghost ship and discover that only one man remains alive on board, Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell). He is a genius scientist who created the field that holds the Cygnus in place. He is surrounded by a crew of robots that run the ship and maintain order. But as the crew of the Palomino start to find out more about Reinhardt and the Cygnus the more they realize that they are in terrible danger. Reinhardt is preparing for his ultimate experiment and none of them may escape the destructive power of The Black Hole.
- Some gorgeous and unique production design
- Solid acting by the entire cast
- An impressive score by John Barry
- Cute robot antics may rub some viewers the wrong way
- The derivative nature of the story or characters may be too familiar
- Anyone looking for hard science fiction should look elsewhere
This is one of those movies that almost works but never quite gels into a complete entertainment package. So many elements are solid or even excellent. But when taken together you get a movie that feels messy and unrefined. The film looks and sounds spectacular considering its age and Schell gives a performance that steals the show. Those who remember this fondly will probably find plenty to enjoy but new viewers may find it lacking.
Scores (out of 5)
In Depth Review
|He can't stop watching The Black Hole either.|
The Black Hole is essentially a retelling of Disney’s take on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea with Maximilian Schell playing the Captain Nemo role that James Mason owned in 1954. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea was one of Disney’s most popular and lucrative films in the 1950s. So it makes sense that they wanted to mirror that success with their space adventure. The story acts as the frame The Black Hole is built on. But it is the other influences that end up muddying the clarity of the film.
|The black hole or V'ger's cloud?|
Visually the movie forged its own path. A quick look at the space ship, robot and costume design will show you that. The starships in The Black Hole are completely unique. The Palomino is a squat cylinder with extended legs and thrusters. It looks very functional, almost like a 1970s satellite.
|"Like a tree on Christmas Morning..."|
The interiors for the ships follow a similar feel. The Palomino is cramped, utilitarian and mostly grey. Again, it feels like a natural progression from the 1970s space technology. But the Cygnus is all gothic style mystery. It’s filled with struts, supports creating a web of crisscrossing lines. It has a huge scope, one that often feels like it is overwhelming and devouring the cast (thanks to some impressive matte painting work). The Cygnus could very well pass as a futuristic Flying Dutchman – a ship destined to journey into hell and take you with it.
|What the drone sees.|
The two hero robots of The Black Hole are V.I.N.CENT. and B.O.B. These two little guys float around, crack wise and at times V.I.N.CENT. is smarter than most of his companions. In many ways these guys are obviously inspired by R2-D2, but actually manage to be different enough to keep Lucasfilm from coming after anyone.
|Nothing sinister here.|
|THE scene from The Black Hole.|
The sound work does a fine job of supporting the visuals. Dialogue is crisp and clear and never overpowered by the sound design. The audio work for the sci-fi gadgets, ships and robots is unique to the film and helps build the world we see. I especially like how the interiors of the Cygnus sound cavernous and disturbingly quiet further adding to the disquiet the audience and Palomino crew feel.
|The music certainly adds to the bizarre finale.|
|A genius or a madman? Can Durant really tell?|
|Hell is unleashed!|
Yeah I simplified it, but that is the basic structure of the story. This is Disney trying to make a horror film a few years before TheWatcher in the Woods.
|Kate fights fire with lasers!|
|Nothing sinister here either.|
|The functional Palomino comes in for a landing.|
|The robot enforcers move in for the kill.|
|The massive control room for the Cygnus.|
|"You can trust me, my eyes are only lit this way for|
|Harry's nose for news tells him something is up.|
|V.I.N.CENT. and B.O.B. discuss Tigerbot magazine.|
|You know, Reinhardt spoiled Maximilian when he was|
a little robot, and now he can't control him!
|The red eye of doom in the center of the Black Hole.|