The Black Hole
Dir: Gary Nelson
Star: Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine
Cert / Year: PG / 1979
Format: DVD R2

The crews of the research vessel Palameno are on a mission to scout deep space when they encounter the vast gravitational pull of a black hole. Upon further investigation they find the long lost research vessel Cynus holding position impossibly close to the black hole. They decide to investigate only for their ship to be damaged in the process. Forced to dock with the Cynus to make repairs they are about to become the guests of mad scientist Dr. Hans Reinhardt and his army of robots, but just what re his plans for them.

In 1977 Star Wars changed cinema, suddenly sci-fi was cool and special effects movies were big box office. Paramount decided to give its Star Trek series a big screen outing, and Disney decided to cash in on the act with The Black Hole. Whereas Star Wars and Star Trek were a success and went on to spawn massive franchises this film pretty much disappeared. So just what went wrong with this film?

The reason this film proved to be less than successful is that it really has no idea who its target audience is. There is too much psychological babble and not enough action for it to be a kids film, and there is too much general silliness for it to be an adult movie. The story is basically 20,000 leagues under the sea set in space. Yet the realism of that movie has been ruined by cutesy robots and tacked on idiotic scenes like the asteroid shower or the robot shooting contest. It is a shame as a gritty space story of a mad genius without normal morals would have been great, but what we are left with here is a sadly Disneyfied mess.

One thing The Black Hole does have going for it are some excellent miniature effects. The model of the Cynus is great, but don't they know it. Just like Star Trek The Motion Picture far too much time is spent circling the model giving the audience a chance to be impressed by it. Thankfully as people got more used to such impressive effects this self-congratualry fad passed into history. What is less forgivable though is the poor use of CSO to include the human actors with the model effects. Blue haloing gives the game away and looks bad by anybody's standards.

If the models are good the robots are less successful. The best of the bunch is the evil Maximilian. It is huge floating scarlet monster with spinning knives for hands, a single slit eye that glows a hellish red, and an intimidating hum. The other bad guy robots are less effective being blokes in suits stiffly goose-stepping as they comically pretend to be robots. Up against then are the good guy robots VINCENT and Old Bob, which are basically super twee garbage cans on strings. These R2D2 wannabe's have silly cute eyes, a tendency for awful literary quotes, and the ability to change expression by raising their dustbin lids. Kids may love them but they are stupid in the extreme, and don't even get me started on the farcical ESP link to one of the crew members (yes a robot with ESP!).

This gives you an idea of the general disregard for common sense the film has. Things start off ok with a relatively accurate depiction of gravity of the black hole, and a laudable but pathetic attempt to depict zero gravity by people on wires (they must have been keen on this effect as they use it to death in the first 10 minutes, it's just a shame you can see the wires and it looks awful). However the further into the film you go the dafter things become, with neatly spherical glowing asteroids, people surviving in space with no space suits or air supply, and the black hole changing color to red (a red hole, erm no comment). This all culminates in the inexplicable 2001 inspired fantasy flight ending, which manages to be both incomprehensible and bizarre.

Kids will enjoy The Black Hole more than adults yet even as children's movie it is highly flawed. The eclectic cast (which includes Anthony 'Norman Bates' Perkins, a portly Ernest Borgnine, and Maximilian Schell who seems to be doing a Brian Blessed impersonation) are pretty good and try really hard to keep things moving, but at the end of the day the badly thought out story does for them. The action and effects when they work are impressive, however it just isn't enough to save the film. This Disney cash in proved that you just couldn’t throw a space movie together and expect it to compete with Star Wars.


A journey that begins where everything ends!

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Especially good considering the age
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 It's 5.1 but it's not really used as such.
Features none
Verdict Good transfer but nothing else, really poor.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Back Top Home