The Black Hole

This is about the movies that had meaning and achieved a respectable degree of success even without those spectacular high tech computer visual effects that are in use today. And such begins the series, that is being spawned from the success of the Trek Tribute Series, with “The Black Hole.”

The Black Hole is one of the more unique feature films there is that focuses on a theme I’m surprised hasn’t been used more often. As the title obviously indicates, this movie centers around one of the most powerful forces in the known universe. It tells the tale of a research vessel called the Palomino that discovers not only the remarkable black hole itself, but the mysterious vessel (some call it a space station but I beg to differ) known as the USS Cygnus. What the crew discovers turns out to be a dark secret buried by the sole survivor and commander, Dr. Hans Reinhardt. Generally it gets more and more creepy as the movie progresses. And creepy has ended up being the most commonly used word to describe it.

The film stars Maximilian Schell who obviously has the best role in the film as the borderline genius/mad scientist known as Dr. Hans Reinhardt who is intent on taking his ship, the Cygnus into the black hole and discover the ultimate knowledge of the universe. Also starring is Anthony Perkins as Dr. Alex Durant who is well known for his role in Psycho as well as the sequels as Norman Bates. There’s Robert Forster who plays Captain Dan Holland, Joseph Bottoms as Lt. Charles Pizer, Yvette Mimieux as Dr. Kate McCrae, Ernest Borgnine as Harry Booth, Roddy McDowall as the voice of V.I.N.CENT, Slim Pickens as the voice of Bob, and Tommy McLoughlin as S.T.A.R.

The Black Hole was Disney’s answer to Star Wars. It was also their very first PG rated film. Unfortunately, the official word was that it was a box office flop during its initial run. However, it ended up being one of those films that carried a steady fanbase over the years that other films couldn’t. Much of it had to do with the fact that it’s really the only movie that centers around such a phenomenon. And given its not-so-spectacular reception by the fans, I personally still feel it’s a movie deserving of such a review. For one, it features a sort of Captain Nemo in space, but more sinister. It has been described as having shades of 2001: A Space Odyssey and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

The use of those sentry robots have had people saying they walk like they are in dire need of a toilet. I say get a clue! They’re robots! Of course they’ll be walking stiff! And the strong arm of Dr. Hans Reinhardt is a creepy looking robot named ironically, Maximilian.

Now the movie does have its good qualities. For one, the Cygnus is a one-of-a-kind vessel that has a cathedral-like structure to it and is simply huge. And even though technically you can’t see a black hole because it supposedly sucks in light as well as everything else, the black hole has a real smooth and fluent look to it showing it as blue from afar and red as the Cygnus closes in on it. Maximilian Schell pulls off a well done performance with his character which is more than I can say for the others. Don’t get me wrong, the others did well enough, but they could’ve done much better.

Also the part where a meteorite falls into the ship and is barreling towards them is a very convincing scene and stands out well. And seeing the ship get torn apart the closer they get to the black hole had to take some doing to achieve, both with the interior and exterior shots of the huge vessel. And then of course there’s the probe ship streaking through the black hole as the crew goes through a weird scenario that I can’t even describe. You’d have to see it.

Now, of course, the movie also had some rather bad qualities as well. As mentioned before, most of the cast really didn’t pull off good dialogue. And I can only attribute some of the better lines to V.I.N.CENT as he throws in several rather funny quotes which include:

    • There are three basic types Mr. Pizer: The wills, the won’ts, and the can’ts. The wills accomplish everything, the won’ts oppose everything, and the can’ts won’t try anything
    • To quote Cicero: Rashness is the characteristic of youth, prudence that of mellowed age, and discretion the better part of valor
    • “All sunshine makes a desert”, the Arabs say
    • A wolf remains a wolf even if it has not eaten your sheep
    • Out of the frying pan, hopefully not into the fire
    • A pint cannot hold a quart Mr. Pizer, but if it holds the pint, it’s doing the best it can
    • There is a saying that you can’t unscramble eggs

Also, there’s also a continuity issue. When V.I.N.CENT meets Bob in the shooting gallery with the other robots, he hasn’t learned his name yet. Yet during Bob’s round against S.T.A.R. he says, “Nice shooting Bob.” Bob finally introduces himself afterwards in part storage. Then there’s the visibility of wires on V.I.N.CENT and Bob sometimes during the movie and even here and there on some of the cast as well during their anti-gravity moments. Kate makes mention of how the Cygnus’s original mission was to discover “inhabitable life” in outer space. Now technically, that’s not possible when you consider that life cannot exist in the vacuum of space itself…most life anyway. But on the other hand, it can carry a degree of logic if looked at from a broader perspective. I mean these are humans from Earth. By outer space, they could easily have meant life on other planets in outer space. Also, the meteorites that shoot past the Cygnus aren’t supposed to be glowing balls, but cold and frozen rocks. But the most noticeable error in this movie was when the remaining crew are outside of the Cygnus without spacesuits and climbing up the side of the probe ship to get in. Many would wonder how that’s possible since in the vacuum of space, you would freeze instantly to death and have no air to breathe, take your pick. But neither seems to happen. Now technically, there is a small detail that can do away with some of that error. One could say that they are right outside the ship and the hole they came out of is venting mass amounts of atmosphere that could be shooting right through where they are and they can be getting the air from that. But that doesn’t explain away the temperatures. Even with really hot air inside, the super extreme cold would more than overpower any hot air unleashed into space. And one other thing, as close as they were to the black hole, they should’ve been sucked in at speeds that would tear them into pieces, yet V.I.N.CENT was able to rescue Pizer from being sucked in after losing his grip AND float back to the probe ship. Yet near the beginning of the film when the Palomino is escaping from the black hole’s forces to dock with the Cygnus, V.I.N.CENT is outside having sealed a hatch, but loses HIS grip and has to use a sort of tether to pull himself back. Frankly, I could go on and on about the flaws in this film, but suffice to say it had more errors than on a unibrowed kid’s physics exam.

The last part of the movie is sort of confusing. Here we are with Reinhardt free and floating about with his hair all loose and stuff and encounters Maximilian out there and suddenly, he is “inside” Maximilian and standing at an abyss overlooking what could only be described as hell. And even for a PG rated movie, this scene is creepy to most kids. Even read a feedback article about how a parent let his kid see it and that kid couldn’t sleep peacefully for a whole week after seeing that scene. And that heavenlike corridor with the “angel” flying through it only furthers the mystery behind that scene. And when it ends with the probe ship shooting out of what can only be assumed to be as the other end, the ending falls flat as they approach a planet with a glow behind it.

The Black Hole in spite of its flaws was unique. And the music score really brought out the creepiness as the film progresses. If you haven’t seen it already, I recommend you do, if only once. Some have called it a mild version of the movie Event Horizon. The movie has a pretty fair share of action and drama. Stay tuned next time when I plug The Neverending Story…provided I can find a DVD version of it for rent! lol!

Rating: B