39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
In the late 70s and early 80s, Disney's rather unhelpful corporate motto changed from `What would Walt do?' to 'Star Wars should have been a Disney film.' Unfortunately, rather than embracing pictures that went against the tide, they interpreted it as jumping on the sci-fi bandwagon and spending a then-huge $17m on The Black Hole. The script famously went through years of rewrites (there was no black hole at all in the original drafts) and it's tempting to guess that most of the interesting ideas it may have started with fell by the wayside in the process. Disney's biggest problem was their own hype, pitching their first PG-rated film as a groundbreaking 2001-style adult epic rather than the Flash Gordon Goes 20,000 Leagues Under Space serial style shoot `em up aimed at kids that it really is. Much was made of the finale, so secret that multiple versions were reputedly shot and none of the cast allowed to see the script's last pages, only for the black hole ultimately revealed to be little more than a live-action version of Fantasia's vision of Night on Bald Mountain before throwing our cardboard heroes out the other side in a rushed and underwhelming anticlimax.
The human element isn't exactly well developed, with Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine and Joseph Bottoms playing stock cardboard characters while Maximilian Schell hams it up as the mad scientist and Anthony Perkins goes through his large stockpile of mannerisms and ticks as his star-struck wannabe apprentice in a competition to see who can chew up the most scenery (Max wins by a mile thanks to great egomaniacal dialogue like "It is time de vorld forgot about ids failures und learned about my successes!"). A couple of mildly irritating anthropomorphic robots voiced by the unbilled Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens are thrown in because, y'know, Star Wars had robot sidekicks so they should keep the kids happy.
John Barry's score veers between effective and lazily repetitive, but on the plus side the film does at least throw in plenty of spectacularly silly action en route and Gary Nelson's direction is more than adequate, even pulling off one striking visual coup as a deserted spaceship suddenly springs to light. But the real star and auteur of the film is designer Peter Ellenshaw who gives the film such a magnificent look that you don't mind the absurdities too much (good job too, since this is the kind of film where no-one has difficulty breathing in a vacuum and where fiery meteors roll through the spaceships like a boulder chasing Indiana Jones). The giant spaceship Cygnus is a veritable Crystal Palace of girders, glass and lights while the black hole itself a marvellously unrealistic whirlpool of stars in the far distance. A travesty of science and engineering it may be, but when it looks this good it's a price worth paying. (It's also curious to note that, with its lost revolutionary spacecraft and its mad commander, it's easy to see the plot's unlikely influence on Event Horizon and the I'll-plagiarize-anything Sunshine.) Best watched with the brain on standby mode, but not without its incidental pleasures.
Once again Amazon have lumped together the reviews of three different DVD editions. The UK versions has a decent widescreen transfer but no extras; the long-deleted Anchor Bay release has a good widescreen transfer but is marred by a stereo track that favors only one channel but does include both widescreen and fullscreen versions; while the Disney Region 1 NTSC DVD corrects the soundtrack problem and includes a 16 minute retrospective featurette on the film as well as the trailer.
78 of 87 people found the following review helpful
OK let's get the bad things about the Black Hole out of the way first of all. Some of the dialogue is unbelievably naff. It has an overtly judgemental morality which runs throughout the film from start to finish. Very occasionally the SFX slip, and you see wires holding up robots etc. Some of the scenes are cloying, particularly involving the antics of the overly cute, heroic robots... Also the makers would have done better to remember what effect the vacuum of Space would have on people NOT wearing spacesuits...
Put all that aside though and you are left with a minor sci fi masterpiece. Atmospherically the film is an outright winner - it is just so Gothic, from its sets, robots, and cowled and hooded undead crew. It also boasts one of the very best musical scores by John Barry. Visually it is stunning, Space has seldom looked this good. The blue/black background of space with its dense clusters of stars looks as good as it did on the day that it was released. Unlike Star Wars and its visibly dated mattes, this film has more than withstood the test of time.
The film's visual pinnacle though is the giant space ship Cygnus.
A cross between Brighton Pier and The Eiffel Tower, this Gothic behemoth is like no other. The scene where its lights are switched on suddenly and unexpectedly, is one of awe and beauty.
The exploration of the ship, culminating in the arrival in the control tower is stunning. Ditto the firing up of the ship's Frankenstein Lab like reactors and huge engines for its final journey to the Black Hole. Even in its death throes, this huge vessel retains a sad dignity.
Acting honours go to Maximilian Schell as an intergalactic Captain Nemo. Ernest Borgnine, Anthony Perkins, Yvette Mimeux, and Robert Forster all provide very able support though.
The blood red robot Maximilian (I wonder how that name was arrived at...) is an inspired creation, and has a temperament to match its colour scheme...
The dvd is great, picture and sound are both superb. Playing the film in 5.1 Dolby Digital on your home cinema is something else, especially when your memory of the film in the cinema is in mono. All sound channels are free of distortion and nicely separated. Both Surround channels in particular are superb.
Get this dvd if you can (the Collector's Edition on Region 1 is superb)) and add one of sci fi's most underrated films to your collection.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Disney's trip into outer space may not carry much substance on the page, but it's an ambitious venture that's not without entertainment merits. Plot finds a spaceship crew going forth into a Black Hole and encountering a despot who was long since thought off as dead. The money spent is there on the screen to enjoy in 1979 terms, with the special effects and set designs really making time spent with the movie a solid experience. Unfortunately the writing is lazy, coming off as a collage of sci-fi classics that had previously enthralled the various generations of genre lovers. The cast assembled are reliable sorts - Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine, Yvette Mimieux, Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster - but they are usurped by the fun robots who, whilst once again showing the film to be a lazy rip-off, are good company to be in and offset the confusing attempt by the makers to create a thought provoking family movie! 6/10
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Growing up in the 80’s, I remember hearing about Disney’s The Black Hole, but I know I never saw it. After all, when it was released in December of 1979, I was too young for it, but it was part of pop culture for the decade. I decided to rectify this oversight recently, and that was a mistake.
Our story follows a group of scientists who have stumbled on a black hole. And just outside of the swirling vortex is a space ship just hovering – waiting. When they realize that this ship is the long lost USS Cygnus, they are compelling to investigate. This ship was recalled to Earth 20 years earlier, but no one ever returned and they were never heard from again. Making matters personal, Dr. Kate McCrae's (Yvette Mimieux) father was on board the ship when it vanished.
They board the ship and meet Captain Hans Reinhardt (Maximillian Schell). He is thrilled to see them because he’s just about to try an experiment of actually sailing his ship through the black hole. He thinks he knows how to come out the other side, and can’t wait to see what is over there. Can he do it? Is the crew safe?
As I was watching, I couldn’t help thinking of the classic story 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. As with that one, you’ve got a crew who comes in contact with a mad man. That’s pretty much the case here. In fact, I really felt they just changed the names.
Unfortunately, they didn’t bother creating any characters, either. Everyone is so flat that it’s hard to truly care about the outcome. I’m not blaming the actors since the piece was really too plot focused to spend time on character development. Maybe that’s why the only actor I was familiar with was Anthony Perkins.
Despite the lack of fully developed characters, the story is interesting. I was wondering what had happened to the original crew and concerned enough for the new crew to want them to be safe. Unfortunately, the climax of the film took things off in a weird direction. I think I understand what they were going for, but I’m not sure, which kind of ruined things for me. And I can’t leave out the fact that people are out in space without space suits in the climax, and how they are able to do that is never explained.
The special effects might have been great for their time, but now they are laughable. While the swirling black hole looks great, the area around it is obviously a matte painting. Likewise, some of the shots of the crew with space in the background are obviously married together. Frankly, that didn’t bother me as much as amuse me.
This was a PG rated Disney film, but even knowing that, I found it dark, and I don’t just mean because the movie is set in space. There are a couple of character deaths and one mild swear word I noticed. I wouldn’t recommend this film for anyone under 10.
Although, frankly, I wouldn’t recommend the film at all. The Black Hole was only mildly entertaining at best, and the flaws are enough to give it a pass.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Watching this 1979 SF film was an ordeal and it took me two evenings and some fast forwarding to do it. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.
On its way back to Earth spacecraft USS "Palomino" discovers a black hole in space with a spaceship nearby, somehow defying the hole's massive gravitational pull. The ship is identified as the long-lost USS "Cygnus". The crew of "Palomino" decides to investigate, but when approaching, their own ship is damaged and barely manages to dock to "Cygnus". Once on board, they discover the only survivor of the crew. He is USS "Cygnus" commander, Dr. Hans Reinhardt, a genius - and a mad scientist if ever there was one... And then the film really begins.
I usually like SF movies, even those which objectively speaking are not so good. I have a quite large tolerance to silly scenarios, wooden acting, poor special effects, unwillingly amusing dialogs and clichés by bushels - so, even if this film offers all those attractions in abundance, this is not the reason why I disliked it so much. THE reason is that this thing was impossibly BORING to begin with and then with time aged like you wouldn't believe it! There is hardly even one interesting scene.
The film was supposed to be well budgeted, but no major stars appear in it. Maximilian Schell was well cast as Dr. Reinhardt, because of course the main villain MUST have a German accent to match his scientific title...))) On another hand both Anthony Perkins and Yvette Mimieux were at that time mostly burned out actors (she retired soon after and he already for some time played only in second rate turkeys) and as for Robert Forster and Joseph Bottoms, well, their careers never really took off. On another hand it is always a pleasure to watch the veteran Ernest Borgnine, one of Hollywood's "workoholics extraordinaires" - but his role is secondary.
The final scenes, which were supposed to be something dramatic and profound, were for me just a completely ridiculous and impossible to understand mess - a really sorry cherry on an impossible to swallow cake...
After seeing it by myself I tried to watch this film with my then 11 years old daughter and the conclusion was clear - even if "Black hole" is too silly and childish for adults and teenagers, it is also too dark, grim and scary (there is a rather unpleasant killing robot in it) for children.
For the life of me I cannot understand how anybody could produce such a film after "Alien", "Close encounters of the third kind" and especially "Star Wars" - it was hopelessly outdated from the moment it was made! Now some outdated films can still be enjoyed even today - me for one I actually like this pre-historic "When the worlds collide" 1951 thing - but not when they are THAT BAD.
I understand that some childhood nostalgia can cause indulgence to this film (I myself rated "Neptune adventure" three stars for the same reason) but not having seen it when I was a kid, I am immune to this temptation.
Two stars only for some nice lines said by a funny robot named V.I.N.CENT. Otherwise this film is a waste of time. Avoid it as if it was a deadly space singularity!
on 4 September 2015
For five years the crew of the Palomino has ranged through deep space, searching for evidence of alien life.
With their mission almost at an end, they discover the largest black hole ever encountered. Drifting perilously near it, is the long-lost legendary starship Cygnus.
It's commander who designed the Cygnus and planned its epic voyage still survives, served by a horde of mechanical slaves. But Commander Hans Reinhardt has no desire to be rescued.
He has a rendezvous with the incredible forces of the titular hole, and he plans to take the Palomino crew along on his doomed adventure.
The Black Hole is a film that has to be seen to be believed. Not because of its wonderful story, narrative, or characterisation, it's the blatant ripping off of Star Wars that Disney has seemingly done......and it's a wonderful disaster.
If Perkins had Switched roles with Schell, then it may have been a little bit more darker than it is here, it's odd to see Perkins looking threatening even when he's a seemingly harmless Doctor, and having Schell apologise every five minutes for his red hot robot.
Story wise, the film sucks, and ironically, one of the main plot holes involves that word,so go figure.
But, it's a technical marvel. It's the best Bond theme Barry never did, the effects are pretty cool for the seventies, and there's always the charm of seeing weightlessness depicted with people on wires.
Forster looks permanently embarrassed as the Will Robinson caricature, McDowell is okay as the below par cowboy wannabe R2-D2, and the extras as robots look like something straight out of a Kraftwerk.
It's an oddity movie for sure, not very good, but certainly not boring, and it has one of the most bizarre, psychedelic last shots I've ever seen in a film.
A technical achievement, purely because it's pretty dreamy to watch.
"The Black Hole" came out in a period when science fiction was making a big comeback. "Star Wars: A New Hope" had come out a year or two before, "2001: A Space Odyssey" was already a classic, and the same year brought us "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and the classic "Alien."
And in some ways, "The Black Hole" fits in seamlessly with those other movies -- the sets and matte visuals are absolutely stunning, giving the movie a real sense of epic emptiness, and director Gary Nelson clearly was attempting to create a sense of depth that most live-action Disney movies lack ("Like looking into Dante's Inferno!"). But it also has a hefty dose of cheez, with wise-cracking psychic robots and bloodless disembowelings.
While returning to Earth, the USS Palomino spots a massive black hole with a starship orbiting it. It turns out to the the USS Cygnus, presumed lost twenty years ago -- and of particular interest because Dr. McCrae's (Yvette Mimieux) father was on board, and the legendary Dr. Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) was leading the expedition. Fortunately the Cygnus is in some kind of gravity-nullifying field, so they manage to dock and get on board the massive ship.
Dr. Reinhardt turns out to be very much alive, but reports that the crew is all dead. Yup, all dead... and DEFINITELY not those robots who look just like masked, robed humans. Their resident robot V.I.N.C.E.N.T. (Roddy McDowall) soon discovers that the more typical robots aren't very nice either, but that's probably the least interesting part of the movie.
While wining and dining them, Reinhardt reveals that his plan is to somehow pilot the Cygnus THROUGH the black hole, to parts unknown. Dr. Durant (Anthony Perkins) is dazzled by this and totally wants to join in, but Captain Holland (Robert Forster) and Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine) are not so sure. As they try to repair their ship, they begin to realize the true sinister fate of the Cygnus's crew -- and that Reinhardt may not let them leave alive.
"The Black Hole" is a movie that should be praised for its ambition, if nothing else. This is a valiant attempt to create serious, mood-driven science fiction in the "2001: A Space Odyssey" mold, but not so slow-moving or cerebral that it would alienate children who might be watching. And most of the time, it actually succeeds in this -- the movie glides along slowly, building up a sense of ominous suspense, while also dealing with some pretty horrific topics (and even killing off one of the crew in a pretty gruesome manner).
Nelson achieves a lot of this through the epic emptiness of the Cygnus, a ship whose interiors and exteriors seem to stretch forever, lit but lifeless. The sets have a cathedral-like grandeur, only augmented by the silent starfields that often look into the enormous windows. And almost every room is shrouded in deep shadows, giving the feeling that things are being hidden from sight. The climax is perhaps the most magnificent part, sinking the ship into a hellish red inferno as it crumbles away around the main characters, and bursting into a string of symbolic images in Kubrickian fashion.
So what is wrong with "The Black Hole"? Well, just as a ship can't escape a black hole's gravity... "The Black Hole" can't escape Disney. There's a heavy dose of cheesiness that bogs down the haunting main plot, mostly coming from the nonsensical psychic powers (which robots have... WHY?!) and the cutesy-looking, merchandise-ready comic-relief robots. V.I.N.C.E.N.T. looks like a levitating child's toy, with a personality like that of an abnormally smug C3-PO sans any of the comedy, and he hangs out with a battered model who... speaks with a Texan accent. Not kidding.
And Nelson's direction also provides some... slightly odd performances. For some reason, every character speaks in an oddly affected manner for most of the movie, which is especially noticeable whenever a crisis arises. For instance, when Vincent is nearly sent flying into the black hole, Charlie says, "What the hell are you made of? What if it were one of us out there?" without a speck of organic passion, and gets the equally flat response, "Vincent is one of us."
This is particularly noticeable with Joseph Bottoms and Yvette Mimieux, who are easily the worst actors here, while Robert Forster is just forgettable. Seriously, just try to remember him when the movie is over. Fortunately, the more talented actors manage to wring some real acting from their roles -- Perkins is pretty good as a starry-eyed fanboy for Reinhardt, Borgnine has amiable avuncularity aplenty, and Schell plays his mad scientist role with genuine charm and subtlety.
"The Black Hole" is ALMOST a great movie, with its valiant attempts to be more than just another cheesy space opera... and without the odd acting and the robots, it would have been. As it is, it's good if you fast-forward past the robot drama.
What was Disney's reaction to the Star Wars phenomenon in 1977? The answer: make the Black Hole. The outcome? Not a phenomenon. Sadly. However, the film is actually pretty good, even though it never really set the box office on fire at the time.
It tells of a story of a space ship's crew who discover a giant ship, holding orbit just out of reach of a menacing black hole. When they investigate this `ghost ship' they find it's populated by sinister robots and a mad scientist.
Perhaps one reason it never found its audience was because it is both `ultra cute' and `pretty dark' all at the same time. The good robots are designed to appeal to children (despite never being as annoying as you think they might be), but the overall tone of the piece is pretty foreboding and bleak. I won't give too much away, but it's not a happy-go-lucky affair, plus it has an ending which the younger audiences might not get (I didn't, until I grew up and confirmed it on the internet!).
Also, whereas Star Wars was timeless (showing few signs of being made in the seventies), The Black Hole looks a little like `old science fiction' with the uniforms and robots. Then you have the budget... I couldn't work out whether it had a big budget or a shoestring one. The set for the derelict spaceship is truly awesome, showing vast expanses and giving off a greater sense of space than either the Nostromo (Alien) or even the Death Star (Star Wars). Plus there are a few scenes near the end (i.e. the crashing meteorite) which are truly breathtaking. Maybe they spent all their money on the sets and didn't have enough money left over for stunt men? The bad robots are similar to Star Wars Stormtroopers, yet they are blatantly models - when they're knocked over, you can see there's no one in them and they just topple over stiff as a board. This kind of shows the film up as a lesser budget and is one example of a few which highlight a lack of budget.
I'm not sure how many new fans The Black Hole will pick up nowadays. It's a product of its time. I think young boys (under 10?) will still like the robots and sense of good vs evil, plus people who grew up with it (such as myself) will always regard it fondly. Or, maybe it you're just looking for some nostalgic sci-fi, then this will certainly tick all boxes.
This is a fine film and despite its Disney badge it has a grown up premise. The discovery of a black hole and a long lost spaceship sends the crew of the Palomino towards the USS Cygnus with its insane captain Reinhardt his and crew of faceless automatons. When the crew realise what Reinhardt has been up to they engage in a frantic struggle to leave the Cygnus. The sets are fantastic; the Cygnus sill looks amazing when viewing it today. The film is well paced, the acting is excellent but the script is as sombre as the robot funeral. Despite a bit of shooting and running around, the action isn't in the same league as STAR WARS for instance. The comic relief to be had from BOB is light but effective, as is the tense shootout between STAR and Vincent; personally I could've done with more of that. There's barely a fresh face amongst the human stars either and no real sign of any love interest. The film has many charms though and it's wrapped up in a haunting John Barry musical score.
on 13 October 2015
I remember seeing this as a kid one Christmas Day and decided to revisit it recently. The film isn't brilliant and certainly not in the same class as its obvious big influence of the time, Star Wars, but I still found I enjoyed it and it reminded me of the old Lost In Space TV series. The story is pretty simplistic, a team travelling in space find a crazy genius on the edge of a Black Hole who wants to test his theories and go through the Black Hole, taking them all with him. Highlights of the film are the robots, mainly V.I.N.C.E.N.T, who is pretty humourous and the creepy Maximillian, who doesn't speak but does have this menacing air about him. The ending of the film is strange, but probably no stranger than the endings to more recent Sci fi movies like Contact and Interstellar. Overall taking into account the age of the film, and the fact that it was a film made for families this was an okay movie in it's day, and to any young kid Maximillian was pretty scary.