The Black Hole

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Rating: PG

Starring:
Maximilian Schell as Dr. Hans Reinhardt
Anthony Perkins as Dr. Alex Durant
Robert Forster as Capt. Dan Holland
Joseph Bottoms as Lt. Charles Pizer
Yvette Mimieux as Dr. Kate McCrae
Ernest Borgnine as Harry Booth
Tommy McLoughlin as Captain S.T.A.R. (Special Troops Arms Regiment)
Roddy McDowall as V.I.N.CENT. (Vital Information Necessary CENTralized) (voice)
Slim Pickens as Bob (voice)

Special Features:
“Through The Black Hole” Featurette

Extended Trailer

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16×9 Televisions
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language Track
French Subtitles
Running Time: 98 Minutes

Synopsis:
This film was originally released in 1979 by Walt Disney.

Traveling through space, a group of explorers comes across one of the largest black holes discovered in the known universe. There, perched precariously on the edge of the hole, is the U.S.S. Cygnus. Seemingly abandoned, the scientists soon discover that the ship is manned by one surviving individual – Dr. Hans Reinhardt. The renowned scientist resides alone on the ship with a vast array of robots. The crew has mysteriously disappeared. Reinhardt also has a bold plan. He plans to travel through and beyond the black hole. But is he a genius or a madman? And what will he do with the explorers when they discover the dark secret of the Cygnus?

The Black Hole is rated PG.

The Movie:
I remember going to see The Black Hole in the theater way back in 1979. As a young kid, I went in expecting another Star Wars. While The Black Hole did deliver that in some respects, it was more akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek than space opera. The final product is a mixed bag of great sci-fi and 70′s cheese.

One of the most remarkable things about The Black Hole was the effects. The Cygnus was a beautiful yet spooky derelict ship. The shots of the Black Hole still look impressive today. Their vision of space was also unique. Rather than a black background with white dots, you had a bright and impressive array of stars that put the ships in an eerie silhouette. One of the most memorable effects from the film was the scene where a flaming asteroid crashes in the ship and rolls through it. Our heroes’ narrow escape is reminiscent of the ball chase in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, a film that would come a little later. Some of the robot designs were also impressive. The red Maximilian robot was the most noteworthy. That thing gave me nightmares as a kid and it’s still intimidating today.

The cast was also an impressive display of talent. You had Maximilian Schell as Dr. Hans Reinhardt. He was great as a Nemo-like mad scientist that was equally friendly and scary. You had the Psycho himself Anthony Perkins as Dr. Alex Durant. Robert Forster also made a great captain while Joseph Bottoms was good comic relief as Lt. Charles Pizer. Yvette Mimieux and Ernest Borgnine rounded out the memorable cast. Meanwhile you had Roddy McDowall voicing V.I.N.CENT. along with the recognizable voice of Slim Pickens as Bob. While the robots seemed like ripoffs of R2-D2, they did entertain the kiddies in the audience.

The music in the film was also memorable. How can you forget the creepy music for the Black Hole? Written by John Barry, I still remember it to this day.

I did mention that this was a mixed bag, so there are some drawbacks to The Black Hole. First of all, not all of the effects were great. Wires making V.I.N.CENT. float were occasionally very much visible. The sound effects for the lasers sounded like bad sci-fi effects after Star Wars. Some of the animated laser blasts also look very animated, too.

Though many of the poor effects were forgivable, the story was another matter. Though it has a great setup and an intriguing plot, it falters towards the end and occasionally has long, boring stretches. The final ending is also very weird and a real head scratcher. The result is a good idea that only partially succeeds in pleasing audiences.

The Extras:
There are only two extras included on this DVD:

“Through The Black Hole” Featurette – This is a 16 minute or so “making of” feature. It has a bit of behind the scenes footage and a lot of production photos. It mainly features interviews with the son of Peter Ellenshaw, production designer on the film. While I would have liked to have heard from some of the actors, Ellenshaw does have some interesting things to say. He talks about how they pulled off some of the effects, how they didn’t have an ending for the film until the last minute, and more. In fact, he reveals an alternate ending to the story (which was apparently shot, but not included here). If you liked The Black Hole, it’s a good interview, but I would have liked to have seen more.

Extended Trailer – This is a long trailer that really seems to show most of the film. It’s about 3 minutes long.

The Bottom Line:
If you’ve never seen The Black Hole, it’s probably worth checking out, especially if you’re a sci-fi fan. It was a landmark for the Walt Disney Studios and a unique movie to follow the Star Wars hype.

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