I caught a minute of this flick somewhere toward the end. I’d never heard of it before but upon seeing Yvette Mimieux in futuristic space garb, I knew I had to find it and watch it from the beginning. Everyone aboard the Spaceship Bandwagon!
Walt Disney productions (say what?) offers us The Black Hole, a space adventure movie hitching a ride on the coattails of Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. The opening four minutes of black screen and orchestra music is one of those things that makes me go, ‘hmmm’, but perhaps it was to build dramatic tension. Let’s just go with that, okay?
The spaceship Palomino is on a journey through space to find alien life and also perhaps all the other ships that went missing in the same pursuit. While encountering the massive gravitational effects of a black hole, the robot butler, V.I.N.CENT, waxes philosophic about the awesome space phenomenon wreaking havoc on the Palomino’s guidance system.
At the same time, the crew comes across the ship, Cygnus. It went missing 20 years ago after refusing to return to Earth after a failed alien finding mission. Dr. Kate McCrae’s father was on board the Cygnus when it disappeared. Considering the Cygnus is defying the BH’s gravity, it’s possible the crew there is still alive, even though it looks derelict and abandoned.
Suddenly it bursts to life and the crew of the Palomino board her (Captain Dan, First Officer Charles, Kate, Dr. Alex, and Harry Booth – not sure why a journalist is on a deep space mission but whatever). Though they are greeted by California’s finest and most menacing pop and lockers in red robot outfits, and a giant red Cylon-wannabe named Maximilian, they are not harmed.
Enter Dr. Reinhardt, the original captain and rebel who refused orders to return. The short story is this: a mass of meteorites disabled the ship. After ordering the crew to return to earth, Reinhardt stayed aboard and built the robots, including the ones running all other systems of the ship, as well as an antigravity generator. Kate’s dad chose to stick with Reinhardt and died a short while later.
Though Reinhardt comes off as intelligent, dedicated, and a bit charming, we quickly learn he is much more than that. The cheese has slid off his cracker, you feel me? The light’s on but no one is home, get it? He’s batshit crazy! He wants to fly the Cygnus INTO the black hole and prove his theories that there are other worlds, other dimensions beyond the swirling blackness.
And that ain’t the only reason he’s a nutjob but I won’t spoil it for you.
After lots of inter-dimensional science talk, plot twists, robot on robot violence and posturing (seriously, I thought V.I.N.CENT and Maximilian were going to whip out their robot dicks and start measuring at one point), and gratuitous use of psychedelic special effects that were NO DOUBT inspired by some serious pill popping and bong smoking, we get a happy ending with just a few casualties and a lot of fucking symbolism.
Okay. Let’s talk about the bad first. The plot twists and ‘surprises’ were obvious, even to a gullible doofus like me. It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on, what true evil was lurking in every corner, and how it was all going to shake out in the wash. The characters were pretty cliche. I know it was 1979 but all of them had that ‘less than fresh’ feeling.
The ‘good’ robots were ridiculous. V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B looked like a poor man’s R2D2. Slim Pickens voicing B.O.B. was over-the-top sap because he was the broken down neglected twin of Vinny, voiced by Roddy McDowel. Talk about high class snobbery vs. the rube from Hicksville. *eye roll*
The handful of laser gun fights between the crew and the ‘bad’ robots seemed to last forever. It felt like a lot of filler and these robots were total rip offs of Storm Troopers. They couldn’t hit their targets, either, except when the drama needed a little goose. And don’t get me started on how these people were able to board the Cygnus FROM OUTSIDE or when the hull was breeched and they weren’t all sucked out in 2.4 seconds and frozen to death .08 seconds after that. It’s not like leaving a window open in your car in the middle of December. Even in 1979 they should have known that was lazy writing.
And now for some of the good. I did like that Kate McCrae could use ESP with V.I.N.CENT. It did make things easier, and maybe a bit convenient, for our crew when they needed to be clandestine with their communications. Personally I would LOVE to be able to converse with Data from STNG that way. And one thing the writers got right was a correct reference to Frankenstein’s monster when talking about Maximillian. Hooray!
The zero-gravity f/x looked seamless. I mean we all know they’re strung up in harnesses and wires but you could only see them once or twice. The acting is fantastic as there are numerous Hollywood powerhouses in this (Ernest Borgnine, Robert Forster, Anthony Perkins, Maximilian Schell). And even though I figured out one of the twists, it didn’t make it any less disturbing when it was revealed.
Basically this whole movie feels like Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and Krull all had a drunken one night stand and The Black Hole (oooh, dirty) was the result. Not a perfect film by any means but entertaining enough to suck me in (see what I did there?) and witness what comes out the other side.
2.5 Hatchets (out of 5)