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The Black Hole Reviews

Page 2 of 31
February 23, 2010
(First and only viewing - 9/18/2010)
May 31, 2014
A truly underrated sci-fi gem. Before 'Event Horizon' there was 'The Black Hole'.
A surprisingly Dark effort from Disney at time. 9/10
May 29, 2014
Nearing the end of a long mission exploring deep space, the spacecraft USS Palomino is returning to Earth. The crew consists of Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster), First Officer Lieutenant Charlie Pizer (Joseph Bottoms), journalist Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine), ESP-sensitive scientist Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux), the expedition's civilian leader Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins) and the robot V.I.N.CENT ("Vital Information Necessary CENTralized") (Roddy McDowall). The Palomino crew discover 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 ship McCrae's father served aboard when it went missing. Deciding to investigate, the Palomino encounters a mysterious null gravity field surrounding the Cygnus. The Palomino becomes damaged when it drifts away from the Cygnus and into the black hole's intense gravity field, but the ship manages to move back to the Cygnus and finds itself able to dock to what initially appears to be an abandoned vessel. The Palomino crew warily boards the Cygnus and soon encounter the ship's commander, Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell), a brilliant scientist. Aided by a crew of faceless, black-robed android drones and his sinister looking robot Maximilian, Reinhardt explains that he has lived all alone on the Cygnus for years. After the ship encountered a meteor field and was disabled, he ordered the human crew to return to Earth, but Kate's father chose to remain aboard and has since died. Reinhardt then reveals that he has spent the past 20 years studying the black hole and intends to fly the Cygnus through it. Only Durant believes it is possible and asks to accompany Reinhardt on the trip. The rest of the Palomino crew grow suspicious of the faceless drones' human-like behaviour: Booth sees a robot limping and Holland witnesses a robot funeral and discovers the Cygnus crew's personal items in the ship's living quarters. Old B.O.B. (BiO-sanitation Battalion), a battered early model robot similar to V.I.N.CENT, explains that the faceless drones are in fact the human crew, who mutinied when Reinhardt refused to return to Earth and had been lobotomized and "reprogrammed" by Reinhardt to serve him. McCrae's father had led the mutiny and was killed. Using telepathy, V.I.N.CENT tells Kate the truth about what happened. Soon enough Reinhardt holds the crew captive, after realising that they can help him reach his goal...

"The Black Hole" was Disney's big Christmas release in 1979. It had a big budget, the first PG rating and big stars in the main roles. At $20 million (plus another $6 million for the advertising budget), it was at the time the most expensive picture ever produced by Disney. The movie earned nearly $36 million at the North American box office, making it the 21st highest grossing film of 1979. However it received mixed reviews from critics. Famed critic Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of 4 upon its release, saying it "takes us all the way to the rim of space only to bog us down in a talky melodrama whipped up out of mad scientists and haunted houses." Meanwhile, The New York Times, Time Magazine and Variety all praised the film. The special effects were generally acclaimed by the press. The film received two Academy Award nominations: One for Best Visual Effects and one for Best Cinematography. Author John Kenneth Muir wrote an extensive review of the film that delved into some of the nuances and metaphysical ideas which marked The Black Hole as more adult-oriented fare than Disney had previously been involved with. At the time of its release, the movie featured the longest computer graphics sequence that had ever appeared in a film: the "green grid" sequence that appears under the opening titles. I remember vividly when this movie came out, I was 7 years old, and excited. But, still too young to see it at the movies, so I bought the comic album instead. And of some reason I haven´t seen the movie until now, over 30 years later. And I did like it. Yes, you have to bare with some dodgy effects that was top notch in 1979, and maybe some editing/direction that not always keep things together. But, the metaphysical ideas and the questioning of something higher and diviner behind the black hole is intriguing. The metaphors of the black hole can be discussed both scientifically and literally. Solid acting from "heavyweights" such as Maximilian Schell, Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Perkins. "The Black Hole" is a mix of a Disney kid adventure and a more adult sci-fi movie, but yet it works. But, the ending had some floaty existential layers that was unexpected I most say. But, all in all "The Black Hole" is an alright sci-fi adventure with layers of my liking.
October 6, 2012
The U.S.S. Cygnus is perched precariously at the edge of a black hole - the vast, empty nothingness where space and time end. Anything that crosses its border enters a universe of the complete unknown. And so begins a story of robots and humanoids. Of human genius and madness. And a spectacular descent into nature's ultimate mystery - The Black Hole.

stars Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine, Maximillian Schell, Yvette Mimieux, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Tom McLoughlin, Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens.

directed by Gary Nelson.
Phil H

Super Reviewer

April 1, 2014
Unluckily for this Disney sci-fi the greatest space set fantasy of all time had been released two years earlier in 77. On top of that 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' also came out in that same year which pretty much hammered the last nail in the coffin for this adventure.

Despite Disney clearly wanting this film to achieve the same level of grandeur that both Lucas and Spielberg managed with their sci-fi films, this venture feels very dated to me. Whilst watching I really couldn't help but feel it was simply '20,000 Leagues Under the Sea' in space. A team of scientists/very intelligent astronauts discover a black hole with a large vessel parked up near by. They board the ship and eventually find a crazed bearded scientist and his legion of self created robots. After much speculation and pleasantries the crew realise the crazy scientist is a genius but wants to fly his ship into the black hole, what seems like a suicide mission.

So the crazed German scientist (Hollywood loves to abuse the Germans) played by Schell could quite easily be 'Captain Nemo'. Living a solitary life on his impressive ship that no one knew what happened to, a genius inventing ways to defy a black holes gravitational pull, building his own robots etc...but also a madman with little respect for human life.

The way the story plans out is very similar too, the crew board the mysterious vessel unsure of what they will find. At first 'Reinhardt' is welcoming and offers them tours around his impressive ship showing his achievements and they all dine together on a lavish main deck overlooking the black hole. But like Nemo as the crew dig deeper and become more suspicious Reinhardt changes and becomes very protective of his plans.

Now the main aspect of this film is clearly the visuals, which for its time were pretty slick, although no where near as good as the other two big sci-fi event films of the era. Using similar techniques of the time such as matte paintings, bluescreen, stop motion and of course models, I felt the effects really swing from one end of the scale to the other. Accounting for the age of the film of course some effects are actually pretty neat, the beginning of the film as the astronauts ship approaches the 'Cygnus', some interiors of the Cygnus are nicely done and haven't dated and the black hole is probably the money shot and it looks it.

Other times, from shot to shot, the film lapses into an eyesore! one minute you will have a good looking sequence or effect, the next it looks bloody awful and no better than some shoddy TV show. The age of the film has affected the quality no doubt with colours running all over the place, light/darkness levels seem to be shot to hell here and there and effects like bluescreen are showing big cracks very clearly.

The same can be said for the characters, a real mixed bag of familiar ideas. The crew are a oddball team led by Robert Forster who always always looks and sounds like he's acting in a shitty low budget 70's flick. Anthony Perkins of 'Psycho' fame is one doctor on the team yet I wouldn't go near him personally because he always looks so moody, like he's gonna kill you. Ernest Borgnine plays the 'Scotty' rip off character and tends to moan a lot, Yvette Mimieux is the second team doctor and the obligatory bit of blonde ass, and then we have the 'R2D2' crew robot rip off voiced by Roddy McDowall. This prop looks terrible it really does, it literately ruins the film and any self respect they were aiming for. It looks childish, its clearly very limited, you can see the wires attached to make him hover and he appears to be useless to the crew anyway. His only useful asset is being able to mentally communicate with the good doctor Yvette Mimieux somehow, no explanation why or how, they just do it so there.

The most exciting part of the film for me was the moment they all go through the black hole, that's pretty much what you spend the whole run time longing for. Its one of those things, even though its an old film you're still really intrigued to find out what will happen and what you will see. In the end it was an odd and rather anti-climatic vision of heaven and hell unfortunately, it made little sense. Once the remaining good guys get through this afterlife-esque passage they reemerge in presumably a new universe and approaching a planet. A bit formulaic I suppose but what else would you expect?.

This film is a bizarre combination of ideas all stuck in the blender. The actual premise about finding a ghost ship near a black hole is cool and clearly influenced a certain Mr W.S. Anderson with his horror flick 'Event Horizon'. There are so many movie elements to this film though, overall it feels like an old Doug McClure movie and I'm sure James Mason could of played Reinhardt perfectly. But then you have elements from Star Wars Star Trek and even a touch from Buck Rogers and Battlestar Galactica when you look at some of the robot concepts. The popularity of Stormtroopers was clearly another concept sneakily pinched but like many of the copied ideas in this film none of them come remotely close to the original source material.

You can see how big the leaps in technology for special effects were by other films of the time, when you see this film. Both Star Wars and Close Encounters visuals crush this film, yet 'The Black Hole' had just under double the budget over George Lucas and was on level pegging with Spielberg. Its a floored film really, a solid plot covered by a patchwork of other ideas that can't top those original ideas. Despite the epic futuristic sci-fi setting its still very old fashioned in nature.
March 30, 2014
very dated now but i remember when it first came out it was a big gamble for disney as they tried to expand into live action pics from just animated pics.
February 20, 2014
I saw this at Sentrum kino (?) in Oslo with my dad in 79 or 80. 8 at the time I assume I didnt understand the ending. I sure didnt now, 35 years later.
January 25, 2014
I love movies that swing for the fences, even if they don't necessarily connect. The Black Hole has creative vision and interesting ideas in spades, but the acting and pacing leave much to be desired. That said, there are some remarkable moments of special effects in this movie that still look good 35 years later.
November 13, 2013
What a buried treasure. On the surface, The Black Hole is hokey and endearing in a B movie way. But its bemusingly slow pacing and drawn out shots and emotionally distant performances lend it a rather surreal, almost hypnotic vibe. And it has an extremely sly sense of humor - intentional or not I can't figure out - that just killed me. "Crew stumbles on a derelict spaceship and mysteries ensue" is one of my favorite sci-fi tropes, and The Black Hole is going on my Favorites Examples Of It list (see also: Arthur C Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama, Satoshi Kon's The Rose, Paul WS Anderson's Event Horizon, that one Firefly episode, Ridley Scott's Alien, Lem's/Tarkovsky's/Soderbergh's Solaris, etc).
Marcus W

Super Reviewer

December 19, 2007
There are some nice effects but ultimately it's all very silly.
October 27, 2013
Not good. Starts off interestingly, then just loses pace and storytelling sense as you start to notice the film tries to copy bits of Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The special effects are decent, but the robots are crappy, and even though there's enough cheesy moments to win your affection, you're more than likely to fall asleep before The Black Hole is over.
Sébastien C.
October 26, 2013
I'm amazed by the number of negative critics on this movie.
The Black Hole is a dark, moody and totally original film, with a strong story and solid acting. It may not have the polish of the early Star Wars saga, but the visuals are still impressive, not only thanks to technical feats, but also to the genuinely creative design of the ships (that scene where the Cygnus illuminates...) and robots. John Barry's soundtrack is also superbly atmospheric. Contrary to a lot of modern all-in-visuals-but-nothing-behind sci-fi space movies, The Black Hole ages very well.
October 17, 2013
Just saw it. It was a good premise squandered. Pass this one.
October 1, 2013
I don't care what anybody else says about this movie, I personally thought it was FANTASTIC!
August 17, 2013
Disney attempts to remake 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in space with actors from the 60s and the cheesiest robots in all cinema science fiction. One of its first PG-rated films, its poorly written script cannot be hidden in the big budget effects. Only for the hard core Disney fan. The Mouse Has Fallen.
August 16, 2013
I just purchased the DVD recently to add to my sci-fi collection. It's a bit of a mixed movie, but the special effects were not too bad for the time. I still like the villainous robot.
July 14, 2013
Not good. Not horrible, but definately not good. Not worth the time to watch it, even for nostalgia reasons.
June 6, 2013
A touch of nostalgia and a very pleasant surprise--Ahead of Its Time!!
May 17, 2013
This film for me is haunting, chilling and beautifully retro. The robots are brilliantly animated and the film does not seem to be just a Star Wars clone. The film reminds me a bit of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea combined with 2001: A Space Odyssey, in essence a very good mix. The scientist is although stereotypically evil has a haunting distressed look and rather interesting view on life and what he will find beyond the black hole which in its final sequence shows some very cryptic but haunting visions of what could happen beyond a black hole. This film should not have been panned like it was and deserves more acclaim than critics give it with decent acting, a haunting pace which quickens when necessary, spectacular special effects and a interesting incite into the inside of the unknown.
April 4, 2012
Today I finished watching Disney's The Black Hole from 1979 maybe for the first time. I was nine years old when it was first released, and I remember hearing about it of course, and I even seem to remember a coloring book around the house with pictures of the robots in it, but I'm not sure if I ever actually watched it before. Certainly, if I did watch the whole thing, it went completely over my head, because I remembered nothing about the plot at all. I heard recently that Disney is working on a remake (or a reboot, or whatever) a la TRON, and I thought I'd give the old version a spin and see how it holds up after all this time. To my money, the original TRON would probably make much more sense to modern cell phone-carrying, laptop-using audiences than it made to audiences back in the early 80s when it was released. I'm not sure The Black Hole has aged as gracefully; I think there are some flaws there that I hope the new production addresses.

The DVD I watched started out with a long orchestral "overture" for no apparent reason. At least it seemed long... I don't think it was actually more than three minutes long, but it was a weird way to start the movie. Presumably in movie theaters the overture was to be played as moviegoers entered; surely they didn't expect people to just sit through a three-minute overture before they even saw the first space ship. That's a direct opposite of George Lucas' fight to be able to start Star Wars right away, with no opening credits at all, to get the audience right in on the action. It's like they were planning ahead: let's bore the audience into complacency right at the beginning, because it can only go uphill from there.

Well, it doesn't... not really. In the first third or so of the film, there are a lot of admittedly beautiful and impressive, but still quite prolonged effects shots of the ships in space. Some of those shots could have been cut 4-5 seconds to keep the pace going a bit. For the most part, though, the effects are a real strong point of this movie... it really does look like they are running around in a huge ship, or space station, or whatever it is. The spaces are huge, and I never mentally questioned the ship itself. But there were any number of effects that did take me out of the story. The laser effects (and the design of the V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. robots) look very "old Disney" (all of the FX work was done in-house, so that explains that). Much too often for comfort, cables are visible holding up human characters in zero-gee or floating robot characters. I spotted some of them myself, and the brief documentary on the DVD pointed out some that I had missed... I'm sure I would have spotted those, too, on multiple viewings. Of course, in those days you couldn't wipe those out with your computer; computer-aided shots on this film (mostly from motion-controlled cameras) were done using computers with less power than your iPhone, and I doubt it had occurred to anyone to even try to wipe out visible cables using a computer. The zero-gee sequences were surprisingly unconvincing, especially considering that in the earlier movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, the weightless sequences look as real as actual footage from space. There's no reason the same degree of suspended belief couldn't have been present here... but instead, those parts play out like an old-fashioned sci-fi B-movie.

And that's not just because of sub-par flying effects; that's because the story itself has some pretty big problems. For one thing, it seems to have trouble deciding whether to be a claustrophobic monster movie in space like Alien, a space-cowboy shoot-em-up like Star Wars, or a cerebral space opera like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Certainly, the incomprehensible ending has a lot in common with the incomprehensible ending of 2001, and I hope for the new version they either come up with something concrete to happen at the end, or if they decide to go all metaphysical on us, at least be metaphysical with a point to make - the last five minutes or so of the film seem to have nothing to say other than that bad guys go to Hell and good guys go to... I don't know, they go through a stained glass window and wind up on the moon or something. I've mentioned the pacing problems in the first half; there also seems to be a romantic attachment of some sort between the captain and the only female crew member, but we never find out why he gets all huggy and kissy later on in the movie when in the first part he treated her just like another crew member. It's not like there is a growing relationship; he just all of a sudden morphs from boss to boyfriend. Most all of the characters come off as sort of wooden; not quite one-dimensional, but not quite all human, either. They're like someone you've met a time or two and liked on first impressions but never really got to know very well; by the end of a movie you're supposed to have a strong visceral attachment to characters. But when, late in the movie, one of the characters is sucked away to certain death in space, it's almost like you feel bad for him, but you know, it's really the captain and his girlfriend that matter anyway so you don't miss him that much.

And how about that vacuum of space? The first time one of the (semi-transparent, pretty unconvincing, and inexplicably flaming) meteors ruptures part of the ship, the air is sucked out into space over the course of oh, I don't know, three or four minutes, and the characters are still breathing the entire time. In reality, this should have been almost instantaneous. Then in the (admittedly visually stunning) "rolling meteor" shot, the air doesn't seem to be being sucked away at all, although clearly the structure has been ruptured. Later, the characters are climbing a tower to an escape ship in total vacuum, but they're not having any trouble breathing at all. Obviously they made it through the part of space where there is no air shortly after that first scene (or else the air from the ship had filled the cosmos: "What do you kids think I'm doing, air-conditioning the entire neighborhood?")

On the positive side, though, if you look at the story itself as a sci-fi story, ignoring the movie translation, it's a story with lots of twists and turns and surprises and action. I think with a better-focused vision (is it Alien, is it Star Wars, is it 2001, or maybe Moby Dick in Space or something totally different?), some good screenwriters who know where and whether to include romance, humor, suspense, or even gore (how did Maximillian manage to drill someone to death with his spinning claws without spilling a single drop of blood?), someone to keep an eye on the science (such as whether people can breathe in a vacuum), and an ending which makes some sort of sense (in the DVD documentary, the son of the effects supervisor even admitted that although it looks really cool, even he has no idea what it means), a remake can improve greatly on the original. In fact, I look forward to it. A story with that much potential deserves a movie that is more than just a special effects bonanza.
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