The Black Hole (1979)

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The Black Hole (1979)

Post  BoG on Sat Mar 06, 2010 10:29 pm

An adventure film in outer space, where it begins and ends - we never see Earth in this film. The plot concerns a small crew on a spaceship which is returning to Earth, but they get sidetracked by the sudden detection of a black hole, as well as a huge ship which is 'stationed' near this cosmic devourer of deep space, a "Mexican Standoff" as so described later. One of the crew, a journalist (Borgnine), prepares the audience with some brief mention of Dr. Reinhardt (Schell), who we meet soon on this mysterious ship, which is otherwise populated by a variety of robots.  THE BLACK HOLE was a big Sci-Fi picture of the seventies and it had the same problems as a few other big sci-fi films of the time, such as the 1st Star Trek film, also 1979, and Saturn 3 (1980). The ingredients are all there, mostly bought with lots of money, but the final product ends up as less than the sum of its parts.

Picture this: you get the best actors of the time, some even classy actors, such as Schell and Perkins; you plug in state-of-the-art special FX of the time; you work these into a sweeping sci-fi story; you have a fine music score, by John Barry. You even have a menacing killer robot. And, the final results? Mediocre. As in the couple of other big sci-fi films I mentioned, the filmmakers had all these great ingredients and just didn't really know how to put them all together to great effect. Much of the film has a very humdrum tone to it, lacking a needed energy to move the concepts along.
With all that said, this does have its positives.  I liked a lot of this when I was much younger and saw it in a theater. This was from the Disney Co. and a lot of this just transplants 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954) into the far reaches of outer space, though this one is much more limited, confined to that one spot near the Black Hole for most of the film. I didn't really care back then that the visualization of the black hole was far too literal, like some whirlpool in space. As an aside, I didn't like the visualization of space in the opening shots; it looked too much like a static 2-dimensional wall, as opposed to 3-dimensional space. Hell, the space shots on the Star Trek TV show looked better to me.
But, speaking of hell, there were, spoken outloud, continual analogies made between this ultimate force of universal nature and the concept of hell, Dante's inferno. In the end, the connection between the two concepts was made literal. Since I first saw this film, my personal theory on what happens at the conclusion hasn't really changed: I figured that the nature of the Black Hole was so strange, in terms of other dimensions, that when Schell's character died, the Black Hole's energies merged him with the robot as he descended into the after-life. Weird, huh?

The one who steals much of the film is Max, the dangerous reddish-black robot whom everyone fears, even the mad character played by Schell, an outer space version of Captain Nemo, yet a bit more addled. The robot-thing is a great visualization and very menacing-looking, very streamlined and slick. Schell & Perkins are great actors, of course, and Borgnine is Borgnine, but the other three leads come across as very bland, kind of cardboard. In fact, the more entertaining scenes involve the competition and tension between the two main robots - the nice VINCENT and the mean MAX. Roddy McDowall voices the comical little robot, coming across as more lifelike than some of the humans, with another older robot voiced by Slim Pickens. BoG's Score: 6.5 out of 10

Trivia From the Hole:
Wikipedia wrote:Reception
At $20 million (plus another $6 million for the advertising budget), it was at the time the most expensive picture ever produced by the company. The movie earned nearly $36 million at the North American box office, making it the 21st highest-grossing film of 1979.
_____ However, both Star Trek the Motion Picture and Alien earned over $80 million at the box office that year.
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