Reel Reviews

Film Reviews by a Real Person, Not a Critic

The Black Hole

Title: The Black Hole
Year: 1979
Director: Gary Nelson
Starring Cast: Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, Ernest Borgnine; voices by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens
Rated: PG

Reel Reviews Rating:

The Black Hole was apparently Disney’s pathetic attempt to cash in on the Star Wars phenomenon. However, it comes nowhere near the quality of Lucas’s magnum opus.

The wallpaper the DVD has for the menu selection screen is cheesily hilarious, but does give away something important that happens to a main character. I hate spoilers on the menu screen. Shame shame, Disney!

The movie starts with a- get this! A two and a half minute “overture”, which consisted of the crappy main theme playing, and nothing was on the screen but the movie’s title on black background. Yes, I know that the soundtrack was composed by John Barry, who did the Dances With Wolves soundtrack, and all I have to say is that old John sure learned a whole lot over the last 30 years.

Anyway, I yelled, “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS???”, and my boyfriend replied that this was probably for the benefit of people entering the theater a little late, still finding their seats. Ok, *maybe* I can deal with that, but it surely has no place for a DVD version of the movie. Needless to say, we fast forwarded to the real beginning.

Space, the final frontier- oops, wait, wrong movie. Anyway, we see the USS Palomino speeding along the dark void of space. Inside the ship we are introduced to its crew: Captain Dan (a bland Forster), his cheeky first officer Charlie (an irritating Bottoms, pun intended ;)), Dr. Durant (an out of place Perkins), journalist(!) Harry (a bad acting Borgnine), and Kate (a boring Mimieux). Last but not least is the charmless V.I.N.CENT (voiced by McDowall), a robot that seriously pales in comparison to R2D2, obviously thrown in the movie for comic relief for the kids.

The crew discovers a ship called USS Cygnus sitting on the event horizon of a nearby black hole. The crew is shocked to find this ship since went missing 20 years ago, and decide to investigate.

As you can see so far, this seems like the plot of nearly every Star Trek episode ever created, but instead of a random planet, they’re checking out a ship.

Inside the Cygnus they meet its lone survivor, the brilliant scientist Dr. Reinhardt (Schnell, possibly the only person in the whole cast who can act), and his pet monster robot Maximillian. Of course, as every Star Trek episode has taught us, any “brilliant scientist” who’s been out of touch with civilization for 20 years is bound to be crazy as a loon and should be watched carefully.

The plot itself leaves much to be desired. Yes, I know that a certain suspension of belief is necessary in science fiction movies. Fine, I’ll accept that a ship can sit on the event horizon of a black hole and not get sucked in and torn apart six ways from Sunday. However, this movie bends the laws of physics inconsistently. For example, when we first see the Palomino crew, the actors simulate lack of gravity in the ship by floating around. Fair enough. Yet in a later scene, the crew is walking OUTSIDE the Cygnus WITHOUT any protective suits or breathing apparatus for about 10 minutes. Come on man! They wouldn’t have been able to last for 30 seconds, let alone 10 minutes!

As for the actors: They pretty much sucked eggs. Borgnine was especially painful to watch as he overacted in every scene. Yes, we know that you’re worried. You don’t have to bug your eyes out like that. Now keep your voice down. Forester was boring as Captain Dan, and not once was he believable as an authority figure. Jean-Luc Picard you ain’t, pal. Hell, I didn’t even realize he was the captain until 20 minutes into the movie. Bottoms was irritating as hell. It was obvious that the only reason he was in this movie is to have a hunky young guy for wannabe Mouseketeers to swoon over. Mimieux was another useless character. At first I thought she was the ship’s doctor, until we find out that she uses ESP to communicate with V.I.N.CENT when he’s separated from them.

What’s even stupider is that the robot also has ESP.

What. The. Fuck?

Speaking of V.I.N.CENT…as I mentioned before, a charmless character. Roddy McDowall’s crisp British accent didn’t help give this robot any personality. In fact, he was irritating, as he’d spew stupid philosophical phrases at inopportune moments. Strangely, I thought that Old B.O.B (voiced by Pickens), V.I.N.CENT’s beat up, older counterpart, was pretty cool. I dunno. I kind of liked his crumpled, beat-up look.

As I mentioned, Disney created this movie as an answer to Star Wars: A New Hope. It’s really sad how they copied parts of it. For example, the scene in which the Palomino is flying under the massive Cygnus is a direct rip off of the opening scene in ANH when the camera going under the Star Destroyer, indicating its enormous size. And I swear to God, the bad robot soldiers have Darth Vader masks. Seriously. However, The Black Hole does have some plot elements to call its own, such as a robot shooting gallery in which the robots practice their mad skillz.

Another shitty aspect of this movie were the horrible special effects and costumes. For example, the strings on the actors’ harnesses (when they simulate weightlessness) are clearly visible! Also, for a “metal” robot, V.I.N.CENT sure looks a whole lot like he’s made of plastic! Oh, and by the way, when someone hits something, the sound isn’t supposed to come a half second AFTER the action. It’s supposed to occur AT THE SAME TIME!

Although this was a PG movie by Disney with cute robots, there are some dark elements to it. Dr. Reinhardt is creepy in a realistic sort of way rather than in a cartoony manner, with his crazy hair, wild eyes, and calm demeanor. There is also a gruesome (at least, in relation to the rest of the movie) death scene, and the end is almost as bizarre as the ending from 2001: A Space Odyseey.

Some of you may think that I’m being too harsh. After all, this was made in 1979. It can’t compare to movies of today. But I’m not comparing it to movies of today. I’m comparing this movie with Star Wars: A New Hope, which came out FOUR years prior, and is immensely superior in so many ways. I just kept thinking to myself, “My God, this was a DISNEY film?!?!?!”

I give The Black Hole 1 reel, namely because I liked Old B.O.B.

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February 17, 2006 - Posted by | Action, B movies, Sci-Fi


  1. […] Watership Down is another film that my boyfriend Netflixed because he saw this movie as a kid and wanted to see again. Wary of past childhood movies that he Netflixed and forced me to watch (e.g., Death Race 2000 and The Black Hole), I watched Watership Down with some trepidation. As it turned out, I didn’t have anything to worry after all. […]

    Pingback by Reel Reviews » Blog Archive » Watership Down | February 24, 2006 | Reply

  2. […] Watership Down is another film that my boyfriend Netflixed because he saw this movie as a kid and wanted to see again. Wary of past childhood movies that he Netflixed and forced me to watch (e.g., Death Race 2000 and The Black Hole), I watched Watership Down with some trepidation. As it turned out, I didn’t have anything to worry after all. […]

    Pingback by No Face for Film » Watership Down | March 21, 2006 | Reply

  3. Gee, I don’t care for anyone to visit my Web site, but “Star Wars” came out only two years before this one, not four. According to Wikipedia (take that for what it’s worth), “The Black Hole” was in planned back as far as 1975.

    Comment by Elian Gonzalez | October 27, 2007 | Reply

  4. This – at the time – most expensive Disney Movie is just simply a brilliant piece of Art.
    Do you have any idea how difficult it is to produce a movie that is as thrilling to kids as to grown ups?
    It is probably John Barry’s, OST composer, most important work that influences film music & artists until this very day.
    The cast is priceless.
    The special effects are well done considering the small film crew and the technical limitations of the time.
    To compare this movie to Star Wars is narrow minded and totally senseless – but what do you expect from a senseless revies like the one above?
    Do not expect anything from a movie.
    watch it and think about what it ‘creates’ in you.
    You will not be disappointed.

    Comment by Martin | March 12, 2008 | Reply

  5. I’m always amazed by people who comment on posts that were written TWO YEARS ago. You’re a little late in chiming in there, buddy.

    Comment by Kaonashi | March 13, 2008 | Reply

  6. Its funny that this was reviewed just after TEAM AMERICA, because unless I am mistaken, the character Sarah, the psychic, on TEAM AMERICA, was based upon Yvette Mimiuex’s character in the Black Hole. Funny.

    Comment by Cian Smith | December 21, 2008 | Reply

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