The Black Hole (1979): Movie Review: Wanting so Badly to be “Star Wars”

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: when the repetitive score kicks into gear

Take a Drink: for overly cutesy robot moments

Do a Shot: for tonal shifting

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Five Beers) –

A crew of a spaceship researching a nearby black hole encounters a seeming abandoned ship long thought to be lost. The crew investigates the derelict ship and soon finds that it is populated, but almost exclusively by robots.  The commander of the ship, however, is the human Dr. Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) who tells the crew of his mission to cross through the Black Hole.

Interstellar
But with 50% less crying McConaughey

A Toast

The Black Hole was released shortly after the Star Wars craze had kicked into high gear, and anticipation of the upcoming sequel was at a fever pitch.  Disney live action films at the time were quick to jump onto popular trends to make a buck or two. The budget for this film was significantly higher than recent Disney films had been, hoping that the film would break out and be the next big thing in sci-fi fantasy. (Spoiler alert: It did not). Still, despite being a cash-in, the easy highlight of the film is Maximilian Schell’s Dr. Reinhardt.  He’s a classic mad scientist character, as he pushes the campy-button in the best of ways.

Does my crazy person beard make you nervous?
Does my crazy person beard make you nervous?

Beer Two

While the ship model work holds up very well, the other special effects feel hopelessly out of date when compared to the Star Wars films it is attempting to take influence from.  Blue-screen and rear-screen projection effects are overused, and more humorous than anything else.  Whereas in Star Wars the robot characters felt and moved believably, the robots in The Black Hole all move like humans in uncomfortable costumes.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that Anthony Daniels as C3PO was a mime by trade, and was therefore more at home with physical performances?

RobotsHole
A Mime… is a terrible thing to waste

The film’s lead robot character “V.I.N.CENT” can be fun as a character, but mostly because he is voiced with aplomb by Roddy McDowall.  The design of the V.I.N.CENT robot itself is clearly meant to ape the success of R2D2 from Star Wars, but giving it big, extra cute eyes.  This is compounded even more when an earlier model of the V.I.N.CENT robot is introduced, “B.O.B”, which is even more cartoonish.

Bob

Beer Three

With the exception of Maximilian Schell, the principal cast is absolutely wasted in this film.  Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, and Ernest Borgnine are there to read their lines and that’s… pretty much it. A film like this, set entirely in claustrophobic space ship settings, demands unique personalities.  Perkins and Borgnine were particularly known for this trait, but you could replace the dialogue of any of the characters and it wouldn’t make a difference.

Beer Four

For a movie meant to capitalize on Star Wars, this film moves along at a depressingly slow pace.  The first 20 or so minutes is mostly dialogue; even while exciting things are happening, the filmmakers decided that listening to exposition would be more interesting than seeing special effects. And with the budget this movie had for the time, the excuse of “it would have been too expensive” just does not apply.

Beer Five

The climactic finale of the film brings back imagery familiar to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: a Space Odyssey. This represents a major shift in tone, considering the rest of the movie deals with its material in a more campy way.  Imagine if 2001 ended with this:

Wouldn’t make a lot of sense, would it?

Verdict

The Black Hole should satisfy fans of B-Science Fiction films, but those going hoping for adventure and excitement along the lines of Star Wars would do well to avoid this lumbering mess of a Space Opera.

5Beers1

About Oberst von Berauscht

Oberst Von Berauscht once retained the services of a Gypsy to imbue in him the ability to accurately describe the artistic qualities of a film up to seven decimal points. To maintain this unique skill, he must feast on the blood of a virgin every Harvest Moon, or failing that (and he usually does), he can also make a dog do that thing they do where they twist their heads slightly (you know, when they're confused about something) at least a few times a week. I've gotten way off track here... The point is, Oberst is one of the website's founders, so... yeah

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