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The Curator of Schlock #310 by Jeff Shuster

The Black Hole

It’s not the worst thing ever made. 

Have I ever covered a Disney movie on this blog? I don’t remember. I know I’ve screamed about TRON enough times, but didn’t review that one. I’ve toyed with the idea of writing about the loathsome animated Robin Hood, but I can’t bring myself to watch it again. I know there are some of you out who do love that movie. Try watching it when you’re not hopped up on goofballs. Anyway, I needed another science fiction spectacular from the age that followed the release of the original Star Wars so get ready for Disney’s The Black Hole.

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1979’s The Black Hole from director Gary Nelson is not a Star Wars rip off. In fact, I suspect this movie would have reached the silver screen regardless of Star Wars. What we get with this production is a kind of Irwin Allen disaster movie meets 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. The movie begins with a sumptuous score from the great John Barry, so at least our ears are in for a treat. And then we lay eyes on the majestic, yet foreboding black hole, a decent special effect considering the production team couldn’t get Industrial Light & Magic to lend a hand.

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And the movie features a great cast of 70s motion picture regulars. We have the crew of the USS Palomino, a spacefaring vessel made up of Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster), Lieutenant Charlie Pizer (Joseph Bottoms), Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins), journalist Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine), Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux), and a robot named Vincent (voiced by Roddy McDowell). They go investigate the USS Cygnus, which had gone missing twenty years earlier. Somehow they ship emits a gravity field that prevents it from getting sucked into the black hole. Don’t ask me how this done. I read that Neil deGrasse Tyson was not too impressed with the science on display in this motion picture.

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The crew of the Palomino boards the Cygnus and is greeted by a scary looking robot named Maximillian, this hulking red giant with a glowing red eye and propellers for hands. Unpleasant robots run the whole ship from robed, silver faced drones to bug-faced soldiers. This is not a good place to be, but the crew needs to repair their ship before they can take off again. The solitary human being on the Cygnus crew is the ship’s captain, Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximillian Schell). I get a real Captain Nemo vibe off of this guy. He’s a mad genius who wants to fly the Cygnus through the black hole and see what’s on the other side.

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Captain Holland asks Dr. Schell what happened to the crew, and he says they left the ship a long time ago. Dr. Schell prefers his robots to people anyway. Dr. Durant admires the genius of Dr. Schell, but the rest of the Palomino crew doesn’t trust him. There are some shocking surprises in store, but I’ll let you experience them on your own. The Black Hole is not a perfect movie, but I was awfully impressed by the set design. The Cygnus is a cathedral of death in the middle of space and might be the creepiest spaceship I’ve ever seen. In fact, The Black Hole might be the closest thing to horror movie Disney has ever produced.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.