Alan Smithee

Oldie But Goodie – The Black Hole

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Welcome to the inaugural helping of WPR’s newest feature article, Oldie But Goodie! My intent here is to share great things that came into existence before I ever did. Seeing how I was born in the first month of 1980, that leaves me the entirety of iniquity to 1979 to discuss things that you too should love.

This week, I’ve decided to go with the Disney’s classic The Black Hole, a movie that I love and hate relationship with mainly for the scar it left on my childhood. I’ll get to that in a minute, first up…why you should care about this movie.

The film was created by Disney in the late 70s, while everyone was hoping to cash in on the Star Wars sci-fi craze that spawned some of the most amazingly bad films WPR and other 30+ year olds can remember (*cough*ZARDOZ*cough*). It was the second movie in Disney repertoire to gain a PG rating due to harsh language, religious overtones, death, and other adult goodies, and was the first movie to ever have it’s score recorded digitally.

The basic plot of the story is that the crew of the Palomino happens upon a ship called Cygnus strangely seated upon the event horizon of a black hole. Upon investigation, the crew’s ship is damaged and is forced to land on the ship. They discover that the crew from the Cygnus is missing and the only human to remain aboard is Doctor Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) who has pioneered the null gravity field that has allowed the gigantic ship to remain safe from the tidal forces of the yearning singularity below them. But the question remains…what happened to the crew?

I’ve seen this movie in various stages of life, first starting when I was a mere child and had no understanding or patience for much of the great writing that this movie has. All I cared about was lasers, special effects, computer generated graphics, and robots. There were numerous scenes in this flick that caused me some turmoil as a youngin’, especially the lobotomy scene and the movie’s ending…which I have to admit as an adult is still quite strange.

We’re talking as obscure as 2001’s ending, but not done as well, because I can at least understand the ending of 2001 quite well. I don’ want to ruin it for you but I’ve included the video next to this paragraph in case you really want to see what a mindf*ck this movies ending was.

A neat bit of trivia for the movie is that the voices of the robots V.I.N.CENT and B.O.B. were done by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens respectively…and both went uncredited. The craziest bit is that in the year 21XX ESP is a real thing, and even robots have it as we see in the film.

So beyond the plot, ending, and horrific scenes that scarred me, I found this film to be completely enjoyable and is highly recommended by me for the ‘twist’ that is discovered half way through the film and for the entire atmosphere of the Cygnus itself. There are some breathtaking interior shots of the ship that make you wish that CG wasn’t quite so heavily used anymore, as Disney had to create model shooting cameras much like the ones that ILM used in the Star Wars franchise.

There has been rumor about Joseph Kosinsky being open to the possibility of making a new version of this film, much like how he did with Tron: Legacy. I welcome this notion as I believe The Black Hole to be one of the most defining movies for Disney in the seventies. Considering we’re in a slump when it comes to ‘thinky’ sci-fi, a movie like this is definitely needed.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the 70s were the golden age of science fiction, but it was a great time for film making in general as we were introduced to directors who wanted to shake up the industry by implementing various new techniques and by challenging their audiences to actually have to think for parts of the movie. It’s just sad that we’re barraged by mindless sequels instead of actual new IPs. Where did all the creativity go?

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