Disney's foray into big-budget science fiction, close on the heels of Star Wars, had some of the most impressive special effects to grace theater screens in the 1970s. Graced by handsome production design--most notably ... more »a glass and latticework interstellar craft that looks like a battleship crossed with a modern skyscraper--The Black Hole is in many ways the most beautiful science fiction film of its era. Unfortunately, the graceful and gorgeous picture is jarred by dialogue that wouldn't pass muster in a comic book and a silly conclusion that plays like a murky, dime-store knockoff of 2001. Too bad, because the visual realization of the film is a veritable haunted house of futuristic phenomena, from the cloaked zombie-like drones shuffling through corridors to the devilish, crimson robot Maximillian, the strong arm of the mad scientist played by Maximilian Schell (a kind of wild man Captain Nemo with an even more ruthless temperament). Only the way-too-cute robot V.I.N.CENT (voiced by Roddy McDowall), a merchandising gimmick that looks like a Fisher-Price toy, mars the technological landscape. Robert Forster is the quietly authoritative captain of an exploration ship that stumbles across the seemingly derelict ship, and Anthony Perkins, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, and Joseph Bottoms fill out his crew. This is one case of a triumph of art direction and special effects over story--it's worth sitting through it to see the magnificent scene of the fireball rolling through the ship's enormous hull alone. The rest is just atmospheric gravy. --Sean Axmaker« less
"People would kill me if they read what I'm writing about "The Black Hole". However that's the way I feel about it. This movie was a flop at the box office and most critics weren't so gentle with it. But I really enjoyed this campy sci-fi flick from the Walt Disney Studios for many reasons:
1. I was overwhelmed by the teaser trailer (too bad it's not included on this DVD) where the green grid is moving all over the screen, ending with the Black Hole logo swifting and twisting in black. Awesome!!
2. The black and yellow logo in some of the posters, the one shown on the DVD case.
3. The U.S.S. Cygnus. WOW!!! What a beautiful ship.
4. The robots. Maximillian truly looks menacing. And V.I.N.CENT and Old B.O.B.; the cutest robots since "Star Wars"'s R2-D2.
5. The cast of outstanding performers: Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, and Roddy McDowell as the voice of V.I.N.CENT.
6. John Barry's majestic score.
7. The final scene, inside the black hole. Those images. Those visual effects. John Barry's music.This movie might have had some flaws at describing a space version of "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea", but this is my most cherished guilty pleasure of all time."
A SFX classic that needs a proper DVD treatment
Jayson A. Olson | Rancho Santa Margarita, CA | 08/12/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"After the success of Star Wars and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, many studios were clamoring for movies that dealt with this re-energized genre of space operas. With many live action classic romps under its belt including 20,000 Under The Sea, who better than Disney to bring a great tale to a family audience.Enter 'The Black Hole', Disney's 1979 entrance to Sci-Fi. I remember watching this as a boy when it hit the theatre and was excited to get the DVD, mostly for nostalgia reasons, and re-living what I consider a great 'story'. But after watching this DVD I had mixed emotions.On the pro side, I was thrilled to take part in viewing this once again, and was reminded why The Black Hole stuck with me all these years, even after other more popular and big-budgeted action space action thrillers came and went (ex: Krull, Battle Beyond the Stars)...it was the story. Sure there was some flat dialogue, and some plot struggles, but overall it was a pure space fantasy movie. A small group of explorers and their sidekick robot, Vincent (Disney's hybrid version of R2-D2 and C-3PO), are on an exploratory mission of uncharted space when they discover a black hole. Upon investigation they discover the USS Cygnus, a very large space carrier thought to have been lost many years ago along with its crew. Our explorers soon discover that the Cygnus is still inhabited after all these years, by a lone surviving scientist and his very imposing robot, Maximillian (painted devil red). Other robots and faceless androids are on board, and soon our explorers uncover a more sinister plot. Our lone scientist has gone slightly mad, will not let our explorers leave the ship, the crew never abandoned ship as first explained, and now our scientist wants to take the Cygnus through the black hole to the other side, perhaps to become a god himself.Throughout the story, we are given clues to what is really happening, and the surprise revelations towards the climax are reminiscent of what Rod Serling may have wrote. All in all a good family adventure, without too much violence (it is implied however,...this is Disney), no swearing, nice large sets and a good diversity of characters.The cons: Even after the success of Star Wars and Star Trek, it seems Disney rushed this movie to completion with little money spent on special effects. Though the movie was made in '79, it looks as if it was made way before Star Wars or Trek just on the camp value alone. At times it reminded me of the 60's TV series Lost in Space, or the original Disney 20,000 Leagues. Also, it is quite apparent that the lasers are pure animation as are their affects, some of the sets though large look cheap, lighting and fog machines are used in situations that are kinda atrocious, and probably my biggest complaint: you can SEE all the wires holding the robots in just about every scene. That in itself is unforgivable given the fact other movies at that time and movie making techniques were advanced enough to hide them.I do not believe the transfer was re-mastered. Throughout the movie there is noticeable frame flecks and graininess at times. The sound does not appear to be enhanced either so I'd say the over all quality is no better than the original VHS release. There are also virtually no extras: 1 theatrical trailer and a very boring picture gallery. All this gallery contains is scanned production shots and numerous variations of release posters. Nothing too much to really wow the viewer. Considering this is sorta a cult classic film some interviews or production notes are a no-brainer, but sadly not included.Hate to sound too negative here, but it is a must for your collection if you enjoy good science fiction stories and can safely share this with you family."
GREAT POTENTIAL, SADLY IT IS NEVER FULLY REALIZED
J. L. Braswell | Cullman, Alabama United States | 04/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is truly one of the forgotten, yet flawed classics of the late 1970's. Nobody seemed to remember this movie except for those of us who truly loved it when we were children. What kid could forget the menacing presence of the robot Maximillian or the creepiness of the mysterious humanoids, not to mention the swirling black hole itself. The only problem that I have with this movie now that I'm an adult is that it never seems to decide whether or not to be sophisticated adult sci-fi or shoot'em up kiddie-fare. It tends to flip flop back and forth with slightly irritating results. The movie presents us with very dark themes about life, death and the nature of the universe, but then turns into a robotic western style shoot out complete with a cowboy sounding robot named Old B.O.B. Religious themes are explored here as well, especially during the conclusion of the film, which add a much needed breath of fresh air. In the end, the film is a mixture of things that really should not have shared the same story, but we have the massive success of STAR WARS at the time to thank for that. Science is yet another area in the film that is handled rather flippantly. While attempts are made at realism down to the smallest detail in some areas, others simply don't hold up well at all. Most sequences onboard the Palomino are well done, but many on the Cygnus ruin any sense of realism that was being attempted beforehand. One scene shows the main characters exposed to the outside area of the Cygnus as the spacecraft enters the black hole. Several minutes later, when a meteor rips the roof off a section of the ship`s agricultural garden, the vacuum of space kicks in and threatens everyone! Moments later, the characters are again crawling around on the outside of the ship, where the vacuum of space should exist! Furthermore, the intense gravity seems to affect no one at all, even though they are all directly exposed up close to this awesome force of nature. Go figure! The film repeatedly fails in the area of dialogue and plot several times over too. The reason for this is the simple fact that there were many writers who served up revisions and changes to Jeff Rosenbrook`s original story. This ultimately led to several convoluted plot devices being introduced through the dialogue that seem to appear out of nowhere, then in turn lead to nothing at all. A perfect example of this is when Maximillian kills a character and Dr. Reinhardt, the man who controls the evil robot, suddenly asks for protection from it! The whole scene just came straight out of left field! There are other moments of babbling dialogue that makes one scratch their head in sheer disbelief, but regardless of these rather hilarious flaws the film still has plenty to offer. The special-effects and cinematography are what really steal the show here, both having earned the film Oscar nominations. The ghostly Cygnus lingering on the event horizon of a black hole and the Palomino's subsequent exploration are superbly rendered. The matte paintings of space itself are beautiful, adding lots of blues and greens instead of the same old black that many other films have given us before and since. The ship designs are beautiful, as are the awesome sets. Also worth noting is the journey into the black hole and the visually impressive renditions of Heaven and Hell, which features some of composer John Barry's most memorable and eerie music. This long awaited remastered DVD edition is really breath-taking. The picture is so clear and crisp that you can see the wires that the robots are suspended on. I only wish that Disney would learn to release DVDs with more bonus features (audio commentary, interviews, TV spots, etc.). If you are interested in bonus material, I would suggest that you track down the Limited Collector's Edition which features the wide-screen video, 9 movie lobby cards, a 44 page booklet, and a really cool looking tin featuring a scene of the Cygnus spacecraft on the lid. The booklet is packed with all sorts of interesting things such as interviews with director Gary Nelson and matte artist Harrison Ellenshaw, tons of pictures and artwork, the script for the abandoned alternate ending, a reprint of the original Pressbook, and more. It answers any and all questions that one could have about what went into the making of this movie, from its inception to the final print! This DVD edition only gets three stars due to its failure to include any of these truly informative extras!All in all, the film is beautiful to look at, even compared to today's visual effects. The film may sport some flawed writing and lapses in physics, but ultimately it is a fun adventure which does manage to present some interesting possibilities. One does have to wonder what could have been done with this material in different hands, but I guess that is something we will never know!"
Dezmond | DezArts | 10/27/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film is so close to being a truly great, great sci-fi epic. But the flaws are so painfully fatal...I have been fond of this film since I was a child and in later years realized just how close they came to greatness. What's great: it is the most visually stunning sci-fi film ever made (the wayward Cygnus ship, while completely impractical for its supposed purpose, is a masterpiece of sci-fi gothic weirdness), inspired casting and performances (notably from Maximilian Schell as the mad Dr. Reinhardt, Anthony Perkins as impressionable science officer Alex, cowardly reporter Ernest Borgnine, and stalwart commander Robert Forrester), a fantastic premise, majestic musical score in parts (but not so great in other parts), a wildly trippy but nonsensical ending worthy of "Clockwork Orange" mixed with "Fantasia", and one of the most genuinely frightening villains ever in the mechanized Frankenstein monster created by Reinhardt named Maximilian. With such a great premise and dark atmosphere, it is shocking at how cheesy and just plain bad the dialogue is. Perhaps it is the fact that it was a Disney film, they couldn't fully commit to the dark masterpiece they almost had on their hands. The cheesy robots Vincent and `Old Bob' are hard to take (clearly created to attract the kids, Disney tried to create another R2D2 and C3PO). Some of the supporting cast falls off precipitously from the quality of the big names. The action sequences could have been done a lot better as well. A fascinating case study of an almost great film, but I love it anyway. Of all of the remakes out there, this is the one that I think is most ripe for another look and to be done right."
A Cheesy Classic, FX Breakthroughs Galore
BlindTyldak | Watertown, SD United States | 08/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I remember going to see The Black Hole at the drive-in when I was five years old, but I had to wait until I was 28 before I could see it again. By that time I was an FX gunkie, actually due mostly to seeing this film, and the movie floored me all over again with some of the most incredible film techniques to hit the big screen ever.
Keep in mind, this movie is a case of some of the most horrid script-writing you will ever see in sci-fi . . . the only cut I can think of that beats it is the Star Wars Holiday Special (yes, the writing is THAT bad). But if you are a space fan, or like me watch high-tech movies not to be wowed but to see if you can figure out how it is done, this is a MUST OWN for your collection. Many of the special effects that have become commonplace in filmmaking were done in this film for the very first time, including the development of a new camera that ended up being used in several shots of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as several films after (as a matter of fact, considering The Black Hole and Star Wars were in production at the same time, you will be shocked at how much better the effects are in The Black Hole; I can't help but think what Star Wars would have been if this crew had worked for Lucas instead). And the U.S.S. Cygnus is quite simply, in my very humble opinion, the single most gorgeous ship ever.
Do NOT pass this one by. Yes, you will be groaning, but you will also be amazed at what Disney could do before the advent of computer animation."