Epic piece of Disney Sci Fi with an unusually hard edge, some fantastic production design and the best realised robots outside of “Star Wars”.
Release Date: 21 December 1979 (USA)
Director: Gary Nelson
Cast: Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Tom McLoughlin, Ernest Borgnine, Yvette Mimieux, Joseph Bottoms
“The Black Hole” was originally released in 1979 and directed by Gary Nelson. The mysterious spaceship the Cygnus is teetering on the edge of a black hole in space, a phenomenon with such a massive gravitational pull that not even light can escape from it. The captain of the Cygnus, Dr Reinhardt has found a way of keeping his ship from being dragged into the hole and crushed to oblivion and when the exploratory ship the SS Palomino comes across the apparently dead vessel, the crew are in for a shock as Reinhardt captures them. The slow build up of horror continues as it is revealed that the blank faced androids who crew the ship are in fact the original crew, modified to suit Reinhardt’s purposes and it isn’t long before the deaths start, often at the hands, or rather shredders of Maximillian, a massive and deadly red robot that floats unnervingly around, obeying it’s master’s will.
The effects work is breathtaking, coming from a time before CGI took over everything and has dated extremely well but unusually for a post “Star Wars” SF film, it never overshadows the human characters who are well written and excellently played. Maximillian Schell as Reinhardt is obligingly mad, with a silky menace and a wide eyed scientific fervour. The “psycho” himself, Anthony Perkins stars as Dr Durant, the first victim of Maximillian’s lethal blades and Robert Forster, Ernest Borgnine and Yvette Minimeux all bring a great deal of conviction to their sometimes peculiar dialogue.
Two of the stars of the show are the wonderfully designed and realised robots VIN Cent and Bob, both the same basic design but one twenty years older than the other. They have a rare humanity for screen robots and actually manage to carry some quite emotive moments. The horror aspect is not excessive but is all the more effective for that, with the death of Dr Durant being particularly chilling and there is some oddly out of place but interestingly realised religious imagery towards the very end as the power of the black hole inevitably wins and starts drawing both ships into its maw. It’s an unusual movie for Disney, designed for a family audience but with some surprisingly adult themes and has worn well over the years.