The Black Hole (1979)

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Have you ever wanted to see 20000 Leagues Under the Sea set in outer space? Well, today’s your lucky day! Inspired by the disaster films of the era (and no doubt the influence of Star Wars), The Black Hole gives us Disney’s first sci-fi film as well as its first PG-rated film. Is it notable besides these reasons? Read on to find out!

And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!

The films begins with a musical overture, one of the last films of its time to feature one. Afterwards, the credits roll via a very early CG-animated effect.

Paving the way for Tron, it seems!

We’re then taken aboard the spacecraft Palomino wherein we find six crew members: Captain Dan Holland, played by Robert Forster, First Officer Lieutenant Charlie Pizer, played by Joseph Bottoms, Drs. Alex Durant and Kate McCrae, played by Anthony Perkins and the late Yvette Mimieux, respectively, Harry Booth, played by Ernest Borgnine, and a Theodore Tugboat-like robot named V.I.N.CENT., voiced by Roddy McDowall.

Those eyes!

As they travel through space, they come across a black hole which they gaze at in absolute marvel. Next to it is the spacecraft, Cygnus, which was sent out for exploration 20 years ago and never returned. Dr. Kate’s father was on that spacecraft, so they decide to check it out to find out what happened to her father. Due to a gravitational field encounter, the Palomino is damaged and they dock with the Cygnus. The doors for the Cygnus open for them implying that someone is aboard and they enter with a level of caution. As they reach the main control station, they find a number of servile humanlike robots busying themselves with tasks.

“Oh, are we filming? Don’t mind us! Simply painting the sets here!”

They also find the captain of the Cygnus, the bearded Dr. Reinhardt, played by Maximilian Schell. He welcomes them aboard the Cygnus explaining that he’s been aboard for 20 years. He tells Dr. Kate that her father has died and the other crew members were sent back home while he remained behind to study the black hole. He’s concerned when he hears that the other crew members never made it back to Earth. To help with the Cygnus’ tasks, he created the robots that are seen all over the spacecraft. He allows the Palomino crew to stay as guests, but Captain Dan says they will stay only as long as it takes them to repair their spacecraft.

The crew then splits up, some to find parts to fix the Palomino, others to explore the Cygnus without Captain Reinhardt knowing, and others to learn from Captain Reinhardt whatever they can. While traversing through the Cygnus, Captain Dan notices what appears to be a funeral taking place. He sees some robots carrying a casket making him wonder why robots would take part in funerals. Elsewhere, Harry feels something humanlike about another robot, but disregards his gut feeling thinking no robot could be that humanlike.

Imagine what he would think now with the technology that we have!

V.I.N.CENT. discovers an older robot aboard who is of the same model as him named BO.B., voiced by Slim Pickens. As the two bond, BO.B. tells V.I.N.CENT that the robots are actually the remnants of the original crew who mutinied when Dr. Reinhardt refused to return to Earth. Dr. Reinhardt never sent them back home and he was the one who killed Dr. Kate’s father. V.I.N.CENT. and BO.B. tell Captain Dan, Harry, and Charlie about this who all believe it as they’ve had their suspicions. Fortunately, the Palomino is repaired, so they can leave. Drs. Kate and Alex are hanging around Dr. Reinhardt though, so V.I.N.CENT. relays the news about the Cygnus to Dr. Kate via telekinesis. She’s shocked to hear this and tries to inform Dr. Alex, who doesn’t believe it at first due to being so enamored with Dr. Reinhardt and his scientific research. Eventually, Dr. Alex removes the faceplate of one of the robots to reveal the poor humanlike creature inside.

Could definitely use some rouge!

He then tries to escape with Dr. Kate, but is killed by Dr. Reinhardt’s personal robot, Maximilian.

Gotta get that PG-rating death!

Dr. Reinhardt orders for Dr. Kate to be taken to the hospital area of the spacecraft to be transformed into one of the robots herself, so it’s up to the Palomino crew to rescue her. They successfully do so, but Harry (who stayed behind on the Palomino after faking a leg injury) cowardly attempts to escape on the Palomino by himself. Dr. Reinhardt shoots the Palomino causing it to crash and kill Harry.

As a meteor storm approaches, the Cygnus starts to fall apart. The Palomino crew tries to escape resulting in BO.B. being fatally damaged. Debris falls on Dr. Reinhardt rendering him immobile. The Palomino crew takes refuge in one of the probes as the Cygnus goes through the black hole. Therein Dr. Reinhardt is stuck inside Maximilian in a hell-like environment while the Palomino crew heads towards a planet.

When did this turn into Fantasia?

And that was The Black Hole! Honestly, it’s a very enjoyable film and one that I feel more people should watch! The production design is amazing for its time! I loved the way the humanoid robots moved and I loved the old-school designs of V.I.N.CENT. and BO.B.!

I also would LOVE to see a Disney ride based on this mechanical go-kart thing they travel around in!

Most of the acting was great except for that of Yvette Mimieux’s and Joseph Bottoms’. I feel the character of Charlie could have been cut to make the team smaller as he wasn’t that important. The biggest issue with the film is the ending which seems like it was written in a hurry. You can feel that the writers were stuck when trying to find out what would happen as the Cygnus travelled through the black hole.

Besides that, I love this film and would be totally fine with a good remake!

So, my final score for this film is 31/35 = 88.57% (B+) !

The next review will be posted on March 15, 2022.

2 thoughts on “The Black Hole (1979)

  1. Paying tribute to Yvette Mimieux is nice, but I have to admit that the manner you chose to do so in this article seemed a bit odd considering every actor you mentioned except for Joseph Bottoms could be described as “late.”

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