Friday, July 12, 2013

Movie Review: The Black Hole (1979)

Stars: 1 out of 5
Pros: Story is interesting most of the time
Cons: Flat characters, very dated effects, confusing ending
The Bottom Line
Decent idea
But poorly executed
A movie to skip

20,000 Leagues in Space

Growing up in the 80’s, I remember hearing about Disney’s The Black Hole, but I know I never saw it.  After all, when it was released in December of 1979, I was too young for it, but it was part of pop culture for the decade.  I decided to rectify this oversight recently, and that was a mistake.

Our story follows a group of scientists who have stumbled on a black hole.  And just outside of the swirling vortex is a space ship just hovering – waiting.  When they realize that this ship is the long lost USS Cygnus, they are compelling to investigate.  This ship was recalled to Earth 20 years earlier, but no one ever returned and they were never heard from again.  Making matters personal, Dr. Kate McCrae's (Yvette Mimieux) father was on board the ship when it vanished.

They board the ship and meet Captain Hans Reinhardt (Maximillian Schell).  He is thrilled to see them because he’s just about to try an experiment of actually sailing his ship through the black hole.  He thinks he knows how to come out the other side, and can’t wait to see what is over there.  Can he do it?  Is the crew safe?

As I was watching, I couldn’t help thinking of the classic story 20,000 Leagues under the Sea.  As with that one, you’ve got a crew who comes in contact with a mad man.  That’s pretty much the case here.  In fact, I really felt they just changed the names.

Unfortunately, they didn’t bother creating any characters, either.  Everyone is so flat that it’s hard to truly care about the outcome.  I’m not blaming the actors since the piece was really too plot focused to spend time on character development.  Maybe that’s why the only actor I was familiar with was Anthony Perkins.

Despite the lack of fully developed characters, the story is interesting.  I was wondering what had happened to the original crew and concerned enough for the new crew to want them to be safe.  Unfortunately, the climax of the film took things off in a weird direction.  I think I understand what they were going for, but I’m not sure, which kind of ruined things for me.  And I can’t leave out the fact that people are out in space without space suits in the climax, and how they are able to do that is never explained.

The special effects might have been great for their time, but now they are laughable.  While the swirling black hole looks great, the area around it is obviously a matte painting.  Likewise, some of the shots of the crew with space in the background are obviously married together.  Frankly, that didn’t bother me as much as amuse me.

This was a PG rated Disney film, but even knowing that, I found it dark, and I don’t just mean because the movie is set in space.  There are a couple of character deaths and one mild swear word I noticed.  I wouldn’t recommend this film for anyone under 10.

Although, frankly, I wouldn’t recommend the film at all.  The Black Hole was only mildly entertaining at best, and the flaws are enough to give it a pass.


  1. I saw that way back when. It was a new direction for Disney (with this and Tron) This was the first PG rated Disney movie. It WAS dark and that passing thru heaven and hell at the end was downright WEIRD! I can't blame a dated movie for dated effects though-I don't think that's fair. Not all sci-fi flicks in the 70s had the budget and ingenuity of Star Wars/Star Trek. Such movies as this and Battle Beyond the Stars truly had a smaller budget and no ILM

    1. Even if the effects were outstanding, the movie is just too dark and strange to really be enjoyable.