Retro Science Fiction: Beware Entry: The Black Hole (1979) - Reviewed

The Black Hole: A Journey That Begins Where Everything Ends. Yes, indeed. 

When a group of space explorers led by Robert Forster encounters a derelict space vessel, they must investigate. Strangely enough, Alien was released the same year drawing some obvious comparisons. While the initial set up is a bit the same, The Black Hole veers off in a completely different direction that reflects the same trippy visuals of that other '79 space movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

The next ninety minutes is spent with a strange acting set of humans, robotic forces of doom, and the first ever computer generated graphics designed for a motion picture. The Black Hole may not be a perfect specimen, but it's a great spectacle of a dead era in cinema and also a reflection on how metaphysical elements can be hampered by an unintelligible conclusion that possibly had a huge influence on Chris Nolan's Interstellar. 

The film's practical effects look amazing in some areas and deeply flawed in others. The robotic flight scenes are quite possibly the best of the era as they tried to outdo what Lucas had created with his droids. Visually, V.I.N.C.E.N.T. (voiced by Roddy McDowall) and B.O.B. (Slim Pickens) are seamless during all their on screen moments and interactions. And the voiceless Maximilian is threatening in stature and obvious brooding strength. He's the Darth Vader here. V.I.N.C.E.N.T. is the unassuming physicality of R2D2 and the personality of C3PO rolled into one. B.O.B. is just a damaged sidekick. These three characters are definitely the best parts of The Black Hole, not to forget the phenomenal looking exterior shots. 

Following on the massive successes of Star Wars and Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a '70s era Disney latched on to the revitalized trend of outer space based science fiction and made this strange and mystifying film. As one of their bleakest releases of the decade (possibly ever), their attempt is a dark cinematic experience that isn't much of a kid's film at all. Unlike the George Lucas formula about an innocent farm boy dreaming of the stars, this adventure is a rudimentary study in human evil and how a cult-like, narcissistic leader sacrifices his own humanity for obsession. Played by the scene stealing Maximilian Schell, Dr. Hans Reinhardt is a maniacal control freak that wants to enter the black hole despite the probable destruction of his precious ship and its humanoid crew. 

Hey bro! Do you even Vader?

When released, The Black Hole was given a PG rating. If it were produced today, it would definitely be a PG-13 considering the relatively abysmal nature of a story that explores themes of heaven and hell and man's lifelong quest to find meaning even in the face of death. Based in hard sci-fi elements, Gary Nelson's project is quite radical in his disregard for science and the way it actually works. As the film continues on, plot holes are lined up in dozens as the movie unravels into a totally disjointed mess at the end. Having Anthony Perkins still in Norman Bates mode doesn't really help either. He wasn't even trying here. 

I went back to this one out of my own sense of nostalgia further proving that sometimes childhood memories are better left alone. The effects are worth the watch, but the overall story is a mangled disaster.