It may have been Disney’s pallid attempt to cash in on the success of Star Wars, but The Black Hole is another kind of animal, a kitschy matinee sci-fi/horror movie that’s worth a look in its own right. It’s a cross between Frankenstein and The Old Dark House that falls more in line with Forbidden Planet than it does George Lucas’ famous trilogy.
Robert Forster, Anthony Perkins, Yvette Mimieux, Joseph Bottoms, and Ernest Borgnine play the crew of a spaceship that discovers a derelict vessel perched at the edge of a black hole. Aboard the vessel, the explorers find an obsessed scientist, Dr. Reinhardt (Maximillian Schell), the only human on a ship full of his own robotic creations. Unfortunately, Reinhardt is teetering on the brink of madness. His robots aren’t what they seem, and the good doctor intends on plunging everyone straight into the stellar abyss.
What the movie achieves most is an atmosphere of dread and isolation, supported by John Barry’s suitably dreary music score. There’s also some striking set design and a smattering of interesting visuals, including a memorable fireball sequence and a surreal, climactic depiction of what’s inside the black hole itself. I like Reinhardt’s relationship with Maximillian, his imposing red droid-at-arms. Whatever the two of them are doing inside the black hole at the end of the movie is anyone’s guess, but I think it’s pretty kinky.
The Academy bestowed Oscar nominations for Peter Ellenshaw’s production design and Frank Phillips’ cinematography (the lone nod for the long-time Disney veteran). The film is quite silly at times, especially when the robots Vincent and Bob (voiced by Roddy McDowell and Slim Pickens) are on screen, and there are more than a few leaps in logic to strain your suspension of disbelief. But for whatever reason, I still find The Black Hole to be a charming little flick.
Scott studied film and sociology at Indiana University and is currently the video producer for a large publishing company. He is the director of several independent films, including "House of Hope," "Off the Beaten Path," "The Day Joe Left," and "Found." For more about Scott, visit www.scottschirmer.com. Scott is also one of the principal organizers of the Dark Carnival Film Festival. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)