A Movie A Day: Quint visits THE BLACK HOLE (1979) The word 'impossible' is only found in the dictionary of fools.
Published at: July 13, 2008, 2:46 a.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow Anthony Perkins over from yesterday’s THE MATCHMAKER to the late ‘70s Disney Sci-Fi adventure THE BLACK HOLE.
The word from you guys on this one has been all over the map, some saying it’s impossible to sit through, some saying it’s great and not to listen to the haters.
Yeah, the movie’s goofy. Yeah, the Slim Pickens robot looks cartoony. Yeah, the movie is trying to recplicate the success of Star Wars.
But the movie held a whole lot of nostalgia for me, even without having grown up with it like so many of you guys. It’s the model work and use of effects. I love the serious Disney live-action effects of this era. There’s a feeling to the effects in THE WATCHER IN THE WOODS, THE BLACK HOLE and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES that really makes me warm and happy inside.
And then there’s the crazy-eyed performance of Maximilian Schell… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
What you have is a research vessel out in space helmed by Robert Forster and his crew comprised of Anthony Perkins, in a Spock-like capacity, Yvette Mimieux as a telepath, Joseph Bottoms as the reckless young crewmate (and looking strangely like Matt Damon with a caveman-ish brow), Ernest Borgnine as the smart-ass… well, Ernest Borgnine-like character and their trusty robot, VINCENT, voiced by the late, great Roddy McDowall.
They come across a giant black hole and also the (seemingly) lifeless ship resting right at the lip of the Black Hole. It’s the very first US spacecraft to go out, one that never returned and was thought lost forever. Mimieux’s father served on the ship, so she begins to get her hopes up that she’ll be reunited.
There is a strange occurance, though. The substantial gravitational pull from the black hole isn’t having any effect on the old ship, so something is keeping it in place.
When they investigate they find the creepy bearded Maximilian Schell at the helm, along with his robot crew that he’s built over the last few decades, including one scary-ass big red fucker with a giant red half-moon eye and a pair of cuisinarts for hands.
They try to keep it ambiguous, but you know damn well that Schell’s a villain in the flick.
An old beat-up robot called BOB (Slim Pickens) joins our group as they attempt to get off the spaceship before the crazy Schell drives it into the black hole, obsessed with discovering what’s on the other side.
Now BOB is probably what people think of when they think of the cheesy robot effects. BOB looks fake as hell and today will only remind you of Cartman. Seriously. Look at him:
But it’s Slim Pickens and he brings enough warmth to the character that you still give a shit what happens to him. Same goes for Macdowall’s VINCENT.
I’m sure if I saw the film as a kid I’d love it, but as it is I don’t hate it, in fact I like a lot of it. The action at the end is so slow and forced that it’s hard to build suspense, but I have to give any movie with the crazy fucking ending this one has its props. Especially if that movie is a kid’s flick that ends with a human/robot hybrid Satan overseeing Hell inside the black hole (while our heroes apparently go through a 2001-ending inspired heaven). That’s fucked up enough to get me to give the flick a pass.
Final thoughts: The flick is a little clunky, but the design of the ships, the fantastic model work, the fun watching people like Perkins, Forster, Schell and Borgnine play together and the incredibly nostalgic pre-digital animation effects made up for it. Add on an attempt at a mind-fuck, nightmare inducing ending and you get an interesting flick to look back on.
The schedule for the next 7 days is:
Sunday, July 13th: VENGEANCE IS MINE (1974)
Monday, July 14th: STRANGE INVADERS (1983)
Tuesday, July 15th: SLEUTH (1972)
Wednesday, July 16th: FRENZY (1972)
Thursday, July 17th: KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: THE DIRECTOR’S CUT (2005)
Friday, July 18th: CADILLAC MAN (1990)
Saturday, July 19th: THE SURE THING (1985)
Tomorrow we follow Ernest Borgnine over to ‘70s exploitation flick VENGEANCE IS MINE! See you folks then!