When the research ship Palomino has to make an unexpected course correction, the crew investigate what has caused their deviation. They soon discover that the gravitational pull of a massive black hole was responsible but they also find a strangely derelict looking spacecraft which they identify as the U.S.S. Cygnus, a ship thought lost when it did not obey a recall order to return to Earth. After nearly being captured by the Black Holes' gravity, the crew decide to go aboard the Cygnus to affect repair but they soon find that the ship isn't as dead as it seems. In fact the Cygnus is still commanded by the brilliant but unstable Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) and his robotic henchman Maximillian. As the crew discover that Reinhardt is preparing for a voyage into the unknown, a course to take the ship into the black hole itself, V.I.N.CENT (their robot voiced by Roddy McDowall) meets up with one of the surviving robots from the Cygnus (BO.B voiced by Slim Pickens) and uncovers the horrific truth of what really happened to the original crew.
As a child I narrowly missed seeing this at a Saturday matinee and instead only caught it (in pan and scan format) during Christmas TV showings. I was therefore delighted to be given the chance to see it in its original aspect ratio. “The Black Hole” is a strange mix of a movie. There's a touch of Star Wars, a little horror (in the form of the ominously mute Maximillian and his way of despatching people with spinning blades) and even a nod towards 2001 with bizarre Dante-esque visions of heaven and hell confusing (and scaring) the living daylights out of me as a child. Yes, the story is a little too much of a pastiche and this movie does hark from the period in the late 1970's and early 80's where everything Disney touched turned to commercial crud, but I can't help loving this movie. The effects are not the greatest ever seen (even for 1979) but hold up pretty well with only a flying Ernest Borgnine and co (and the accompanying game of spot the strings) pushing credulity to its very limits. Maybe it's 'B' movie stuff, maybe the performances are a little wooden with Anthony Perkins looking oddly out of place but, damn it, it's good 'B' movie stuff and it's great to see it (for the first time) back in it's original format (and on a projector screen to boot!)
One interesting inclusion in this set is the original “Black Hole Overture” which plays just before the movie starts. This was also available on an earlier 1999 release of the movie in which it was accompanied by a star trek like star field. Here we have the same overture but this time it's accompanied by an on screen static slide set in a (80's style) futuristic font. I seem to remember that these overtures where sometimes played into auditoriums before the main movie started and it added just a little bit of nostalgia to the proceedings, a nice touch.
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