This post is one of three synched posts covering nigh-80s sci-fi movies from Paul, Al and Jamas. Check 'em out!
'The Black Hole' (1979)
As a young viewer, or one new to the cinematic form, the experience of entering a movie theatre must be a kind of surrender.
I am nine, and having been one of Oamaru's biggest Star Wars fans, nothing is going to stop me from seeing the next best thing. So far I've braved an omnibus edit of Battlestar Galactica (the first two episodes cut into movie length for foreign markets, NZ included), but this time I and the kids next door and up the road, are seeing the new Disney movie The Black Hole.
The Black Hole occupies a discreet stage in Disney's development; before it fully branched out into mature adult-oriented movies under the Touchstone Pictures brand; its late Seventies, early Eighties family movies have distinct edges to them - this, Dragonslayer, Tron and Something Wicked This Way Comes are all movies which sit uneasily with the rest of the fare from the House of the Mouse. Dragonslayer and Black Hole would by my estimation definitely be the most mature, and deal with very adult notions: The Black Hole, despite being riddled with the rigours of fifteen drafts between 1974 and its year of production, is at times a philosophical piece, a moral play exercising a very Christian form of judgement on its central villain/s. Your actual mad scientist aboard the mysterious Cygnus, Dr Reinhart, is part Nemo (Verne's Nautilus captain, not Pixar's clownfish) and part Ahab, and has in effect entered a Faustian pact with his creation Maximillian (some viewers read the relationship as the android having the scientist in its thrall, perhaps by telepathic control), and both are delivered in the movie's controversial ending to a literal scientific purgatory within the event horizon of the titular stellar morass. Despite this surreal and deeply disturbing scene, I don't even remember
the hellish ending scenes (perhaps I covered my eyes?), and naturally they and the question mark fate of the surviving heroes of the good ship Palomino are brushed over somewhat on the 45, so this
latest viewing - probably only my second - had me watching the last five
minutes with my adult mouth agape.
Still, this is not a conventional horror movie. There are no jump scares in The Black Hole, more a creeping
tension that builds slowly (too slowly for some, as it turns out.) The
largest scares are not scares in themselves - Reinhardt's robot guard
Maximillian is simply a massive red wall, a bulking construction of
plate metal, a baleful red eye slit and two arms termination in pinning,
shredding blades. Subtle he is not, yet it's still a remarkably
intimidating character for its silent hovering in shot - a serous
bogeyman. Worse is the reveal of the true nature of Reinhardt's android
technicians, zombified souls trapped behind mirror-masked cowls.
This is definitely a movie of yesteryear, but thirty-five years on doesn't appear to have dated any more than it seemed at the time anyway. The Disney effort has a 'one-foot-in-the-sixties' earnestness that at least spares it from resembling too closely the lazier Star Wars rip-offs from around the same time (which we may well cover in further synched blogs.) A quick glance at my fellow bloggers reveals that yes - this is a movie which divides its audience, and so cast me in (or out if you must) among the lovers. That surprises me, but I don't think I'll be sending off for a hair shirt at the same time.