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Gary Nelson
Maximilian Schell, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, Tommy McLoughlin, Roddy McDowall, Slim Pickens
Writing Credits:
Bob Barbash, Richard H. Landau, Jeb Rosebrook, Gerry Day

A journey that begins where everything ends!

The U.S.S. Cygnus is perched precariously at the edge of a black hole--the vast, empty nothingness where space and time end. Anything that crosses its border enters a universe of the complete unknown. And so begins a story that only Disney's film magicians could tell. A story of robots and humanoids. Of human genius and madness. And a spectacular descent into nature's ultimate mystery - The Black Hole.

Box Office:
$18.500 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $19.99
Release Date: 8/3/2004

• ”Through The Black Hole” Featurette
• Extended Trailer


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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The Black Hole (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 23, 2004)

After Star Wars became such a smash in 1977, everyone rushed to make their own space operas. The vast majority were forgettable, even when they involved big names like the resuscitation of a classic series via the tedious Star Trek: The Motion Picture. This fever even led the venerable Disney company to produce their first-ever “PG”-rated flick!

Released around the same time as the Trek movie, 1979’s The Black Hole wanted badly to be An Event. It came with much hype and fanfare, only some of which came from the publicity connected to the unprecedented “PG” rating. Alas, that fact stands as the movie’s only distinguishing element, unless utter and complete suckitude qualifies as a reason to remember this stinker.

On a mission to find habitable spots in space, Palomino pilots Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster) and Lt. Charlie Pizer (Joseph Bottoms) encounter an enormous black hole as detected by their robotic assistant VINCENT (voiced by Roddy McDowall). We see the rest of the crew as they react to this discovery. The gang includes Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux), Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine), and Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins).

On the cusp of the black hole, the Palomino encounters the USS Cygnus. This vessel disappeared decades earlier and took Kate’s father Frank McCrae along with it. Its continued existence surprises the crew of the Palomino, and they speculate on the fate of the Cygnus’s leader, mentally unstable genius Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell).

Although the crew fears the effects of the hole, they maneuver closer to the Cygnus and make it in safely after a scare. Surprisingly, the apparently abandoned ship’s lights turn on when they near, and they find signs of life when they board. At first they encounter only robots, but eventually they come upon Reinhardt.

He tells the crew what happened to the other members of the Cygnus and why the ship never returned home. He provides the means for them to repair the Palomino and also relates his grand scheme to utilize the black hole, which he wants to use as a portal. The rest of the movie follows the perils they encounter as they deal with the insane genius and his crew of killer robots.

From the start with the then-really-cool-but-now-cheesy computer graphics, not much about Hole works these days. Did it ever succeed? That I can’t say. I honestly possess no recollection of my reactions when I first saw Hole as a 12-year-old. I know I looked forward to it and I probably liked it, as I wasn’t the most discerning moviegoer back then. Obviously it made little impression on my since I can’t recall anything about it any longer.

Perhaps my little brain shut down and intentionally blocked out all memories of this massive stinker. Virtually nothing about Hole succeeded and I find it hard to know where to start with my criticism. Perhaps I should focus on the paper-thin story with the flat and one-dimensional characters. Maybe I should look at the way the flick offers some of the clumsiest exposition ever committed to film. The opening tosses out all the information about the Cygnus and whatnot with tremendously awkward explorations of the material. Surely they could have found a smoother way to get into these issues, as the dialogue never once resembles the way an actual person would talk.

What else grates in Hole? Its incredibly derivative nature makes it feel like an awkward mix of Star Wars and 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hole attempts the action of the former and the philosophical depth of the latter but falls well short of either goal. Instead, it seems silly, inane and stilted. Heck, even VINCENT acts as a crude conglomeration of HAL’s job description, R2-D2’s cute look, and C-3PO’s prissiness.

Most of the time, it comes across as nothing more than cheesy science fiction product created solely to sucker in kids like the 12-year-old me. The story seems cobbled together in a disjointed manner to showcase some effects and that’s about it. As for those visual elements, they usually seem pretty lackluster. Lots of poorly integrated bluescreen shots mar the presentation and look cheesy and fake.

Hole starts slowly and never improves. In fact, it just gets worse and worse. For me, I think I officially lost any investment in the film when we learn of Kate’s ability to read VINCENT’s mind. She has ESP that works on machines? Hoo-boy!

Does anything about The Black Hole succeed? No. The movie suffers from flat performances without any personality as well as bland characters and a thin and generally nonsensical plot. Add to that poor pacing, a shrill score, and awkward effects and Hole fails in every conceivable way.

The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B+/ Bonus C

The Black Hole appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The picture mixed good and bad to end up as fairly average.

Many of the problems stemmed from the surfeit of special effects shots. Between models and blue-screen images, tons of these elements appeared during Hole, and they demonstrated the majority of the DVD’s issues. However, not all of them could be blamed on the concerns related to the effects, as even shots without visual complications had some problems.

Source flaws constituted the majority of these. The movie often looked grainier than expected, and quite a lot of little specks cropped up throughout the flick. Other elements like grit and marks weren’t much of an issue, as the grain and specks created the biggest distractions. Again, some of these came from the complications that ensued from the visual effects shots, but too many flaws showed up during scenes with none of those issues.

Sharpness generally seemed acceptable. Some shots came across as somewhat soft and ill-defined, but not tons of these marred the presentation. The movie usually looked reasonably concise and accurate, without substantially fuzzy visuals. Jagged edges and shimmering created no concerns, but I noticed mild to moderate edge enhancement much of the time.

As for the film’s palette, Hole stayed fairly subdued. The ship interiors tended toward a flat tan, and not a lot of opportunities for more vivid tones cropped up through the flick. Nonetheless, the hues were reasonably clear and well-defined. Blacks seemed acceptably tight and firm, while low-light shots appeared appropriately visible and without excessive density. While the visual effects scenes complicated things, even the parts of the movie without blue-screen and such elements showed too many problems for me to give the image a grade above a “C+”.

Happily, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Black Hole proved much more satisfying. It presented a surprisingly broad soundfield for a film of its vintage. The forward speakers opened up quite nicely and demonstrated a good feel for the settings. Elements appeared appropriately localized and meshed together well. Music also showed fine stereo imaging. The surrounds played a pretty active role and added a lot of dimensionality to the proceedings.

Audio quality varied but also seemed quite solid for its age. Speech came across as the most dated part of the mix. The dialogue was intelligible and without edginess but sounded somewhat thin and flat much of the time. Music fared nicely, as the score was quite bright and dynamic. Those elements came across with fine clarity and range. Effects also showed solid clarity and accuracy, and those elements also often boasted deep and tight low-end response. The effects occasionally lacked much heft, but they usually impressed me. Some light hiss and a few distorted pieces kept Hole from “A”-level, but it still presented a very positive soundtrack.

Only a couple of supplements show up on Hole. In addition to a three-minute and 28-second extended trailer, we get a featurette entitled Through The Black Hole. It runs 16 minutes and 33 seconds and incorporates movie clips, archival elements, and interviews. It includes comments from matte effects supervisor Harrison Ellenshaw as he discusses the various effects elements in the flick. He talks about matte paintings, effects animation, the hologram, the robots, wire work, miniatures, star fields, the black hole, an alternate ending concept, the movie’s trippy conclusion, and some post-completion thoughts about Hole and effects in general. Not too dry and generally concise, the featurette delves into the flick’s effects and challenges well. Ellenshaw gives us a good feel for the various elements and helps make this an interesting program.

One of the most atrocious movies I’ve seen in some time, The Black Hole came to be solely to capitalize on its eras trends. It cobbles together elements of various science fiction hits but does so awkwardly and stiffly, which makes it poorly constructed and laughable. The DVD presents erratic but watchable picture with very good audio and a short but interesting featurette. If you like Hole, you’ll probably like this decent DVD, but I can’t recommend this terrible movie to anyone else.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.4814 Stars Number of Votes: 27
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