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Walt Disney's "The Black Hole"
September 25, 2011 3:18 PM   Subscribe

To paraphrase a character in the film, The Black Hole walks "a tightrope;" if not between "genius" and "insanity," then certainly between "genius" and "banality". If you're looking at this movie as a Manichean exercise between darkness and light, then you can -- for at least a few hours -- entertain the "genius" part of that equation.
posted by Trurl (106 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite

 
Excerpt from the post: "In The Black Hole, we see Maximillian and Hans Reinhardt as two faces of Evil (mechanical and human, respectively) and in their nightmarish last scene, these two evils literally join to become one: Reinhardt is subsumed inside the robot demon Maximillian. Hauntingly, we see Reinhardt's frightened human eyes peering out from the machine's mechanical shell. This is our last close-up view of the characterrs, of twin evils welded together."

This scene absolutely scared the royal bejeebus out of me when I was a kid and first saw it on early home video in the early 80's. I thought the robots were cool -- and even had this model in my room -- but the whole idea of a man living inside a machine for all eternity just frightened me beyond belief.
posted by zooropa at 3:31 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


The trailer is awesome.
posted by Artw at 3:37 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always found Vincent more interesting than R2D2, because he had cool eyes, and he could fly*

* back in the days before r2d2 could fly
posted by memebake at 3:42 PM on September 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


My child has been asking me questions about flying R2-D2. I beleive she has been exposed to an unsanctioned book of some kind.
posted by Artw at 3:43 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I will not have much to add beyond the fact that The Black Hole stands as one of those films that is just legions better than it needed to be, and used old-school techniques in storytelling and arrangement that were kind of lost during the great 1980s reboot of cheaper, in-and-out reduced-craft filmmaking. Obviously there have been excellent films since this one, in Sci-Fi and other genres, but there were hints of the style of Forbidden Planet and even The Wizard of Oz that this film had.
posted by jscott at 3:44 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Also her mother tells me The Black Hole is too scarey for 5 year olds. Hmmf.
posted by Artw at 3:44 PM on September 25, 2011


Heh heh....actual tin-foil hat at 2:39 of the trailer.
posted by nevercalm at 3:47 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I saw this on the big screen when I was around 5 years old and thought it was incredible. I loved all the different kinds of robots, the crazy mad-scientist villan and his army of evil robots with the henchmen king bot Maximillian, John Barry's score, and the heaven & hell imagery during the ending. It has its flaw, but it's a very underrated and underappreciated film. I hope there is a Blu-Ray soon.
posted by Potsy at 3:52 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


A long-stalled project I started several years ago was an overreaching attempt to recut The Black Hole as a silent film. It's one of those films that just astonishing to see, from the absolutely crystalline moment of delight when the dark, immense ship suddenly flares to life to the tense interplay between Reinhardt and Maximillian, and Disney poured more art direction into the look of the film than almost anything they've ever done.

At the same time, it has the most dire, embarrassing dialogue (searching for "habitable life" in outer space) and horrific acting (how, again, did Borgnine get an Oscar?) imaginable, which does to the atmospheric wonder of The Black Hole what quartering several hundred hogs in the Sagrada Familia would do for that gem of inspired architecture. I started thinking, well, what if I dumped the dialogue, edited Borgnine down to a sliver, reconstructed the score in a silent film context, and rebuilt it to match the intricacy of its imagery.

Trouble is, I have a full time job, I'm not a very skilled video editor (was trying to do it in iMovie, for chrissakes), and a Mac Mini 1.83ghz processes video very, very slowly, so it's all just stalled, and has been for several years now. If someone ever wants to steal my idea, I would be overjoyed, and would happy to contribute sound design and a bit of remixed dialogue for the subtitles (or should it be cards, being more faithful to the silent tradition?). Sigh.

If there's a movie that's more desperately crying out for an inspired remix, though, I can't imagine what it would be.
posted by sonascope at 3:53 PM on September 25, 2011 [25 favorites]


Gah! I meant "flaws", not "flaw".
posted by Potsy at 3:54 PM on September 25, 2011


sonascope, thats interesting. I recently saw the original Tron with a DJ playing a musical score and the dialogue rendered in subtitles. Not being able to hear the cheesy delivery of the dialogue actually improved the movie by several orders of magnitude.
posted by memebake at 3:56 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


sonascope - Heh. I have similar notes on what would make Event Horizon a good movie.
posted by Artw at 3:57 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I remember first seeing this movie as part of a school assembly, possibly in junior high school. Chunks of it really are scary for kids--the Maximillian/Reinhardt meld at the end (with the vision of Hell, seriously!) and the crewman with his face mask removed.

I tend to agree with critics who think that V.I.N.CENT was an attempt to transplant C-3PO into R2-D2's body.

It can't be pulled up on GoogleBooks, but IIRC (we're talking thirty or so years ago...), Alan Dean Foster's interpretation of the ending was that our heroes, including the robot, effectively were reborn as pure energy, part of the universe itself. Sort of a Star Child, only with multiple characters instead of just Dave Bowman.
posted by thomas j wise at 3:58 PM on September 25, 2011


What would make Event Horizon better, if anyone is interested and even if they are not, is stripping out ll the Hellraiser and putting in a whole bunch of From Beyond, with the black hole as Tillinghast generator.
posted by Artw at 4:04 PM on September 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


The reason it occurred to me was that I'd just done a live electronic score for a 1914 film His Majesty, Scarecrow of Oz at a theater in Baltimore, and I heard that Star Wars fans, frustrated with the whole Jar Jar Binks calamity, had started doing fan edits to recover the film from its miserable Steppin' Fetchit. What's neat about "silent" films is that they're not really silent—all but the least of them had ornate, orchestrated scores, sometimes with elaborate live sound effects and even things like scents and other sensory addenda.

If you watch TBH with the sound off, or with the soundtrack album running in the background, characters like V.I.N.CENT can read as a sort of taoist and enigmatic greek chorister, as opposed to playing a jokey fusion of the gay bitch robot and the beepity-boop Lou Costello robot from Star Wars. There's just so much room to slim it all down, trim out the faddish bullshit like robotic ESP, and match the atmosphere with really abstract experimental reworkings of the wonderful John Barry score tied to sound work worthy of the art direction.

It is, of course, legally impossible, but man, it would be sweet to make that film better.

I'm on board for an Event Horizon remix, too. Gorgeous, terrible film.
posted by sonascope at 4:07 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, while you're at it Tron 2 needs cutting down to an intensely cool 45 minute long Daft Punk video.
posted by Artw at 4:08 PM on September 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


edited Borgnine down to a sliver

I'm pretty sure you meant to say, "edited out everything that wasn't Borgnine." Right? Because what you wrote wasn't even English.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:11 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]




Youtube is failing to deliver Ernest Borgnine in a tank killing Kristofferson.
posted by Artw at 4:20 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was six or seven when I saw this, and didn't find it scary - it was incredible to me. I even put on plays with cardboard cut-outs of the robots.
posted by rodgerd at 4:21 PM on September 25, 2011


Well, I should have used italics and a question mark, to wit:

I started thinking well, what if I dumped the dialogue, edited Borgnine down to a sliver, reconstructed the score in a silent film context, and rebuilt it to match the intricacy of its imagery?

The tragedy of mefi, at least for me, is that I don't get to correct what happens when I'm typing quickly, eating cold cuts, and watching Tommy Boy on the TiVo with NPR burbling in the other room.

I do, however, stand by ridding TBH of Borgnine's ruinous presence. I can't even stand his good performances in other films, which are all forever tainted by the canned ham explosion he triggers in the midst of all that glorious art direction like a thespian suicide bomber traumatized by too many failed auditions for The Love Boat.
posted by sonascope at 4:23 PM on September 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


(how, again, did Borgnine get an Oscar?)

Thems were the days when a drinking game involving Ernest "Gimme a rough idea of the script while you're cutting the check" Brognine roles could get your liver handed back to you in roughly the same shape as his face.
posted by hal9k at 4:24 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I loved this movie. So few people I know have even heard of it. What a theme song.
posted by adamdschneider at 4:29 PM on September 25, 2011


I'm on board for an Event Horizon remix, too.

It's been done.

"In deep space, abandoned."
posted by empath at 4:41 PM on September 25, 2011


I saw The Black Hole in the theater . I would've been about six. It was dark, brooding, ominous. Thrilled me and scared me to death at the same time. And that ending…sent me right over the edge of freakout. (I need to revisit that ending again. As a kid I bought it, but in hindsight, it seems really bizarre. IIRC, the evil genius somehow gets trapped inside his evil floating robot in hell?? So in the last shot the science fiction film turned into Dante's Inferno, what? What's up with Disney movies and depictions of hell, anyway?)
posted by zardoz at 4:46 PM on September 25, 2011


Oh, do not be messing with an orBital soundtrack unless it is to add more Orbital.
posted by Artw at 4:47 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I came out of Event Horizon really, REALLY resenting the fact that they didni't advertise it as a gruesome splatter-fest. Would have skipped it if they had.

Saw TBH as a kid and came out thinking "Fuck, that ending sucks. How lonely are they gonna be, now that everyone and everything they knew is now in a whole 'nother universe. What a bummer. hope they find an E-type planet before their food & air runs out."

Probably gonna give it a rewatch after reading this article.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:55 PM on September 25, 2011


Count me in with the "saw it in the theater" crowd. I probably saw it more than once -- I was that age (11), and it kind of fit right into my freshly Star Wars-ed consciousness.

It was so controversial -- Disney's first PG movie, aimed directly at the young male audience...

Even back then I was kind of confused by the mixture of tones during the movie. Odd truly scary and haunting bits coupled with broad comedy.

I remember having (may still have?) one of the storybook adaptations (not a novel) of the movie, and spent many hours puzzling over the end of the movie trying to figure out what had happened. It wasn't any more clear than in the movie, but it was static and easier to puzzle over.

(I also puzzled heavily over the ending of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which came out that same year. Leonard McCoy's line "Jim, this is trancendence" and then the description in the book of what happened to Decker and Ilia left me all confused. I remember doing heavy research on the meaning of that word "trancendence", quizzing my teachers in school about what it meant, and never really coming up with a satisfactory explanation for my youthful brain.)

There were quite a few movies which ended in odd, less-than-satisfactory ways in those days. Close Encounters also left a lot of open questions when it came out a couple of years before. We seem to be afraid of those kinds of ending now, but when I was a pre-teen, they drove my inquisitiveness and pulled me into deeper philosophical examination of the world.
posted by hippybear at 4:59 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a dictionary.
posted by biffa at 5:01 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


That review suffers from the same problem as the movie: too much effort for too little result. Let me redo this review:

Does The Black Hole still suck?

Yes.

..we might have a better sense of how successful it really is simply by tallying the influences it has had on newer productions. Consider the likes of Event Horizon (1997), which posits a kind of Hell Dimension not entirely unlike what we see depicted inside the black hole here. Or consider Supernova (2000) with Robert Forster (!) and another endangered crew, or even Danny Boyle's brilliant Sunshine (2007)..

No. TBH was a big budget ripoff of 2001: A Space Odyssey with a little of Tarkovsky's Solaris thrown in for atmosphere, while misunderstanding what was good about either of those movies. It takes more than big budget SFX to make a great movie. It takes more than brooding to make an atmospheric movie. Do not ascribe influence to TBH that should be ascribed to the movies TBH tried to rip off.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:04 PM on September 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


My child has been asking me questions about flying R2-D2. I beleive she has been exposed to an unsanctioned book of some kind.

Artw, have you ever considered bringing her up to believe that you rescued her from the backstreets of Shanghai when she was tiny and you were on a mission to recover some ancient artefacts for posterity?
posted by biffa at 5:06 PM on September 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


how, again, did Borgnine get an Oscar?

He was absolutely born to play Marty.

Also Mermaid Man.
posted by lordrunningclam at 5:06 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


And the sadistic grandfather gleefully telling his son tales of horror in Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders. Basically, the opposite of Peter Falk.
posted by JHarris at 5:15 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Er, grandson. (Son? Bah.)
posted by JHarris at 5:16 PM on September 25, 2011


Saw it in the theater as young'un. Blew my mind. I think I remember my parents fretting over the fact a Disney movie had such an ending.
posted by angrycat at 5:18 PM on September 25, 2011


I haven't watched it all the way through since it came out but I remember thinking that it was pretty terrible when I saw it in the theater. I had been reading Starlog articles about it in the year before and was pretty excited and got massively let down by what I thought was a lame mashup of 2000 Leagues Under the Sea, 2001 and Star Wars. The ending seemed a pretty arbitrary tacked-on cross between a James Bond "blow up the base" ending and 2001's "Beyond the Infinite".

The hole itself looked pretty cool though.
posted by octothorpe at 5:20 PM on September 25, 2011


Fixing the tepid tripe buffet that is The Black Hole? No. Those flaws need to be magnified a million, billion times and then mocked mercilessly on an episode of MST3K.

So much is bad about that movie. I thought it sucked even when I was a kid. It has all the turgid pacing of 2001 with very little of the elegant beauty, tension or mind-blowing consciousness expansion. It was space opera without the opera. Or the space, really.

As such it's a remarkably Disney-esque product - vanilla without the vanilla. And I'm still probably going to watch it again, damn your hide.
posted by loquacious at 5:22 PM on September 25, 2011


Everyone knows that Disney is working on a remake of The Black Hole, right?
posted by narwhal bacon at 5:28 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I remember liking it as a young kid, I think for the design... But christ, what a dog of a film. I couldn't watch more than 10 minutes as an adult. I tried, I really tried.
posted by Huck500 at 5:29 PM on September 25, 2011


I too had a kids' storybook version of this movie. Having never seen the movie itself (I didn't really get taken to the movies as a kid; I had a picture book of Return of the Jedi for years too) I, like hippybear, spent a long time trying to puzzle it out.

The book really only focused on V.I.N.CENT and the busted-up B.O.B's experiences. Maximillian was a largely-unseen villain and the human characters barely figured in at all. I remember being kind of bored by the little robots and utterly fascinated with and terrified by Maximillian. Not very much seemed to happen?

I tried watching it in college and it was so terrible. You could sense what a good movie with these elements would be, but it was definitely not the movie that actually exists.

Oh! And the double-sided blasters that the drone crew had! Those figured into playtime for me for many years. So many that I'd forgotten where I'd originally gotten the idea until watching the trailer.
posted by penduluum at 5:32 PM on September 25, 2011


I think I had the same storybook, pendulum. I was in first grade when this came out and remember being fascinated by the book, but never saw the movie.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 5:38 PM on September 25, 2011


I couldn't watch more than 10 minutes as an adult. I tried, I really tried.
I also have this problem which I didn't before.
Like time was an endless resource to waste before, now I can't forget it's passing.
posted by uni verse at 5:40 PM on September 25, 2011


As such it's a remarkably Disney-esque product - vanilla without the vanilla.

I dunno. I remember it having some great scenes -- the huge starship lighting up, the really creepy "henchmen," Schell putting the "mad" back into "mad scientist" -- but also bizarre cute robots and bad dialogue and really bad acting for the most part. It's like Disney wanted to make a movie that "wasn't for kids," then hedged their bets with toy tie-ins....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:44 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Disney World should do TBH instead of Avatar...
posted by mikelieman at 5:48 PM on September 25, 2011


For those interested in (parts of) The Black Hole in video form.
posted by euphorb at 5:51 PM on September 25, 2011


Oh wow, Colossus: the Forbin Project is on Youtube in chunks too. Thanks, related videos sidebar!
posted by penduluum at 5:53 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a much bigger picture of the spaceship than the one in the fpp link. It's quite beautiful--as long as you think of it as a spaceship and not, say, a mall.
posted by jfuller at 5:54 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Saw it in the theater as well, at far too young an age. It was so dark you didn't have to worry about over-commercialization. You'd have to be one creepy-ass kid to want to go "Play Black Hole" after watching it.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:55 PM on September 25, 2011


A cherished, cherished film from my childhood. Merciless robots! Space pilots! Backstabbing! Maximillion! Maximillion!

I await with baited breath the upcoming remake of Black Hole. It's being helmed by the same folks behind Tron 2, and honestly -- throw at me what you will -- for all its failings I found Tron 2 a satisfactory rema--sequel--remake. Cough.
posted by cavalier at 5:57 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The rolling asteroid sequence was state-of-the-art FX for the time.
posted by Trurl at 6:01 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those interested in (parts of) The Black Hole in video form.

O. M. F. G.

I didn't think it was possible to make TBH worse, but yeah, Italian Pop in English would do it.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:02 PM on September 25, 2011


And the theme song! What a theme song! Cherished!

(hey wait isn't it a little, er, horrible to be linking to a rip of the movie on youtube when DVD versions are available for like $3?)
posted by cavalier at 6:04 PM on September 25, 2011


Rewatching it now, I find that I care very little about whether the movie's actually any good or not, because it's so unbelievably well designed. It's beautiful. The look of it, the sound. God that theme song! sonascope's idea of re-editing it into a silent is genius. Total genius.
posted by penduluum at 6:05 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Maximillion making milkshakes out of peoples intestines gave me nightmares as a kid. Yet still I have fond memories of this film. I do remember that it sort of dragged on, so I'm not certain I can stomach watching it again.
posted by chemoboy at 6:07 PM on September 25, 2011


Yeah, the design, setwork and soundtrack are pretty good and unique.

Though... it's all a bit ridiculous and baroque. The bridge is like a Piet Mondrian painting rendered in colored Lucite. The ship is practically steampunk or Victorian - the HG Wells references are apt.
posted by loquacious at 6:13 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn. I also came in here to say it should be mashed up with "Event Horizon" but it seems that's been thought before. I saw this one when it was released as a double feature with "Sleeping Beauty". I remember thinking (in little kid thoughts) that the effects looked really bad compared to "Star Wars" but the characters and story were still kind of compelling.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:23 PM on September 25, 2011


Yeah! It's totally baroque and melodramatic. He's got a frigging crystal chandelier in his dining room and cut flowers for the table. It would be so much more comfortable as an epic-scale silent. This movie wants to be Metropolis.
posted by penduluum at 6:24 PM on September 25, 2011


I just like the name Maximillian.
posted by jonmc at 6:34 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


More like Maxibillian.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:35 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think I'm seeing the pattern here. People who saw the movie as very young kids, loved it. Anyone old enough to understand it as more than a bunch of scary robots and big explosions, hated it. I saw it in the theater, I was 21, and I hated it.

This movie wants to be Metropolis.

Yep, this is a movie that does not understand the difference between "epic" and "pretentious."
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:41 PM on September 25, 2011


Well, you know, I just like it, it's no Flash Gordon or anything.
posted by Artw at 6:42 PM on September 25, 2011


It's not even Flesh Gordon.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:43 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


God, I think I had that storybook too. One of those Little Golden Book things?
posted by JHarris at 6:45 PM on September 25, 2011


At least it's not Flush Gordon.
posted by JHarris at 6:45 PM on September 25, 2011


I've never seen the film, but I've loved the theme song for years: "Here's a toast to the boogie!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:53 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


God, I think I had that storybook too. One of those Little Golden Book things?

Yep!
posted by penduluum at 6:59 PM on September 25, 2011


HAHA holy crap
posted by penduluum at 7:00 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not even "The Cat From Outer Space." (a 1978 Disney release)
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:04 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like how The Cat From Outer Space is basically Escape To Witch Mountain, but with a cat.
posted by Artw at 7:05 PM on September 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


what would make Event Horizon a good movie.

Watching Solaris instead?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:06 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Holy crap indeed! I can't believe they made a book out of it, it's certainly not on the same line as Peter Rabbit and the Kitten Who Lost Hist Mittens.
posted by chemoboy at 7:07 PM on September 25, 2011


As children, my brother and our best friend (yes, we had the same best friend) used to re-enact the Black Hole thanks to a set of LPs...I think it was four sides total...that had the entire movie's dialogs as acted in the film. We had characters we'd play, and we'd lip-sync the lines and act them out to the best of our memory.

Star Wars was the big winner, obviously, and without it I'd never have seen the Black Hole, but out of the two, the Black Hole was more something I shared with friends. Star Wars was an event, an arena of people. The Black Hole was just a few of us re-enacting the movie in my living room, dodging lasers and my brother (who played Maximilian with mechanical intensity). It was what fired my imagination more than any other film at the time, because it was ours.
posted by blixco at 7:11 PM on September 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


I had that book I think when I was like seven, and even then I knew there was something wrong about it.
posted by JHarris at 7:11 PM on September 25, 2011


Actually, on a bit more investigation, I have actually located the book which I had growing up (and may still have someplace).

You all can thank me later.
posted by hippybear at 7:20 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually on rewatch I think it's worse than Flash Gordon. Not only is nearly every line pure gibberish, but much of the dialog - "searching for habitable life" for example - isn't even remotely grammatically correct on any scale. Reading the script must be like listening to a numbers station run through a Burroughs cut-up poetry machine.

There's a scene where everyone human reacts with shock about the idea of programming robots with emotions in response to the discovery of a robot funereal while every robot on both ships displays a wide range of emotions from pride to fear to arrogance and even anger and jealousy from the first and last moments they're on the screen.

Another scene they're standing unprotected in what should be a vacuum when the go-cart-in-a-glass-tube people mover smashes open, where it's conveniently routed on the outer surface of the ship. Near immediately after they're in the enormous glass garden area being breached by the sudden (and utterly ridiculous) meteor storm and they float away and... survive freezing?

There's another very brief shot toward the ends showing a control screen that Reindhardt is sitting at. For a brief moment there's some formula displayed. It appears to be two questions from a multiple choice chemistry test. That's how wrong the movie is. They couldn't even bother to put some actual physics or math on the screen even though they went to all the trouble of making it legible at all.

And then earlier in the film he seems to be mumbling his way through basic algebra and squares.

They allude in a general direction towards getting some things right. A Einstein-Rosen bridge is a wormhole. The theory that you may be able to stabilize the wormhole or your ship with exotic matter of negative energy is rooted in real theory, but... totally lost in the rest of the film. One or two vaguely correct lines of dialog out of hundreds.

And I was a kid when this movie came out. I was the target market. But I hated it because the science in it was so bad it made me want to shout nerdy things at the screen. It wasn't science fiction and it made the mistake of trying to be science fiction.

I mean, it's not really technically more implausible than Frankenstein or some of HG Wells stinkers like The Comet, but that's not saying much.

Star Wars (as bad as that also is) gets away with it by just not attempting to be scientific. It's just a generic shoot-em-up cowboys and warriors and wizards story in a fairly well done and believable world where laser beams move slow or magically stop and allow you to use them as swords, and ships go faster than light. Heh.

Anyway, it's a hell of a weird movie. I don't hate it, I just think it's comically ridiculous. It's pretty to look at, though the actual logic and function of much of the design is highly questionable, to be honest, but that's baroque for you. The soundtrack is a case study in using subsonics and bass for psychological tension, but then they go and ruin all that tension at the end with the circus marching music during the climactic fight scene.

But if you're paying attention? God, that movie is so ridiculously bad it's painful. It's right up there with a gazillion really bad B movies. Comon', I've seen Roger Corman films that made more sense and hurt less.
posted by loquacious at 7:28 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Poseidon Adventure: IN SPAAAAAAAACE!
posted by loquacious at 7:31 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maximilian, the time has come to liquidate our guests.
posted by mazola at 7:35 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ok that little golden book is not the one I had. Mine was more of a simplified retelling of the story, but using stills from the film, not illustrations.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:37 PM on September 25, 2011


Hey, it gave us The Beta Band's It's Not Too Beautiful. That's good.
posted by scruss at 7:37 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Poseidon Adventure: IN SPAAAAAAAACE!

That very literally is the structure of Alien: Resurrection. Joss Whedon based the outline for the film on the cruise chip disaster film.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:46 PM on September 25, 2011


Here's a fun link to both the audio as well as text & photos from the See, Hear, and Read version.
posted by ShutterBun at 7:53 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Great soundtrack. We owned it on 8-track. One of the tracks is called "Durant is Dead" and we made up some lyrics, like "Durant is dead! Da da da da da da da Durant is dead! Da da da ..."
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:14 PM on September 25, 2011


loquacious - I was so much more like that when I was 10. Now I just sort of go with stuff - oh, it;s not really going for a hard sf thing*, it's more a fun kids adventure thing with great visuals, fair enough, la la la.

* not that really there are that many movies that do well on this score at all.
posted by Artw at 8:16 PM on September 25, 2011


Of course, to a certain degree ripping out the Hellraiser bits and instead making the ships formant engine the generator of a reality distorting feild basically makes it The Philadelphia Experiment In SPAAAAAAACE. Though I doubt anyone would care much, since The Philadelphia Experiment The Movie had very little Philadelphia experiment in it.
posted by Artw at 8:20 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


This movie really holds a special place in my heart.I love the metaphysical ending and it always awes me the way I don't need to have it explained. I didn't see it as a child, so I don't have an attachment to it otherwise ...so I was quite surprised with the way it moved me. It seems unique and memorable in a good way to me anyway!
posted by Calzephyr at 8:21 PM on September 25, 2011


I am still waiting for the day when I see a film that does not depict a black hole as a dent in a plane, or a disc like this film did, or even worse, as some whirlpool circling a drain. Maybe someday they will start thinking in 3D.

And then we can beat Khan.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:23 PM on September 25, 2011


Like thomas j wise, my first encounter with The Black Hole was at a school assembly in the 1980s. Unlike him, I hated, hated, hated it.

loquacious and charlie don't surf summed up the flaws of the movie pretty well, so I'm just going to add: Every time I've seen even part of that movie, I'm reminded of the "what the fuck?" feeling I had seeing it the first time. The Black Hole is proof Disney had no idea why science fiction movies like 2001 or Star Wars had succeeded financially. They thought they could throw money at any B-movie crap and make it a hit.

The Black Hole's greatest accomplishment (with help from Tron) was convincing a generation that Disney can't do sci fi. At least Tron had the saving grace of an interesting idea. The Black Hole just had pseudo-spiritual pablum.

That review gives TBH too much credit, and tries way too hard to redeem the movie. The writer is seriously overthinking a plate of Disney.
posted by faster than a speeding bulette at 8:26 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Flash Gordon is a fantastic movie that's still worth watching today.
posted by empath at 8:26 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


DIIIIIIIIIIVE

DUH DUH dududuDuh dududuDuh dududududDUH DUH
posted by empath at 8:27 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Saw this in the theater. 7 years old. I think I was expecting something Star Wars-esque. Pretty sure this was my first cinematic what-the-fucking-hell-is-this-crazy-shit experience.

Since then, I've felt I must have missed something, that I was probably just too young to grasp what happens when they go into the hole. Re-watching the ending sequence, however, I now realize that my 7 year old self had a pretty good head on his shoulders.
posted by treepour at 8:36 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am still waiting for the day when I see a film that does not depict a black hole as a dent in a plane, or a disc like this film did, or even worse, as some whirlpool circling a drain. Maybe someday they will start thinking in 3D.

If you want to find out what scientists who study this kind of thing ACTUALLY think a black hole will look like instead of some artist's interpretation of visible and non-visible spectrum somehow magically combined into a single picture, then explaining the effects of gravitational lensing is probably in order.

There are also some interesting (very tiny) animations on this page which help to illustrate what all this actually means.
posted by hippybear at 8:43 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I always sort of thought of a black hole as more like some sort of cosmic blind spot. Or if you want to get metaphorical, I always think of the thing that bugged The Steelypips:

After an undetermined amount of time something appears, what it is nobody knows, except that its hideous and no matter from which angle you look at it, it’s even more hideous. Whatever it is flies up, lands on the highest peak, so heavy you can’t imagine, makes itself comfortable and doesn’t budge. But it’s an awful nuisance, all the same.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:18 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thank you, shutterbun, for that See, Hear, Read version. I must've listened to that record a thousand times. I am sure my wife will look at me funny when this pop-up book arrives from Amazon in a couple days. I swear, honey, it's for our son.
posted by incessant at 9:42 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


but much of the dialog - "searching for habitable life" for example - isn't even remotely grammatically correct on any scale

It's grammatical, just silly.

She seems to be saying that in their future world, some sort of horrible disaster has befallen Mankind, resulting in exploration ships being sent out to find very large life forms that humans can be flea-like parasites upon.

The last time I saw it, several years ago, it seemed mostly like a cynical cash-in. A well-enough executed cynical cash in, though, and one that's many cuts above Disney's recent trend towards Extruded STV Animation Project.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:11 PM on September 25, 2011


The Black Hole's greatest accomplishment (with help from Tron) was convincing a generation that Disney can't do sci fi.

It's biodigital jazz, man!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:39 PM on September 25, 2011


I have similar notes on what would make Event Horizon a good movie.

This somehow implies it's not a good movie. Which is crazy-talk. It's a haunted spaceship movie, complete with portal to a dimension of eternal torment, populated by predatory beings who hunger for madness and horror, who become more tangible and powerful as the portal gets closer to opening. It's Solaris with bad, bad intentions.

It's less of a science fiction movie than a horror movie. It's an exceptional horror movie.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:28 AM on September 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I remember loving this movie as a kid, and watching it over and over again. While it never had the all-encompassing impact on my life that Star Wars did, it did plant itself firmly enough in my brain that I've named all of my computers Maximillian. Hell, I even have this.

I had talked about it enough that my husband agreed to watch it with me recently. It was pretty bad. I was kind of embarrassed.
posted by MsVader at 6:31 AM on September 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Saw this movie in the theater as a kid. I mentioned to the girl who lived next door that I saw the movie 'The Black Hole.' 'Black Hole?' she says. 'What is a black hole, anyway?' So, being a science geek I described it in scientific terms, but added in a little drama to reinforce how awesome the concept was. The next day I see her and she looks pretty shaken up. 'What's wrong with you?' I ask. She says, 'Thanks to you, I dreamed all night that I was being chased around by a black hole!'
posted by jabah at 6:53 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I went on to IMDB to see if said anything about the remake, it didn't but it did mention a 2004 Judd Nelson film with the same name. I mention this only because there was an actress in it called Jennifer Lyn Quackenbush, isn't that brilliant?
posted by biffa at 9:28 AM on September 26, 2011


I had the record as a kid. Though I only saw the movie once in the theater, the dialogue is burned into my brain. Oh, and I had action figures! The sentry robots had articulation like Micronauts, and just as fragile.
posted by asfuller at 10:49 AM on September 26, 2011


I had lots of Star Wars action figures as a kid, but none of them were as cool as my V.I.N.CENT figure. I'd say he inspired me to pretend that R2D2 could fly, but I know it was more that the open bottom of R2D2's torso looked like a rocket, because in those days, everything on every toy that might possibly be a rocket or a laser gun was a rocket or a laser gun.

(Red tail lights on a Matchbox car? Rockets. Sparkly bit on GI JOE's belt buckle? Laser. Every exposed bump on a car made of LEGO? Lasers. The holes in the bottom of each LEGO brick? Rockets.)
posted by straight at 11:27 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually on rewatch I think it's worse than Flash Gordon.

You seem to imply that Flash Gordon is somehow rated lowly on the ladder of quality. This statement is a LIE and you have a LIAR'S MOUTH. Stop with your poison noise before there are longstanding life consequences.
posted by FatherDagon at 1:34 PM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I saw this when it came out. I was like seven.

The ending FREAKED ME THE HELL OUT, I left the theatre for those last few minutes. Never done that before or since.
posted by egypturnash at 3:29 PM on September 26, 2011


Oh man, this movie. Another kid who saw it in the theatre here, and was more or less traumatised by the WTF ending.

Did you know that meteor rolling through the ship was actually a flaming basketball?

Also: I had all the figures and those robots were fun to play with, but they would not remotely stand up on their own. Maximillian in particular used to drive me nuts; he had to either be 'asleep' all the time, or propped up against a vehicle. I think, in the end, I finally made him a base of playdoh to keep him upright.
posted by stinkycheese at 3:58 PM on September 26, 2011


Yeah, I think I'm seeing the pattern here. People who saw the movie as very young kids, loved it. Anyone old enough to understand it as more than a bunch of scary robots and big explosions, hated it. I saw it in the theater, I was 21, and I hated it.

One more vote to the contrary; I saw it in the theater when I was seven, and I thought it was boring.

(Although I think I may have enjoyed it more than METEOR, which I got to see just before that. I remember the late 70s as a long, dark period when I had an insatiable jones for sci-fi brought on by Star Wars, but nothing was ever quite as good as that first fix.)
posted by mubba at 6:21 PM on September 26, 2011


I was in pretty much the same boat, though I thought the original Battlestar Gallactica filled the gap reasonably well, Mubba.

And as far as throwing cold, scientific water on cool space premises: with regard to the aforementioned "Meteor," which I desperately wanted to see, my mom helpfully pointed out that the ending was a foregone conclusion: if it had actually hit the Earth, it would have been called "Meteorite."

(of course now, I see that "meteoroid" is the preferred term for a rock hitting the Earth (at which time, the surviving debris apparently becomes a meteorite), while "meteor" strictly refers to the visible path through the atmosphere. Huh.)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:27 PM on September 26, 2011


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