This blog is devoted to all those pieces of 20th century culture too often pooh-pooh'ed by the so called 'high brow' crowd. The stuff that conjoures words like 'vibrant', 'garish' and 'lurid'. Cheap paperbacks, b-movies, exploitation, fantasy, horror and hokey sci-fi - all have a place on this blog where the trash of yesterday is recognised as the classics of today.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Movie Review: The Black Hole (1979)

Odd that I've only just got around to seeing this. It was pretty big news in the late '70s when a lot of films were keen to follow the success of Star Wars (1977) and as I love pretty much everything from that decade it's strange that it's taken me this long to discover it.

Anthony Perkins and Robert Forster star in this Disney production which invested heavily in the special effects department and it certainly is a very pretty film to look at. The story is simple enough; a space exploration team discover the titular black hole along with a massive craft identified as the USS Cygnus which went missing twenty years ago. The ship appears to be deserted but the team soon come across Dr. Hans Reinhardt, something of a mad scientist, who has spent the last two decades living alone with only his robotic crew (which he built) and large, red, robot henchman, Maximilian for company. Reinhardt explains that rest of the old crew fled back to earth after the Cygnus was disabled by a meteorite shower. He remained and now has ambitious plans to travel through the black hole and see what lies on the other side.

Suspicions arise that Reinhardt may not be so devoid of human company as he claims as the crew discover a garden with enough food reserves to feed a small army and one of them witnesses some sort of funeral procession. As they gradually uncover Reinhardt's scheme, they discover the true fate of the old crew and soon find themselves his prisoners and at the mercy of his army of robots.

The main thing this film has going for it is its production design. It really is stunning. True, it's very much a product of its time with its browns and beiges reminiscent of other '70s sci-fi such as Battlestar Galactica and Space: 1999, but the effects and sets are still very impressive today. From the cavernous interiors of the USS Cygnus and its sprawling views of space and walls of consoles to the laser gun fights and floating robots, the film is what I suppose one would call a 'visual feast'.

But the film is not without its flaws. Primarily these revolve around the character of V.I.N.CENT, a robot buddy of the main characters. Clearly included as some sort of comic relief, R2-D2, this guy ain't. As a result the movie can't seem to decide whether it is a light-hearted family romp or serious science fiction and ends up being neither.

Of course, the film was merchandised to the hilt alongside other sci-fi extravaganzas of the late '70s.

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