Nearing the end of a long mission exploring deep space, the spacecraft USS Palomino is returning to Earth. The crew consists of Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster), First Officer Lieutenant Charlie Pizer (Joseph Bottoms), journalist Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine), ESP-sensitive scientist Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux), the expedition’s civilian leader Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins) and the robot V.I.N.CENT (“Vital Information Necessary CENTralized”) (Roddy McDowall). The Palomino crew discover a black hole in space with a spaceship nearby, somehow defying the hole’s massive gravitational pull. The ship is identified as the long-lost USS Cygnus, the ship McCrae’s father served aboard when it went missing. Deciding to investigate, the Palomino encounters a mysterious null gravity field surrounding the Cygnus. The Palomino becomes damaged when it drifts away from the Cygnus and into the black hole’s intense gravity field, but the ship manages to move back to the Cygnus and finds itself able to dock to what initially appears to be an abandoned vessel. The Palomino crew warily boards the Cygnus and soon encounter the ship’s commander, Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell), a brilliant scientist. Aided by a crew of faceless, black-robed android drones and his sinister looking robot Maximilian, Reinhardt explains that he has lived all alone on the Cygnus for years. After the ship encountered a meteor field and was disabled, he ordered the human crew to return to Earth, but Kate’s father chose to remain aboard and has since died. Reinhardt then reveals that he has spent the past 20 years studying the black hole and intends to fly the Cygnus through it. Only Durant believes it is possible and asks to accompany Reinhardt on the trip. The rest of the Palomino crew grow suspicious of the faceless drones’ human-like behaviour: Booth sees a robot limping and Holland witnesses a robot funeral and discovers the Cygnus crew’s personal items in the ship’s living quarters. Old B.O.B. (BiO-sanitation Battalion), a battered early model robot similar to V.I.N.CENT, explains that the faceless drones are in fact the human crew, who mutinied when Reinhardt refused to return to Earth and had been lobotomized and “reprogrammed” by Reinhardt to serve him. McCrae’s father had led the mutiny and was killed. Using telepathy, V.I.N.CENT tells Kate the truth about what happened. Soon enough Reinhardt holds the crew captive, after realising that they can help him reach his goal…

“The Black Hole” was Disney’s big Christmas release in 1979. It had a big budget, the first PG rating and big stars in the main roles. At $20 million (plus another $6 million for the advertising budget), it was at the time the most expensive picture ever produced by Disney. The movie earned nearly $36 million at the North American box office, making it the 21st highest grossing film of 1979. However it received mixed reviews from critics. Famed critic Roger Ebert gave the film 2 stars out of 4 upon its release, saying it “takes us all the way to the rim of space only to bog us down in a talky melodrama whipped up out of mad scientists and haunted houses.” Meanwhile, The New York Times, Time Magazine and Variety all praised the film. The special effects were generally acclaimed by the press. The film received two Academy Award nominations: One for Best Visual Effects and one for Best Cinematography. Author John Kenneth Muir wrote an extensive review of the film that delved into some of the nuances and metaphysical ideas which marked The Black Hole as more adult-oriented fare than Disney had previously been involved with. At the time of its release, the movie featured the longest computer graphics sequence that had ever appeared in a film: the “green grid” sequence that appears under the opening titles. I remember vividly when this movie came out, I was 7 years old, and excited. But, still too young to see it at the movies, so I bought the comic album instead. And of some reason I haven´t seen the movie until now, over 30 years later. And I did like it. Yes, you have to bare with some dodgy effects that was top notch in 1979, and maybe some editing/direction that not always keep things together. But, the metaphysical ideas and the questioning of something higher and diviner behind the black hole is intriguing. The metaphors of the black hole can be discussed both scientifically and literally. Solid acting from “heavyweights” such as Maximilian Schell, Ernest Borgnine and Anthony Perkins. “The Black Hole” is a mix of a Disney kid adventure and a more adult sci-fi movie, but yet it works. But, the ending had some floaty existential layers that was unexpected I most say. But, all in all “The Black Hole” is an alright sci-fi adventure with layers of my liking. (3 out of 5)

MPW-39146