The Black Hole (1979)

The Black Hole is quite frightening for a Disney film.

This was my favourite film when I was a child and it gave me nightmares too – specifically the part where the evil red robot Maximilian uses his rotating blade weapon to cut into a scientist’s chest. Back then Maximilian seemed sinister and scary but when you watch it now, it looks like it would be possible to fight him off with a well-positioned broom handle. It’s surprising this is a Disney film because it’s very dark and bleak at times. There is no hope for the once human but now zombified crew on the Cygnus and at the end of the film there isn’t a great outcome for the protagonists either. So it’s interesting then…

Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster) of the Palomino, a research ship and his crew discover a huge black hole, and amazingly there appears to be a man-made space ship (The Cygnus) in a stationary orbit near it. The ship is commanded by Dr Hans Reinhardt who has been missing since a mission 20 years ago. Dr Reinhardt initially seems a friendly and benevolent host but soon the crew of the Palomino find themselves making shocking discovery after shocking discovery and it’s not long before they wonder if they will leave the Cygnus alive.

Interesting this may be, but it’s not Alien, it’s not scary at all for adults, and it’s a little predictable especially since this there have been numerous films before and since that follow a similar plot – that of a benevolent host turned malevolent. The special effects have dated but they aren’t bad at all and after the first 20 minutes you’ll find your imagination easily fills in the gaps, and then you can sit back and enjoy the story.

One of my favourite things about this film when I was a kid was the robots – Vincent and Bob. Back then Vincent seemed very cool, and while not exactly cool anymore, he at least has a quirky personailty. He constantly quotes from famous thinkers and philosophers which almost annoys the crew as much as it entertains them. He’s also a sharp shooter with his laser gun, and his willingless to face off against the much larger Maximilian shows he has guts.

Sadly it all feels a little rigid (acting included) and staid now, and if you’re coming to it new without the nostalgia there’s not really enough intrigue or excitement to hold your adult attention. For a much younger audience though it would still be an exciting adventure, and who knows? maybe even a little scary. Just don’t have nightmares. 6/10

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