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The Black Hole
Directed by Gary Nelson
Produced by Ron W. Miller
Written by Bob Barbash (story)
Richard Landau (story)
Gerry Day
Jeb Rosebrook
Starring Maximilian Schell
Anthony Perkins
Ernest Borgnine
Robert Forster
Joseph Bottoms
Yvette Mimieux
Roddy McDowall (voice;uncredited)
Slim Pickens (voice;uncredited)
Music by John Barry
Cinematography Frank Phillips
Editing by Gregg McLaughlin
Distributed by Walt Disney Productions
Release date(s) December 21, 1979 (1979-12-21)
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $20,000,000 (estimated)
Gross revenue $35,841,901 (Domestic only)

The Black Hole is a 1979 American science fiction film directed by Gary Nelson for Walt Disney Productions. The film stars Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, and Ernest Borgnine, while the voices of the main robot characters are provided by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens (both unbilled). The music for the movie was composed by John Barry. Alan Dean Foster novelized the screenplay.

Contents

Overview

At $20 million (plus another $6 million for its advertising budget[1]) it was at the time the most expensive picture ever produced by the company.[2] The movie earned $36 million at the North American box office, making it the 13th highest grossing film of its year. It was generally poorly received by critics, although some of the special effects were praised.[3]

The film was nominated for cinematography and visual effects Academy Awards. Although Star Wars had popularized the use of computerized motion control miniature effects, The Black Hole was shot using a blend of traditional camera techniques and newly developed computer controlled camera technology. Disney had wanted to rent equipment from Industrial Light and Magic but when the price was too high and the timing of getting the equipment didn't match Disney's production schedule, they had their engineering department build their own equipment, resulting in the development of Disney's A.C.E.S. (Automated Camera Effects System), as well as the Mattescan system, which for the first time allowed the camera to move over a matte painting, and a computer controlled modeling stand. At the time of its release, the movie's opening credits sequence featured the longest computer graphics shot that had ever appeared in a film. The film also had the world's first digitally recorded soundtrack.[4]

The Black Hole was also notable for being the first Disney film not to have a universal rating, due to mild language (being the first Disney film to include profanity of any type) and scenes of human death never seen in a Disney production before (e.g., a character is eviscerated, albeit bloodlessly). This was Disney's first PG-rated production, and its second overall release with that rating. (The first was the sports drama Take Down, an outside production Disney distributed in early 1979.) The version of the film televised on The Disney Channel has been edited for language, with all uses of the words "damn" and "hell" removed. Along with frequent subtexts, there were also metaphysical and religious themes expressed through the film. This film led the company towards experimenting with more adult-oriented films, which would eventually lead to the creation of its Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures arms to handle films considered too mature in nature to carry the Walt Disney label.[5]

The Black Hole has been released several times on VHS and DVD. The 2004 Region 1 DVD release includes a featurette about the making of the film and the film's original extended trailer.

Plot

An Earth exploratory ship, the USS Palomino, is returning from a deep space exploration mission. The crew consists of: the Palomino's Captain, Dan Holland (Robert Forster); his 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"; voiced by Roddy McDowall).

The ship discovers a black hole with a lost ship, the USS Cygnus, seemingly lifeless but somehow defying its gravitational pull and hovering just outside its event horizon. The Palomino moves in to investigate, and finds a mysterious gravity field surrounding the Cygnus. The Palomino is damaged when it drifts out of the null gravity bubble but manages to make it back to the Cygnus. The derelict ship suddenly comes to life, and allows the Palomino to dock.

The Palomino crew finds a crew of humanoid, faceless robots onboard the Cygnus, along with the ship's Commander, Doctor Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell), a prominent scientist last seen twenty years prior, when he refused an order to return the Cygnus to Earth. Reinhardt explains that the rest of the crew left him behind, and he now commands an army of robots, including the hulking, ominous Maximilian. Reinhardt reveals that he is working on a project to fly the Cygnus into the black hole and explore beyond. While most of the crew react with incredulity and skepticism upon this announcement - especially after Holland discovers personal items, and even uniforms, in the Cygnus crew's quarters - Durant reacts with enthusiasm and decides to accompany Reinhardt into the black hole.

The other Palomino crew grow suspicious of the faceless drones' humanlike behavior, and Old B.O.B. (BiO-sanitation Battalion; voiced by Slim Pickens), a damaged earlier model robot similar to V.I.N.CENT, explains that the faceless drones are in fact the former crew, who mutinied when Reinhardt refused to return to Earth, and have since been reprogrammed, a procedure similar to a lobotomy, to serve him. With this knowledge, the crew attempt to gather back at the Palomino, but Durant is immediately killed by Maximilian, and McCrae is sent to the hospital to be reprogrammed. The rest of the crew rescue McCrae, but Booth panics and attempts to escape alone in the Palomino. Reinhardt orders the ship shot down, resulting in a collision which damages the Cygnus, especially destroying the port side antigravity force field generator. The Cygnus is further damaged by a meteor storm being pulled into the black hole, which also eventually destroys the starboard side antigravity force field generator. Without the null-gravity bubble, the Cygnus begins to get torn apart by the black hole's immense gravity.

As the ship falls apart, Reinhardt and the Palomino survivors both form the same escape plan: to use the probe ship previously used by Reinhardt to scan the black hole. Reinhardt is crushed by falling equipment, however, and Maximilian appears to decline to rescue him, preferring to seek and confront the humans. Reaching them, Maximilian shoots Old B.O.B., damaging him beyond repair but is itself destroyed by V.I.N.CENT and drifts out of the ship and into the hole. Holland, Pizer, McCrae, and V.I.N.CENT make it to the probe but find that it has been programmed to fulfill Reinhardt's objective: a flight through the black hole.

In a long, dialogue-free final sequence, the travelers reach the bottom of the black hole and appear to enter Hell then Heaven.[6] Reinhardt and Maximilian embrace in space, and then appear merged as one on a high rock overlooking a barren, burning landscape populated by robed figures resembling the drones of the Cygnus. The surviving crew of the Palomino pass through a cathedral-like crystal tunnel, with their small craft eventually emerging from a white hole in the vicinity of a planet.

Other media

In Alan Dean Foster's novelization of the film, Kate's ESP links the minds of the Palomino' crew and allows them to survive (in a fashion) while the atoms of their bodies diffuse and are scattered throughout the Universe. (In one version of the book, the events depicted in the film start on Christmas Eve).

One comic book adaptation of the film (Whitman comics, published in 1980) bypasses the whole issue of what happens inside the black hole by having the crew enter the black hole on one page and emerge apparently unharmed on the next page into a parallel universe where they encounter alternate versions of Reinhardt, Old B.O.B. and Maximilian. Four issues were published. The first two issues adapted the film and the second two issues continued the story introducing a race of people called Virlights. The rare fourth issue concludes with the promise of a fifth issue which was planned but never published. Other comic adaptations released in Europe have the crew emerging into another galaxy, thus confirming Reinhardt's theories. While wondering if they will ever return to Earth, they decide to explore this new universe.

In the official Disney Read-Along recording, the crew in the probe ship emerge safely on the other side of the black hole, while the Cygnus is "crushed like an eggshell". The story ends with Captain Holland saying "We've been trained to find new worlds. Let's go find one for ourselves."

The Black Hole theatrical release history

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US release dates

  • December 21, 1979 (original release)
  • March 6, 1982
  • August 16, 1985
  • December 25, 1990 (11th Anniversary edition re-release)

Video release history

  • 1980 (VHS & laserdisc)
  • May 10, 1981 (VHS (UK only))
  • August 3, 1984 (VHS & laserdisc)
  • April 20, 1985 (VHS & laserdisc)
  • August 22, 1985 (laserdisc (Japanese version))
  • 1986 (VHS and laserdisc)
  • 1987 (videodisc (Chinese version)
  • 1989 (VHS and laserdisc)
  • 1990 (VHS and laserdisc (re-release))
  • June 18, 1997 (laserdisc)
  • May 27, 1999 (VHS & DVD)
  • May 7, 2000 (DVD (Japanese version)
  • May 17, 2000 (videodisc (Chinese/Japanese version)
  • June 8, 2002 (DVD - Anchor Bay)
  • August 3, 2004 (DVD - Disney)

Cast

Soundtrack

Highlights of the score, as conducted and composed by John Barry, were released on an LP by Disneyland Records in 1979. It was the first-ever digitally recorded score for a film. The soundtrack has, to date, never been released on CD, though a remastered edition of the soundtrack is available from iTunes.

Track Listing[7]
  • Side A:
  1. "Overture" (2:27)
  2. "Main Title" (1:46)
  3. "The Door Opens" (3:38)
  4. "Zero Gravity" (5:53)
  5. "Six Robots" (1:59)
  • Side B:
  1. "Durant is Dead" (2:31)
  2. "Start the Countdown" (3:51)
  3. "Laser" (2:15)
  4. "Into the Hole" (5:00)
  5. "End Title" (2:34)

Silva Screen Records have released compilation albums remastering some of John Barry's works, which includes some of the music from The Black Hole. Only one track is available and it apparently is The Overture.

Along with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, this was one of the last few mainstream Hollywood productions to have an overture - although most broadcast-syndication prints of the film would later omit it. The overture is included during some broadcasts on Turner Classic Movies and was also included on the DVD release.

Remake

In November 2009, it was reported that Disney has plans to remake the movie. Director Joseph Kosinski and producer Sean Bailey are attached to the production.[2][8]

References

  1. ^ Cinefantastique Magazine, "Black Hole Special Issue", Spring 1980
  2. ^ a b "Tron: Legacy" Team Mount a "Black Hole" Remake, Hollywood Reporter, November 30, 2009
  3. ^ Turner Classic Movie commentary
  4. ^ investigation at MovieMusic.com, also see discussion page
  5. ^ Buzz Cinema - Touchstone Pictures
  6. ^ Does The Black Hole still suck? Movie review by Joshua Moss, June 2, 2000.
  7. ^ Discogs.com entry
  8. ^ New Details About Disney's "Black Hole" Remake, Cinema Spy, February 9, 2010

External links


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