The Black Hole was Disney’s attempt to cash in on Star Wars mania and the studio’s most ambitious and costly production to date.
The story about a spaceship crew which encounters a black hole and a long-lost madman certainly featured some spectacular special effects.
The story begins in the 22nd century in “uncharted space”, where the crew of the Palomino crosses near the path of a gravity-sucking black hole (apologies to scientists everywhere for that infantile explanation).
One step away from fleeing, the crew discovers a ship, the mile-long Cygnus (lost in mysterious circumstances twenty years earlier), floating nearby.
Upon investigation, the Cygnus is found to be populated by only one human, Dr Hans Reinhardt, and an armada of his robot creations.
As the story progresses, the crew discovers Reinhardt’s plan to fly into the depths of the black hole, seeking the source of all energy.
Attempts to escape are met with robotic resistance, as the ship drifts closer and closer to oblivion.
Unfortunately, the storyline was tiresome and a good cast was wasted on one-dimensional characters, with the possible exception of an unhinged Maximillian Schell completely off his rocker as Dr Reinhardt (pictured below left).
Ernest Borgnine gives his worst performance since McHale’s Navy. His fellow crew members are Joseph Bottoms, Yvette Mimieux, and Anthony Perkins.
With them is a floating robot with cute eyes, built like the Pillsbury Doughboy, but for all his well-timed quips, the robot (pictured below right) fails to provide the comic relief he was designed for.
Yvette finds herself wrapped in tinfoil on a lazy Susan, heading under the ray gun designed to zap her brain. She wards off laser beams by arching her eyebrows like Marjorie Main.
But the biggest letdown comes when they actually travel through the black hole after Schell and his mad schemes go up in sparks . . .
First, it looks like they tried to film an LSD trip, then changed their minds and decided on Dante’s Inferno, a fiery pit with the evil robot standing on a rock like Lucifer.
Most people haven’t the faintest idea what the ending is about (or who picked Ernest Borgnine to be an astronaut!) but a giant red robot with switchblades for hands, and another robot with Slim Pickens’ voice makes up for all that.
Dr Hans Reinhardt
Dr Alex Durant
Lt Charles Pizer
Dr Kate McCrae
Capt Dan Holland