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RETROSPECTIVE OF DISNEY'S SPACE YARN THE BLACK HOLE

Ernest Borgnine Signature RELEASE DATE: 1979
After the release and success of the original STAR WARS in 1977, Disney, who now owns the franchise, jumped on the laser beam bandwagon: Attempting classic science fiction with an abundance of fantastical elements, combining your typical mad scientist motif with a neat dash of heroic peril, THE BLACK HOLE is a flawed yet fun cerebral space venture starring the recently departed Maximilian Schell as Dr. Hans Reinhardt, a rogue scientist commanding a humongous ghost ship aimed straight for – while being invisibly anchored down at the foot of – a nightmarishly palpable black hole…

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His mission is to study the vortex from the inside as the crew of an American exploratory ship the U.S.S. Palamino, led by Robert Forster’s stalwart Captain Dan Holland, winds up aboard Reinhardt’s enigmatic vessel wherein the most intriguing scenes occur as the crew's "welcomed" by Reinhardt and his formidable levitating robot Maximilian, a maroon, metal-plated demon with “hands” made of twirling blades: The ominous Max provides an essentially suspenseful element… that anything can happen at any time, and most likely it won’t be good for our heroes, especially the crew’s vulnerable Science Officer Dr. Alex Durant, played by Anthony Perkins, wooed by the brilliant and famous galactic pioneer. Meanwhile the Doubting Thomas reporter and most earthy character, Harry Booth, wielding caustic humor (speaking for the audience) throughout, had, years earlier, conducted Reinhardt’s last interview before he took off from Earth and never returned: In this scene-stealing role, veteran actor Ernest Borgnine's Booth doesn't hold back while the gallant Forster and his more faithful compatriots, including love interest Yvette Mimieux as Dr. Kate McCrea and token youth Joseph Bottoms as the endearing Lt. Charlie Pizar, remain on cautious alert through Reinhardt’s monologue-spouting seduction.

Brilliant actor Maximilian Schell commands the not-so-ghost-ship
Then, like the results of an actual Event Horizon, possibly forcing the giant ship into its inevitably sinister clutches, a sci-fi tale that neatly builds momentum winds up a standard free-for-all action fare with a soundtrack much too blaring and triumphant. Although John Barry’s swirling opening track INTO THE HOLE is poignant and spooky, the victorious MAIN THEME, playing during the last act as our surviving heroes run throughout the ship's haul, being torn apart by flaming meteors, is simply begging for the story to en: Leading to a 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY style ambiguous finale that happens too soon, not allowing Maximilian Schell enough time as the underlined, subliminal menace wherein his best moments occur during the build-up… But that big evil robot Max, eventually butting metal heads with V.I.N.C.E.N.T, a floating, telepathic and endearing sidekick ala R2D2, winds up stealing a movie (who is voiced by Roddy McDowell along with a beat-up robot of the same make, B.O.B. by Slim Pickens) that causes science fiction fanatics to smile while occasionally scratching their heads in disbelief, including (and especially) the novelization author from a Cult Film Freak interview....

Spanish Novelization
ALAN DEAN FOSTER: Bad film, but that's no news bulletin. I spent a lot of time trying to correct and rationalize the science. The meteor rolling down the center of the ship like a giant flaming bowling ball almost made me give up in despair (velocity? momentum? oxygen?). I felt terrible for the Ellenshaws and especially Ellenshaw Sr. They did some beautiful matte work for the picture, but the story and science were beyond juvenile.  

Bad Ball of Fire
After I finished the book I made a list of 75 changes that I felt could be made to the picture in post-production to improve it and turned it in to my contact at Disney but nothing was heard, and years later I ran into the same guy and said, "I guess no one at the studio ever saw my suggestions." "Oh no," he replied. "They had a meeting about it. There was a lot of anger expressed". I was hardly surprised. How dare some cheap-ass novelizer make suggestions about their big-budget extravaganza!  See, in certain areas of the film business the only thing worse than being wrong about something is being right. OH WELL, Mr Foster... Your book is incredible, you helped make movies come to a deeper light years ago, but, as for his cinematic opinion: the rest of us not-so-science-minded star cruising adventure frolicking freaks can only turn off the brainlights and have a good... no, make that a great... time in the outer regions of space, and beyond, where just about anything is possible!
Some great special effects for THE BLACK HOLE who cares what the critics say
Weena, Norman Bates, Marty, Max Cherry and Roddy McDowall tour the ghost ship
 The late Ernest Borgnine as Harry Booth in THE BLACK HOLE
Watching the result of an attempted escape in THE BLACK HOLE
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