Monday, March 31, 2008

I still love The Black Hole

The Black Hole (1979) as a classic monster film?

On my latest viewing of The Black Hole (a Disney--yes Disney--space adventure released in 1979) I focused on the dark, somewhat gothic atmosphere of the set, oddball design of the robots, and strange performance by Maximilian Schell as the mad Dr. Reinhardt. The film has a wonderful score and effective camera work that adds to the haunting feel. It may be a very uncomfortable space opera with a second rate script and questionable science, but the visuals and themes make this much more. It deserves to be considered a classic cult monster movie.

Ignore the weird, campy moments (e.g., ESP connection with robots--let alone robots voiced by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens). Watch for the truly creepy moments--the slow, mounting realization that the Cygnus I's crew was murdered and turned into some kind of zombie/cyborg hybrid by the mad Dr. Reinhardt. The John Barry score is powerful and mysterious, and enhances key moments in the film.The real monster in this film is Maximilian: a multi-armed, red giant of a robot who has a sinister glow from his "eye"--the corners of which turn slightly up to a point like the horns of a Faustian devil.

It is Maximilian that shreds Anthony Perkin's character with his spinning blades, and Maximilian "glances" back at his supposed master Dr. Reinhardt as the mad doctor is crushed by a giant view screen--if the robot had a mouth, you could almost see the slight curl of a smile. Add the surreal man/monster moment in the inferno at the end of the movie, and Maximilian becomes the embodiment of evil. The Black Hole has some flaws--but the "monsters," the look of the Cygnus--sparse and dark, along with the sweeping camera reminiscent of moments from Dracula (Universal 1931) make this movie a curiosity that no monster fan should miss. Even if it is from Disney.

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