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BLACK HOLE, THE (director/writer: Gary Nelson; screenwriter: Gerry Day /Jeb Rosebrook/based on the story by Jeb Rosebrook, Bob Barbash & Richard Landau; cinematographer: Frank Phillips; editor: Gregg McLaughlin; music: John Barry; cast: Maximilian Schell (Dr Hans Reinhart), Robert Forster (Captain Dan Holland), Yvette Mimieux (Dr Kate McRae), Anthony Perkins (Dr Alex Durant), Ernest Borgnine (Harry Booth), Joseph Bottoms (Charles Pizer), Roddy McDowall (Voice of Vincent), Slim Pickens (Voice of BOB); Runtime: 98; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Ron Miller; Anchor Bay Entertainment; 1979)
“Is let down by the weak script.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

TV veteran Gary Nelson (“Jimmy the Kid”/”Freaky Friday”) directs Disney’s most costly production to date (a budget of 20 million dollars) to compete against such contemporary hits as Star Wars (1977) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). It’s a film noted for its great look (the set design by Peter Ellenshaw uses painters like Chagall and Mondrian to give it a modern look and for the stunning image of a fiery meteor to keeps us in awe), holograms and special effects, but is let down by the weak script by Gerry Day and Jeb Rosebrook, stilted dialogue and a murky climax. It’s based on the story by Jeb Rosebrook.

The crew of the research spaceship Palamino, the no-nonsense authoritative Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster), the telepathic scientist with the robot droids Dr Kate McRae (Yvette Mimieux), the curious scientist Dr Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins), a reporter named Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine), the exuberant junior pilot Charles Pizer (Joseph Bottoms) and a lively robot named Vincent (Roddy McDowall, voice of Vincent), return from their failed space mission to find habitable life in outer space and run across the “lost” ship U.S.S. Cygnus, hovering on the edge of an immense black hole. They are forced aboard the ship by a robot army, and once aboard they find the ship’s only human inhabitant is the bearded Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell), a Captain Nemo-like mad scientist missing with his crew (including Kate’s scientist father) for the past twenty years who is planning to enter the Black Hole; that is, despite the dangers involved (whose gravitational pull allows nothing to leave it), to find answers that have eluded science. A conflict arises when the Palamino crew wishes to repair its ship to go back to earth but the tyrannical Reinhardt schemes to use that ship to help him enter the Black Hole. Also the Palamino crew learn how Reinhardt created a half-human/half-robot slave ship and what really happened to his missing crew.

The film can be appreciated only on a technical level. Otherwise the movie never inspires with its insipid story (it takes the fun out of exploring outer space), and when we wait for the big payoff of entering the Black Hole–we are in for a big let down if we expect the story to make sense.

REVIEWED ON 11/22/2007 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”