Springing from the same late-’70s/early-’80s post-Star Wars sci-fi boom that produced Alien, Starcrash, Battle Beyond the Stars, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture — and coming off like the perfect average of all four — Disney's first PG-rated film The Black Hole is a grand insanity that serves up laser battles and genocide in equal amounts.
A research vessel headed into the depths of outer space makes two shocking discoveries: the titular phenomenon, a star that has collapsed in on itself and now wields an inescapably powerful gravitational force, and a majestic starship thought lost 20 years before that somehow defies the pull of the black hole. Further investigation reveals an army of robots, a captain/mad scientist (Maximilian Schell, equally handy quoting scripture or Nietszche and dropping bons mots like “I am here to prove that the end does justify the means!") and an unspeakable mystery.
You just can't go wrong with this film. You've got a great Falstaffian turn from Ernest Borgnine, Oscar winner and the man who learned the language of love at the hands of Ethel Merman. You've got Schell and Anthony Perkins’ seduction-by-knowledge subplot yielding scientifically uncharted subtext. You've got that psychedelic Cathar freakout of an ending that still boggles the mind. You've got the evil, hulking, red slice-and-dice master robot Maximillian and the two anthropomorphized good robots (uncredited voices by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens, natch). And you have Disney doing something unquestionably weird (see also The Watcher in The Woods for similar traumatizing madness) with its opening credits, the first fully computer-generated anything in movie history.
This was supposed to play The Belcourt two weeks ago, but a mishap waylaid the 35mm print and nixed the screening. It was worth the wait, folks, until the theater could reschedule it for this Saturday at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Do not miss your chance to see a 35mm print of this.