Thursday, June 2, 2011

Thirty Days of Disney Movies, Day Eighteen - Guilty Pleasure

On board the USS Cygnus, at the edge of The Black Hole

In the end, the bliss of watching The Black Hole is all about the wires.

Oh sure, you could point out the cheesy dialog--groan-inducing lines like "Some cause must have created all this, but what caused that cause?" or even "When you're nose to nose with a trash compactor, cool it"--but those are just minor contributions.

You could also talk about the ridiculous lapses of logic, even for a sci-fi film, like how after a meteorite crashes through the top of a spaceship in deep space, the inhabitants are still able to run to safety...and breathe.

Naaa, that's still not my favorite slice of cinematic cheese. It's definitely the wires.

Throughout The Black Hole, there are a bevy of humans and flying robots that float through the air in any given scene, and more than half the time you can see the wires holding them up. You could make a great drinking game out of it. See a wire, do a shot.

I'm not being critical. I think it's awesome.

Over the years, The Black Hole has grown on me because of how charmingly old school it is. It has very little of the digital trickery we take for granted in special effects movies these days--it was made in 1979, after all. Much of what you see on screen had to be done in-camera, although a lot of green screen background effects were filmed using over 150 matte shots of star fields, spaceship corridors and, of course, the black hole itself. It made for a fairly convincing celestial setting, even if it was offset by a pretty hokey script.

Strings attached: B.O.B. and V.I.N.CENT.
Disney made The Black Hole in response to the Star Wars phenomenon that began two years earlier. In some circles it was felt that George Lucas's hugely popular space opera was the type of movie Disney should have been producing for years instead of the benign family fare it kept churning out. It had been more than a decade since Disney was considered an innovator in the film industry or anywhere near the cutting edge, and its declining box office numbers proved it. The Black Hole was an opportunity for the studio to make a statement.

The statement fell flat. The story of a megalomaniac scientist (Maximilian Schell) obsessed with exploring the unknown void of a black hole wasn't the hit Disney hoped for. It cost $20 million to make and only raked in $25 million domestically at the box office. Those were respectable numbers for a Disney film back them, but still a money-loser by Hollywood standards. It didn't help that The Black Hole was released a few weeks after the opening of another splashy science fiction epic, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

And yet...I just watched The Black Hole yesterday and was thoroughly entertained. I haven't seen the first Star Trek movie in years.

It's the wires, I tell you.

And V.I.N.CENT. the robot looking like R2D2 while sounding like C3PO.

And Yvette Mimieux wearing high heels in space and using ESP to communicate.

And Robert Forster not cracking a smile for 98 minutes.

And the bad guy robots standing stock still while the good guy humans shoot at them.

This is great stuff, seriously.

The 30-Day Disney Movie Challenge continues tomorrow, and there won't be a dry eye in the house.

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