Retro Review: The Black Hole (1979)

If anything, 'The Black Hole' was trying to cash in on the success that was Star Wars, but it lacked the charisma and joy of Star Wars. 
Black Hole

Synopsis: Nearing the end of a long mission exploring deep space, the spacecraft USS Palomino is returning to Earth. When it finds a black hole.


The Story

While on its return journey to Earth. The USS Palomino and her crew come across a black hole and also find that the USS Cygnus, a ship that was presumed lost is perched precariously at the edge of it. As they try to help the ship. The Palomino becomes damaged but suddenly finds that the Cygnus is pulling them toward it. As they are brought on board. Captain Holland and the Palomino crew meet Dr. Hans Reinhardt. The only surviving human on board the Cygnus. Or so they are led to believe. As the movie’s plot thickens. We learn that Reinhardt has turned all of the Cygnus crew into Cyborgs that answer only to him. Added to that he has built an army of robots to guard and protect him. The most deadly of which is Maximilian, who is Reinhardt’s right hand.

When Captain Holland and his crew learn that Reinhardt plans to take his ship into the black hole and them with him. They try to make a hasty escape but have a little trouble convincing their science officer Dr. Alex Durant to go with them. Durant believes that Reinhardt is a genius and wants to go with him.


The Acting

For me, the acting in this film is a bit of a mixed bag. The main cast, which is led by a rather bland Robert Forster who plays the role of Captain Holland seems a bit long in the tooth for this sort of film. Even Joseph Bottoms who plays Lieutenant Charles Pizer, the youngest crew member feels like he’d be more at home on the classic ‘Lost In Space’ episode. The dialogue seemed rather stilted much of the time between the human characters. Especially in scenes where Holland and Pizer were interacting. Ernest Borgnine brings a touch of the everyman to the film in his role of Harry Booth. While Anthony Perkins does his best impersonation of a hero-worshipping science nerd.

In fact. This film as far as the cast goes belongs to Maximilian Schell as the scenery-chewing Dr. Reinhardt, who is basically a clone of Captain Nemo, but in space. Also making the film watchable are great voice performances by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens as robots V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and B.O.B. respectively. In fact, the robots sound much more human than the human characters. With the exception of Maximilian Schnell who must have eaten his Wheaties because he along with his big Robot namesake steal the show.



The story of this film is fairly simple. Mad genius tries to talk some people who happened to come along to go with him into a black hole and potentially die or maybe discover the secrets of the universe. Indeed Dr. Reinhardt did have a case of the Captain Nemo’s about him, but I’d say he was slightly more crazy. If anything, ‘The Black Hole’ was trying to cash in on the success that was Star Wars, but it lacked the charisma and joy of Star Wars. Obviously, the cute little robots were basically rip-offs of R2D2 only instead of Beeps, we had dialogue and little spurts of philosophy. Don’t get me wrong. I loved V.I.N.C.E.N.T and B.O.B as they were the most engaging characters of the movie. But any charisma coming from the main cast of characters other than these two robots was sadly lacking.

In terms of the visual stuff on display. It looked pretty good for the time. The set comprising of the USS Cygnus was absolutely stunning and had a real sense of scale to it. Visually there’s a lot to look at in this film. However, some of the animations look dated now. We get a nice moment toward the end of the film in which the robot V.I.N.C.E.N.T. gets into a right old ding dong of a fight with Maxamillion. It has to be said, that fight is pretty cute.

For me. The strongest part of this movie was the soundtrack. John Barry’s musical score is mesmerizing to listen to. It’s just a pity that the film overall could not do it justice.

Overall. This is very much a mixed bag. I vaguely remember seeing this one at the cinema. Now I know why my memories of it were only vague. Aside from a great performance from the villain and some rather fun robots. There’s very little to write home about with this one. It’s not a film that holds up well to repeat viewings. It just lacks the gusto of other films from the time. I think had it had a younger cast and they’d kept Borgnine and Maximilian Schell. It might have worked out better. Robert Forster, Joseph Bottoms and Yvette Mimieux felt like pretty bad casting to me.


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The Black Hole (1979)
  • Story
  • Acting
  • VFX and Stunts
  • Soundtrack & Incidental Music

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at:
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