In the wake of Star Wars: A New Hope, rival film studios scrambled to put together their own science fiction opus to cash in on the intergalactic space cow: Starcrash (1978), Message From Space (1978), Moonraker (1979), Star Odyssey (1979), Battle Beyond the Stars (1980), and Space Raiders (1983) are a few of those gems.
In 1979, Walt Disney called up some fading stars to join in their space-themed ripoff named The Black Hole. All seemed bright during the opening credits—a background image effect with a series of grids that, in three years, would be repurposed in the film Tron, Disney’s dazzling sci-fi flick—but those opening credits soon faded, and so did our hopes for a great Disney movie.
Our story begins in the year of 2130, in a remote part of the galaxy, with a human crew on the Palomino. The ship is made up of Norman Bates, his very lonely shower girl, Kate, who’s gifted with ESP but not enough sense to stay away from knives, Lt. Cmdr. McHale from McHale’s Navy, Abdul Rafai from The Delta Force, Buddy Lembeck from Charles in Charge, and their own “charming” R2-D2, the floating ball of spunk, V.i.n-cent, voiced by Roddy MacDowell’s ape-shit aphorisms.
The Palomino comes across a mysterious ship perched precariously close to the edge of a enormous Black Hole. It’s the USS Cygnus, which was previously listed as missing, but Kate’s father was a crew member at that time, so the crew decides to investigate for a bit.
The Palomino docks to the floating terrarium via tractor beam, and they pile on board wondering why there is no reception committee. They explore a few mysteriously empty rooms until an array of open doors leads to a mini train. Of course they get on, and it takes them to the control tower where the long-lost madman, Dr. Hans Reinhardt, and his deadly robot, Edward Blenderhands, lie in wait.
Hans explains the former crew are all dead, and his current crew are all robotic. He also remarks that the visiting Palomino guests are the only earthlings who know of his existence and that’s the way he likes it. More robot sex for him!
The Palomino crew are suspect of his mental state, although Norman Bates initially admires the good doc for his research. Is Hans evil or just a reclusive explorer? He dresses in red-velvet suits, and looks like the devil. We will let you decide.
Revelations are made on what happened to the previous crew, and Hans begins to engineer a sinister plot to keep his guests on board. There’s even a rumor from Captain S.T.A.R. about the crew of the Palomino going in, through…and beyond the black hole with Hans. What fun!
The Palomino crew gets separated, but they really need to get back to their ship real quick to avoid ulterior motives. V.I.N – cent confirms this alongside his new mate, B.O.B., an over-the-hill replica of himself voiced by Slim Pickens.
To cut a long, weird, almost incomprehensible story short, McHale fakes a broken leg (not one of Ernest Borgnine’s finest moments), a meteor shower strikes, there is a foot pursuit and battle in an icy vegetation room before the psychotic Dr Hans Reinhardt is found out to be the killer of the former crew, and that crew are now his sub-humanoid general command.
An eventual trip through the Black Hole beckons for the remaining space cadets, but seriously what the hell is going on is anybody’s guess. The acid trip is shorter than the journey through the wormhole scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey, however, it’s equally as weird, but we do get to see heaven and hell, so it has that going for it, which is nice.
The final images of the film look to a possible proposed sequel which never eventuated, and a finale open to drug-induced interpretation. This is the kind of crap Hollywood is begging to reboot.