The exploration vessel Palomino discovers the gigantic, long-lost Cygnus orbiting aroundthe edge of a massive black hole. Boarding the Cygnus after the Palomino suffers some damage,the crew discovers that the only human left aboard the Cygnus is the megalomaniacal MaximilianSchell. Aided by his army of robots, he is preparing to plunge into the black hole, and he willsacrifice anything and anyone to complete his goal.
On the positive side, the production design is m…gnificent, most of the special effects areawe-inspiring, and John Barry’s main theme is memorably majestic and ominous (curiously, hisaction sequence music is very stodgy and pace-killing, which is surprising for a composerresponsible for so much of James Bond’s musical legacy). On the debit side, the cast (Schell,Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine and Joseph Bottoms) is sowooden and their characters so flat they make the puppets in Thunderbirds look like JimCarey. The sub-R2D2 robots (voiced by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens) certainly don’t helpanything, and the storyline becomes more nonsensical and risible with every passing minute. Atthe climax, we actually see our characters clambering around outside the ship without thebenefit of suits (I can’t think of any 50’s SF film, however cheap, that was stupid enough to trythat one), and the actual journey through the black hole comes across as a philosophicallyhilarious cut-rate amalgam of the Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria sequence fromFantasia and the climax of 2001. Not, in other words, a misunderstood classicwaiting to be rediscovered, but entertaining all the same.
The 5.1 track sounds pretty good for a film now 25 years old. Though the surround aspectsare constant, they really come into their own whenever ship engines are heard, and then therumble is most satisfying. The music is very rich and full.
The aspect ratio is 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, which is really how this film needs to beseen, in order for one to feel the grandeur of the sets and compositions. The colours, blacks andcontrasts are all solid. Where the print’s age shows, however, is in some speckling and minorgrain.
Not a lot here: the extended trailer, and “Through the Black Hole,” a retrospectivedocumentary/interview with Harrison Ellenshaw, son of FX bos Peter Ellenshaw. The focus hereis almost entirely on the technical aspects of the film. The menu’s main screen and intro areanimated and scored, while the second-level screens are scored. Why it was deemed necessary touse shots from the very end of the film as menu screens is beyond me.
Still as much of a folly as it ever was, and filled with good intentions and bad decisions, thisis still rather fun to watch for all those reasons.
Special Features List
- “Through the Black Hole” Documentary
- Extended Trailer