The Black Hole (1979), a recap (part 5)

NOTE: This article is a work in progress.
Please check back soon for more installments!

Previously: 2019 ended and 2020 started, pretty much on time. Disney+ added the live-action remake of Aladdin, possibly the least necessary film ever made. Oh, you mean in this movie? Captain Holland has concluded that Dr. Reinhardt is probably up to no good because Dr. Reinhardt is probably up to no good. He’s determined to collect his small crew and leave as soon as possible.

Reinhardt invites everyone to dinner. Holland immediately throws his plan out the window and decides that leaving after dinner is more than soon enough. In the very next scene, Holland, Pizer, and Vincent are walking down a hallway. Vincent loudly complains that they should just skip the meal and leave. Holland just brushes this all off because, I guess, he really wants to go to this dinner. Unfortunately, Vincent isn’t invited. Holland doesn’t want him to get into another showdown with Maximilian, whom he refers to as a monster. He thinks Reinhardt’s chief lieutenant is a monster, but he’s still going to eat with the guy. He must be really, really hungry.

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Vincent protests but he still gets dropped off in a room full of those drone guys like my mom dropping me off at daycare. And just like my mom dropping me off at daycare, Pizer reassures him that he’s going to have the time of his life in there.

“And you’ll play games, and read stories, and make new friends…”

Vincent really, really doesn’t want to go. He’s very worried the crew might run into a problem. Holland is unphased. He explains, “We’ve been in some scrapes before and we’re gonna get out of this one.” Wait, they’ve been in some scrapes before? When? All they were supposed to do was wander around looking for habitable planets. They didn’t find any. That’s not a scrape; that’s the opposite of a scrape. It’s an anti-scrape. And if Holland thinks they’re really in danger, his reaction should be to just leave, not go to a 7:00 seating like he’s on a damn cruise ship.

They finally get rid of Vincent. As they walk away, Pizer salutes two robot guys guarding the door and says sarcastically, “As you were.” I don’t mention this to highlight that Pizer is just the single biggest ass the US has ever shot into space. He is, but that’s not my point. My point is: Why are there robot guys guarding the door? Before the Palomino docked, there was nobody to guard it from. And now Reinhardt’s just letting everyone from the Palomino wander around wherever they want, so there’s still nobody to guard it from.

In daycare, the robot guys are not reading stories. But Vincent does make a friend. Old Bob is also in the room for no reason I can imagine. The red robots are taking target practice by shooting their lasers at little dots outside the ship. A black robot guy appears to be the best at this. Bob tells Vincent that this is S.T.A.R., Special Troops Arms Regular. And that’s just as insane an acronym as all the others. Either he’s special or he’s regular, but he can’t be both.

“Hey guys, are we supposed to be shooting our lasers at the glass windows? Also, should spaceships really have glass windows?”

According to Bob, Star (if that is his legal name) was the prototype for the sentry robots. Once again, there’s no reason for this ship to have sentry robots. Vincent is unimpressed with Star’s marksmanship, saying that he and Bob are better shots. He asks if Bob ever went up against him. Bob says he did once, and beat him. According to Bob, Star got so upset he blew a fuse. He got his revenge, says Bob. “He did things to me that I sure don’t like to think about.”

Oh, I forgot! This is the first time we hear Bob’s voice. It is, as promised, Slim Pickens. He sounds exactly like himself: a crazed western rodeo rider turned actor turned national goddamned treasure. But this all raises at least one very important question: Why do two nearly identical robots have the voices of a British man and Taggart from Blazing Saddles? According to the movie, it’s because Bob was programmed in Texas. By that logic, my Echo should sound like Jeff Bezos.

“Hey Jeff, remind me to call OSHA tomorrow.”

We finally get to dinner. Reinhardt has an opulent and spacious dining room. It’s way too gaudy for anyone’s tastes except a complete lunatic. It actually reminds me of Donald Trump’s decorating style. So, my point: made.

‘Wait! Make sure we pack twenty years worth of candles!”

Harry Booth makes some small talk with Reinhardt. He tells him Earth hasn’t changed much in two decades. That’s true today. I mean, the iPhone has gotten better. Also, Apple invented the iPhone.

Despite the candlelit dinner, Captain Holland tells Reinhardt that they’ll be leaving soon. Anthony Perkins interrupts, “Speak for yourself, Dan. I, for one, believe I have a great deal to learn from Dr. Reinhardt.” I’m beginning to suspect that the title “Captain” is entirely honorary. Nobody has obeyed a single order this guy’s given.

Reinhardt stands up to make a toast. Man, this movie is boring. I wish he’d speed everything up and just admit that he intends to fly his ship into that black hole. Reinhardt then tells everyone, “I will travel where no man has dared to go.” Not just into the black hole but, “In, through, and beyond.” Oh, sweet mother of Melinda Gates! Thank you, movie! Thank you! Not sure why it took you forty-six minutes, but thank you all the same.

Booth exclaims that flying into a black hole is impossible. Reinhardt tells him, “The word ‘impossible,’ Mr. Booth, is only found in the dictionary of fools.” Sure, I buy that—fools and, say, people who know anything about gravity. Despite all sorts of weird math, the general consensus is that if you threw yourself into a black hole, you’d just get crushed to death.

This should clear everything up.

You can’t go through a black hole. As one article put it, “It’s like wondering about the magical place you go if you jump into a trash compactor.” Even physicist Kip Thorne, who minted his reputation with a theory of wormholes, admits, “We see no objects in our universe that could become wormholes.” And, yeah, there are theoretically white holes that just spew out the matter from inside black holes. The problem, and it’s a significant problem, is that they don’t exist.

So, just to recap this recap, Reinhardt’s plan is to die. He is absolutely going to die. That’s the consensus of scientists now and it was the consensus when this film was made. People simply cannot defy gravity.

Well, most can’t.

One would expect that the very next thing would be that everybody would jump up from the table, yell, “Good luck with your dementia,” and run the hell away. That is not what happens. Instead, we cut back to Vincent, Bob, and the stormtrooper having target practice.

Star, the resident sharpshooter, challenges Bob to a rematch. Did I mention B.O.B. stands for Bio-Sanitation Battalion? Because it does. A cleaning robot was outfitted with lasers to shoot… I don’t know, me? Could he shoot me? I’m starting to wish someone would.

Bob actually is winning for a moment until Star straight up hip-checks him. Vincent is incensed and challenges Star himself. Hey, remember when Vincent was worried there might be some sort of trouble? Vincent certainly doesn’t, seeing as he’s going out of his way to create some. Remember when the first version of Aladdin was perfectly acceptable? Disney certainly doesn’t, seeing as thy went out of their way to make a worse one.

What is this thing? It makes no logical sense! Why is it here?

“Star,” Vincent snarls, “Vincent’s my name, sharpshooting’s my game. Try me.” Star fires off some shots, including one where he doesn’t look and one behind his back, like he’s in a production of Annie, Get Your Gun. Not to be outdone by this entirely pointless exercise, Vincent takes his shots while doing a barrel roll. He gets a little too ambitious and one of his laser blasts ricochets and hits Star right in the chest.

This, of course, burns Star’s little Vader-like control panel. Star clasps his chest in what I assume is the robot version of horror. Vincent is very calm about the whole thing. “If one dances,” Vincent lectures, “One must pay the piper.” I know exactly where he’s coming from. That’s almost word-for-word what I said the last time I shot a guy dead center mass.

Star is taking his laser wound rather badly. He begins to shake. Then sparks shoot out of him. Then he actually lights on fire. And then he falls to the floor and dies. Vincent, ever the cool head, remarks, “If there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s a sore loser.”

“Mind if I smoke?”

Hey, remember when Vincent had a clear grasp of the concept of death? It was, like, fifteen minutes ago. He was really mad about his fellow robots being shot into black holes. He gave a whole speech about it. That happened, right? I’m just checking in because I’m pretty sure this movie has broken me.

Next time: We learn the ramifications of robot murder. We continue dinner with the salad course. And I reference some more musicals nobody cares about but me: Flower Drum Song and maybe The Pajama Game. It depends how I feel.

Jordon Davis

B.A. Political Science, SUNY Albany - 1991
Master of Public Administration, University of Georgia - 1993
Juris Doctorate, Emory University - 1996

State of Georgia - 1996
State of New York - 1997

Fields Medal (with Laurent Lafforgue and Vladimir Voevodsky) - 1998

Follow Jordon at @LossLeader on Twitter.

Multi-Part Article: The Black Hole (1979), a recap

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  • Wait, they’ve been in some scrapes before? When?

    Well, there was that incident earlier where they were losing all their air until Vincent fixed the hatch, but I’m sure they can get by without him.

  • Okay, the Cygnus must have had artificial gravity when it launched. There’s no other way to explain Reinhardt’s dining room.

    I can only imagine the investigations of NASA that occurred after the ship with frickin’ chandeliers vanished with all hands.

    • Jordon Davis

      You’d thing so! But the Palomino didn’t have gravity and it was 20 years newer than the Cygnus. Also, even though the Palomino’s crew was intimately familiar with the history of the Cygnus, they were amazed that it had gravity when they docked. This movie has no idea what it wants to be.

      • Someone on the production staff was leaning too heavily on Reinhardt being a Captain Nemo expy, I think.

  • Star got so upset he blew a fuse.

    God forbid we don’t give our robotic security forces anger-management issues for verisimilitude.

  • Xander

    I remember seeing this as a kid and loving it, especially liking Vincent and Bob. This review is making me want to see this again, however, just to see what it’s really like when I don’t have a little kid’s awe of special effects.

    • Jordon Davis

      That’s really all it had – some f/x. Take that away and it’s just boring and lazy.

  • Amused To Death

    For the billionth *effing* time, it’s “fazed” not “phased”. How can you call yourselves dorks and miss that one?

    • Honest Mistake

      I, too, find this hard to believe. Perhaps Jordon (and a few other writers) would find it helpful if I used some dork examples to illustrate the different meanings:

      1. As a Vulcan, Spock on Star Trek: TOS has been trained to suppress his emotions to the point that he is only very rarely affected by shock, fear, dismay, awe, intimidation, or the like. As a result Spock is often the only member of the Enterprise crew to remain unfazed by the bat-crap crazy stuff they encounter on a regular basis.

      2. Kitty Pryde of the X-Men is mutant capable of shifting the molecules of her body in a way that allows her to move through solid matter, a process which she refers to as phasing. Therefore, when she is not using her mutant power, Kitty is unphased.

      See? That’s not so difficult, right?

    • Jordon Davis

      You are correct. You win 4 interwebs.

  • Joe in Seattle

    The Heaven and Hell sequence: Hey look, it’s Maximilian Schell… in Maximillian’s shell!

  • danbreunig

    The dining room just begs a question I never thought of till now–how many more luxury rooms among the more expectant practical and scientific rooms and wings on the Cygnus are there? There’s that kind of subtle detail there in its very luxury. Per the tie-in book: the doors in the reception lobby at the beginning and even the parts & storage section opened with a slight suction stiffness, suggesting that no one on the Cygnus crew were in those wings of the ship in the longest time. The dining room though is fully lush and pristine, meaning Reinhardt always dines this way while basking in his own ego.

    Speaking of rooms on the ship, Harry Booth uses the discussion to test Reinhardt about the onboard garden. Reinhardt says that it’s very tiny nowadays, just enough for one man–very contrary to the huge garden Booth actually saw (I think the dinner talk already reached that point by the time of this recap installment). Also a blooper from that earlier scene–Booth wipes the condensation off the outside of the windows to look into the garden room/farm bay, when the condensation would really be on the inside. Also how would a garden grow on a space station that’s nowhere near a sun?

    Ah yes, STAR’s one and only scene in the robots rec room (that’s what the room really is, shooting gallery and all). Apparently Tommy McLoughlin got the part for his miming experience and was also the coordinator for the extras playing the Sentries–and he got the actual casting credit while Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens went unmentioned. Good question too about how Old Bob even has functioning lasers of his own when he’s the ship’s resident robot punching bag.

  • ofidiano

    Screw you! Vincent is awesome!

  • Susan Montgomery

    Have you all gotten so bored with this that you’ve given up the review?

    • danbreunig

      I always want more of these takes on both The Black Hole and Conan The Barbarian. I never had the drive to keep up with Star Trek after TNG, so everything about the 2020 Picard series is off my radar. It’s really the old school movies and article recap/review treatments thereof that keep me coming back at the moment.

  • Mario Angel Medina

    STAR isn’t a special regular, he is a regular on a special troop. Wich makes me think he is some sort of S.W.A.T. robot… Or maybe my mind is associating it with Resident Evil… Yep… Is probably the Resident Evil thing