The Black Hole (1979), a recap (part 6)

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

A note from the author: Hi! I’m acclaimed author and wanted felon, Jordon Davis. You may know me from the fact that I wrote part five of this recap in January. It is now June. What was I doing during my absence? Well, I watched every episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, I Am Not Okay With This, The End of the F***ing World, Sex Education, The Expanse, all nine seasons of The Office, 456 episodes of Law & Order, Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Short Treks, all 37 webisodes of The OfficeTiger KingThree Identical StrangersThe Good Doctor, the YouTube episodes where Dr. Mike watches The Good Doctor, and a BBC documentary where Mel Brooks watches The Good Doctor. Also, the apocalypse happened, so that was its whole own thing. In any case, here’s part six.

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Previously: There’s a black hole that leads absolutely nowhere. Despite this, Dr. Heinz Reinhardt is intent on flying into it. The entire crew of the Palomino agrees during dinner that he’s crazy. Despite this, they’re sticking around for dessert. Also, Disney+ claimed to be the best streaming service ever. Despite this, all they’ve done so far is post a picture of Baby Yoda and call it a day.

“Forty-five minutes of original content we have, mmm, yes.”

Vincent, who just accidentally shot an android guy, meets Old Bob down in parts storage for a not-unrelated reason. Bob tells Vincent that the crew of the Palomino is in grave danger from Dr. Reinhardt. Bob fixes Vincent’s lasers, which had been destroyed earlier in the movie. You can go back and look for it; it’s not important. Bob intones, as seriously as a former rodeo clown turned accidental actor can, “This is a death ship.”

In both The Black Hole and Dr. Strangelove, Slim Pickens is riding bombs.

Back at dinner, Reinhardt has left for a moment. Dr. McCrae thinks that Reinhardt is teetering between genius and insanity. Well, she’s half-right. Pizer agrees with me. Harry Booth calls Reinhardt a liar because he saw the hydroponics bay and it was too large to feed just one person. And this revelation, let’s remember, only comes because Reinhardt let the crew wander around the ship unescorted.

Anthony Perkins remains unconvinced. They tell him about the damned funeral (which Captain Holland saw, because he was allowed to wander around the ship unescorted). Booth swears the android in hydroponics was almost human, emphasizing that it even walked with a limp. Perkins waves all of this away. The hydroponics bay cleans the air, and some robots have bum knees. Besides, Perkins reasons, it’s impossible that Reinhardt could program robots to feel emotion. It’s this last bit I have a problem with, because Perkins knows Vincent and so far every decision Vincent has made has been based on nothing but emotion.

Holland just wants to leave. But now it’s Harry Booth who has an objection. He thinks that they should take over the Cygnus. He wants to subdue Reinhardt, neutralize Maximilian and all those robot guards, figure out how to work the ship, learn the basics of whatever that new engine is, teach themselves anti-gravity technology, reprogram all the worker robots, and fly the whole damn thing back to Earth. “We could be heroes!” he exclaims, like Ewan McGregor shouting dementedly at Nicole Kidman. Holland counters, “We could also be dead,” which [spoiler alert] is exactly what happened to Nicole Kidman.

“Man, I sure do love apples!” Pizer exclaimed shortly before choking to death on an apple.

Bob takes Vincent to a very, very scary looking room where some of the android guys are sitting around programming or fixing other android guys on little, scary carousels. Bob says that these “androids” are what’s left of the crew. Reinhardt lobotomized them and cyborged them up, and none of this is a surprise because everybody in every theater in America guessed it the first time the android guys showed up on screen. I was nine when this movie came out and I guessed it from the damn poster.

“Soylent Green is people!”

Suddenly, the door opens. Two security “droids” are standing there with lasers drawn. Vincent shoots them both dead. And let’s take a moment to remember that he just found out they were human beings. Earlier, Vincent killed S.T.A.R. sort of by accident. This time, he knowingly shoots and kills two actual humans. Oh my God, Vincent is the worst robot ever. Isaac Asimov would have been spinning in his grave if he had been, you know, dead at the time. It’s a surprise this movie didn’t kill him.

None of this shooting bothers the other guys in the room. They don’t seem to notice. Vincent and Bob decide to get rid of the evidence. And the “evidence”, let’s remember, are the corpses of two actual people. They signed up for a trip to space, got brain-surgeried by their own captain, turned into robot security guards, flew around with him like that for twenty years, finally had some security guarding to do, and were murdered at the first opportunity by this effing R2-D2 wannabe jerk.

Hey, you know what I just remembered? Vincent has ESP. He could have ESPed Dr. McCrae as soon as Bob told him everything. “This is a death ship… Androids are former crew… Just shot two of them… Soylent Green is people… How was dinner?”

You know what else I just remembered? This movie, in 1979, was Disney’s first PG rated film ever. They debated it endlessly and made a corporate decision that a G rated film wouldn’t bring in the teens and adults who had given George Lucas all their money. So all this killing is intentional. Disney put in the violence for no storytelling reason whatsoever. It was all just plain greed.

And Disney never released pure garbage ever again.

One of Reinhardt’s probes has returned from its latest mission, which means, yes, he was probing a black hole. Make up your own joke. For some reason, Reinhardt has brought Maximilian with him to debrief his robot/lobotomized crewmember/guy who probably had a wife and family. This leaves the crew of the Palomino once again completely unguarded.

Everyone is still trying to talk Anthony Perkins into believing Reinhardt is nanners. He’s not having any of it. The closest he comes is admitting that Reinhardt’s style is “somewhat unconventional.” That’s kind of like saying Disney+ “somewhat sucks.”

Vincent finally—finally—calls in to Dr. McCrae. All he says, though, is that he wants Captain Holland aboard the Palomino right away. Pizer and Harry Booth tag along. I guess we’re supposed to presume that Vincent’s information is so sensitive that he has to tell Holland in as secure a location as possible. But, um, it’s ESP. I’m starting to remember why I needed a five-month break from this recap.

Five months, fifty years—same difference.

McCrae and Anthony Perkins are alone. He’s going on and on about Reinhardt solving the one final puzzle that has eluded mankind, and how being spaghettified by a black hole is “a glorious pilgrimage” into the mind of a god. McCrae comments that she’s beginning to feel like Perkins wants to go into the black hole. She’s beginning to feel that? He literally just said those words. If you ever get Dr. McCrae in the Black Hole RPG, remember that you have a -4 to perception.

Hey, have I mentioned this about Yvette Mimieux? Disney originally cast actress Jennifer O’Neill, but in screen tests for the zero gravity shots, her long hair gave away the fact that they were on wires. Disney fired her and hired Mimieux. Why? Because she had short hair. The entire creative might of the House of Mouse and not one single person thought, “Hey, maybe we could just cut her hair. Or give her a wig. Or cheat the zero-G shots. Or not commit what may well be a violation of the Equal Employment Act of 1972. It’s kind of like we’re the bad guys here. If evil is a movie studio, we may well be it. Let’s steal some more intellectual property and discuss it after lunch.”

Reinhardt suddenly interrupts the conversation to go on one of his usual schizophrenic rants. And this is a movie trope I hate: the completely conspicuous character/monster/helicopter/entire army that’s able to noiselessly sneak up and then pop into the shot.

“Is it weird we didn’t notice this enormous friggin’ dinosaur before the camera panned right?”

Reinhardt finishes up his crazy talk, which includes the first two verses of Genesis, when he notices that three of his five dinner guests are missing. When told they were recalled to their ship, Reinhardt asks, “Didn’t I say no more unescorted excursions?” Yeah, dude, you did. And then you left them completely alone. Why do you even have a security force if you’re not going to use them? Is it the same reason I have the entire six seasons of 2 Broke Girls on DVD? Because that is a pretty weird story.

Putting aside my LSD trip through the Amazon DVD catalog with my ex-girlfriend’s credit card, Reinhardt gets down to business. He wants Anthony Perkins to monitor his flight into the black hole from the Palomino. He gives Perkins all his journals to take back to Earth “in case something might happen to me.” Like, I don’t know… death? In case of his mathematically certain death? In case he’s confronted by his ex-girlfriend, who takes back her credit card and throws his PlayStation at him but then a couple days later he gets every episode of 2 Broke Girls in the mail?

Whatever Captain Nemo Reinhardt is thinking, it’s possibly explained in his second bout of free association. He muses that inside black holes, “long-cherished laws of nature simply do not apply. They vanish.” Um, no. They continue being the laws of nature. And nine ten out of ten physicists agree that those laws will straight up murder you. You can’t survive in 40 degree water for longer than 15 minutes, but you think you can build a house in a black goddamned hole?

Pictured: Nowhere you would want to vacation.

Next time: Back at the Palomino, Old Bob reveals some very important details. What are they? Stay tuned for my next installment to find out. It should be posted sometime around February 2026.

Jordon Davis

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

Admitted:
State of Georgia - 1996
State of New York - 1997

Winner:
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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  • Xander

    I laughed out loud a few times. Welcome back.

    • Jordon Davis

      Thanks. Glad to be here It’s like an escape room I never want to leave even though my hour’s up and the escape room guy is yelling at me and the mall security guards have shown up.

  • GreenLuthor

    I think the security guard robots, like Maximilian, are actually robots, not people. It’s just the guys in the robes with the silver facemasks that are the lobotomized crew. At least, that’s what I always thought was the case. (I also don’t think I’ve watched the movie in about 35 years or so, though.)

    • Jordon Davis

      Maybe? Vincent disassembles them into vaguely robot parts. But they’re definitely just actors in plastic suits, so there’s no reason they couldn’t be human. Maximillian is definitely not human and no person could fit into that suit. So, um, maybe?

    • That’s what I assumed, too. The actors in the plastic-looking suits are playing robots, while the actors in robes are playing people in robes, even though Reinhardt says they’re robots.

      Of course, when I saw Empire Strikes Back as a kid, I thought Boba Fett was a droid, like C-3PO. *shrugs*

    • Michael Weyer

      Yeah, I thought it was clear. Course, there’s the question why Reinhart would build so many but guess brush it off to his madness and just wanting some weird company around.

    • Honest Mistake

      I agree – the security robots are actual robots, not people. Bob even mentions the fact that Reinhardt built them, and that he used them against the crew when he took over the ship. And in the later part of the movie, once the action “ramps up” (to the extent that can be said at all) we get a lot of shots of blown-open security robot chests and heads, and there’s nothing in there but electronic and mechanical bits.

      So they may be humanoid in appearance, but that’s just a design choice by Reinhardt…or, from a meta standpoint, it’s just a practical necessity to save money by using human actors rather than creating something non-humanoid using SFX. Humanoid, all-mechanical robots/androids have been a staple of science fiction since Metropolis; The Black Hole is a bit confusing since some of its androids turn out to be zombified humans

  • Susan Montgomery

    I thought you got bored into a coma watching this for the review.

    Seriously, I’m actually kind of surprised that Agony Booth hasn’t done an in-depth look at this before.

    • Jordon Davis

      You would not be entirely wrong. This movie’s arc is: boring, boring , boring, insanity .

    • Grumpy

      Before anyone knocks The Black Hole as boring, I dare you to try watching the 1973 Borgnine/Mimieux vehicle The Neptune Factor. No entertainment value for any age. Such trash it’s hardly worth a recap. Like, even Clonus has more going for it.

    • danbreunig

      Technically this is the second time The Black Hole was covered at The Agony Booth. The first time was back in 2012 when the site still had video reviews when the whole video reviewer culture was peaking all over the internet. That one was courtesy of Sofie Liv as her final video review for both her series at the time (“Red Suitcase Adventures” soon turning to “Movie Dorkness”) and as her final requested video (courtesy of me) after a donation campaign then. Her main takeaway: beautiful to look at, you can see where the money went, but too boring to warrant rewatching (I kindly disagree there). That video’s long gone now both because it was through the now-dead Blip tv site and the Booth stopped featuring them, plus many reviewers have retired from the business since. The forum is still on the site if you look for it.

      I’ll go on to say that I’m glad that you’re also formally recapping this one, Jordan. This movie, recap, and review is just what the Booth was like in the earlier years when it was all long recap articles on obscure and often laughably bad movies, being as funny as they were fun.

  • Fortunately for Captain Reinhardt, the Superfriends were able to assist him when he crashed on the planet the Riddler had already built inside his black hole.

  • maarvarq

    Hey, have I mentioned this about Yvette Mimieux? Disney originally cast actress Jennifer O’Neill, but in screen tests for the zero gravity shots, her long hair gave away the fact that they were on wires. Disney fired her and hired Mimieux. Why? Because she had short hair. The entire creative might of the House of Mouse and not one single person thought, “Hey, maybe we could just cut her hair. Or give her a wig. Or cheat the zero-G shots.

    Or get her to wear her hair in a bun for the zero-G shots, the way a long-haired person would in real life in zero-G.

  • Michael Weyer

    If nothing else, Schell really does a beautiful job with the role, selling Reinhart’s madness yet a charm that gets you on his side a bit. I know, it’s “Captain Nemo in outer space” but he makes it all work.

    • danbreunig

      I did always see the “Captain Nemo in space” aspect just because of the Disney history of their two movies. Although conceptually I see Reinhardt as less Captain Nemo wannabe and more Robur The Conqueror, also of Jules Verne fame (who even in the 1800s book was seen as a Nemo Jr. or Nemo wannabe). Mostly because Robur like Reinhardt was so bold and secretive at the same time.

  • Paul Mander

    Wow. You really must have been spaced out during the re-watch to NOT pick up on the most basic points that you’ve misread and distorted into apparent “facts” (as opposed to *your* presumptuous, inaccurate OBSERVATIONS). Specifically, that Vincent’s “accidental killing” of S.T.A.R. was really a deliberate destroying of the Black Sentry Robot’s medal alone, which triggered its nervous collapse at being defeated, humiliated AND losing his precious trinket all at once. And that said Sentry Robots are definitely evil ROBOTS, completely separate from the lobotomized humanoid victims.

    Granted, when I was a six year-old who first heard of this movie (which was unavoidable in light of all things Star Wars that Disney was obviously inclined to cash-in on), I had access to their tie-in storybook that helpfully explained all the above in detail. But as an attentive adult today, even I could pick up on those details without much effort or reference. Which makes the flippant remarks in the above review all the more irritating in their smug dismissal of a reviewer who’s supposed to be a learned authority on this site. Much like so-called “experts” like Richard B. Meyers and John Peel (a British author, not the DJ of the same name) once got carte le blanche to pen entire Science-Fiction Movie books that only gave them a platform to act like smug-ass pricks with impunity and get paid for it. From what I see here now, things sure haven’t changed in the last 40 years since their unpleasant kind first made their mark. Not at all.

    • Jordon Davis

      I will agree that I am smug and irritating, however I take great exception to being called an expert. I, in fact, have little to no idea what I’m talking about. And not just in this venue – I tried to make s’mores out of Elmer’s glue and coffee filters. I once claimed to have won the Fields Medal but, alas, I had a stroke and melted that one time when somebody shot it. I am neither learned nor an authority. In the future, please choose your words more carefully.

      • Xander

        Let’s be fair: He never called you an expert. He compared you to experts, but he never accused you of being one.

        • Jordon Davis

          Point taken.

  • ofidiano

    First off, screw you, Vincent is the best robot, and second, they did cut off Jennifer O’Neill’s hair, but she hated it so much she got drunk and some shit happened and Mimieux had to be hired.