The Black Hole

Sunday Chuckle: Radio Mission Accomplished Face

RECAP:  Visions In Sound – The Black Hole on 98.5 CKWR

To those of you who tuned in:  thank you!  Sorry to Holen MaGroin for not reading your email on the air.  I couldn’t quite figure out how to work “I wish I could ask about The Black Hole, but I’ve never seen it, Disney sucks ass, Fuck ’em,” into the discussion.

Thanks Rob Daniels for having me, and to Jason Drury for awesome insight and comedy relief. (Ernest Borg-ninny.)

I was doing research all week, including watching lectures from Neil DeGrasse Tyson and other scientists about black holes.  Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a harsh critic of the film, incidentally.  I was glad to have worked this into the discussion.  Due to the sheer amount of research I did, I was overprepared and hyped to go.

I always take a nap before the show, which used to air at 12:30 am.  Well, I hadn’t been on Visions In Sound for a while.  I woke up at 11:50 to have my coffee and a bite to eat.  Then my phone rang.  It was Rob and they were about to go live!  Turns out the show was back to the 12:00 am slot.  Whoops!  I hopped in the car and drove down to CKWR which happens to be only 10 minutes away anyway.  I made it in just in time for my introduction, and that’s including having to stop for a R.I.D.E. check on my way!  Thank you to the local boys in blue, always doing a fantastic job keeping us safe on the road.

Among the myriad subjects discussed, one of the most interesting to me included Rob’s topic, the blaster beam.  I’d never even heard of it before, but I have absolutely heard it before.  It’s an integral part of the soundtrack to Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which I am intimately familiar with.  I thought that what I was hearing was a guitar.  Turns out it’s a bizarre 15-foot long beam of stainless steel with strings and pickups.  You can hear it readily in The Black Hole (music by John Barry), and now I know what it really is.

We also talked a bit about the toyline (available by mailing in UPC codes found on cereal boxes).  We couldn’t ignore the elephant in the room, which is the bizarre ending to a so-called “children’s film”.  In this visually stunning abstract sequence, the villain Dr. Reinhart (Maximilian Schell) embraces and merges with his robot minion called Maximilian (no relation).  Reinhart finds himself trapped in Maximilian’s shell (pun intended) ruling over a hellish landscape.  Wild-eyed and helpless, Reinhart is punished for the evil he inflicted.  Meanwhile our surviving heroes, including robot V.I.N.CENT. (Roddy McDowell) experience a wild ride including visions of a heavenly cathedral and a floating angel.  They then emerge in a brand new universe, to triumphant swells of Barry’s score.  This raises numerous questions about the film’s message on heaven, hell, morality, mortality, the soul, artificial intelligence, and more.

Thanks again to Rob for having me.  I am currently planning to be there for his 1000th episode a few weeks from now, and his Rise of Skywalker special the following week.

This episode can now be streamed at Visions in Sound, just click the link right here.

 

 

The Black Hole radio, tonight!

I will be LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels and Jason Drury on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning java!  Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET).

What a bizarre Disney film The Black Hole was.  Marketed to kids with funny looking robots from the House of Mouse, instead of a swashbuckling adventure, kids got a strange treatise on life, death, morality, mortality, God, the soul, isolation, artificial intelligence, good, evil, heaven, hell, and eternity.  It attempted to be Star Wars, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Rob, Jason and I will be playing the soundtrack by John Barry, and dissecting this interesting and puzzling film piece by piece.

For my DVD review of the The Black Hole, just click here.

 

 

#518: Read-Along Adventures

Welcome to another week-long series at mikeladano.com! We’re doing another week of Getting More Getting More Tale: five brand new instalments from the Getting More Tale series. Hope you enjoy these blasts from the past.

GETTING MORE TALE #518: Read-Along Adventures

When I was a child in the late 1970’s, the average household did not have a VCR.  There was no such thing as video rentals.  Most homes had a record player, but as the 70’s turned into the 80’s, the VHS and Betamax formats battled it out for home domination.  In the Ladano home, we rented a VCR and movies until 1984, when my dad finally bought our first VHS recorder.  It was hi-tech and lasted many years.  All but impossible to program recordings on, but you could do it.  In the meantime, there was a family stereo system, and I also had a heavy duty kid’s mono turntable put out by Fisher-Price.  It was built like a tank and folded up into a case.

Until the VCR became a household staple, kids only had two ways of enjoying a favourite movie:  Going to see it in the theatre, or wait until it was on TV.  Certain movies would return to theatres periodically, such as old Disney classics.  Other movies, such as The Wizard of Oz, were a big family event when they were on TV.  Popcorn and treats!  Yes, the movie would be chopped up with commercials and often edited down*, but we didn’t know any different.  To this day, with certain movies, I can remember where the commercial breaks used to go.**

Yet there was a way to let youngsters enjoy their favourites at home, after a fashion.  Story records had always been around, but when Buena Vista released 7″ story records with a book that kids could follow, they tapped into a void and struck gold.  Star Wars became an obvious winner.   We had the story of Star Wars on a 7″, and we would read along and enjoy the vibrant pictures from the film.  Another I enjoyed was Disney’s The Black Hole.  A narrator would read along with you, and when you heard R2-D2 beep, it was time to turn the page!  These records played at 33 1/3 rpm, to facilitate a longer running time.  There were music cues and sound effects to go with the story, and I’m sure our parents would tell you these records kept us occupied!  Sometimes, original actors even did the voices.  I distinctly remember having the story of E.T., narrated by Drew Barrymore who was also on the cover.  As time went on, these releases began to come out on cassette.  Fisher-Price was there with another heavy duty product, a tape recorder that I used for years to play and record just about everything.  By the time the story of Return of the Jedi came out in 1983, I was on to cassettes.  Thankfully they continued to make story records for kids in my now-older age bracket.

The 80’s wore on and cassettes replaced records all but completely.  Between Star Wars and Jedi, we had graduated to things a little more challenging, such as the full-length movie soundtracks by John Williams.  Without the cheesy narration, we were free to create our own adventures to the classic music.  The old story records got tucked away…but they can still be found.  Last Christmas, my buddy Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound received some old classic Star Trek read-along records.  I have some too, also Christmas gifts, from my sister.  She found four sealed Star Trek story records on 7″ vinyl and had to get them for me.  They include the stories for The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, and two original stories on a different label called Peter Pan records.

I’ve never opened these records, but I know inside I would find some glorious full colour pictures of space-scapes from the big screen, along with a pristine 7″ record.  It’s tempting but they’ve been sealed this long, it would a shame to open them now.

 

*Not Superman: The Movie!  It had some really cool deleted scenes added to the TV version, to stretch it over two nights!

**I can also hear, clearly in my head, the terrible TV dubbing done for Jackie Gleason’s character in Smokey and the Bandit.  It was not Gleason, and it was obvious every time.  Unintentionally funny!

MOVIE REVIEW: The Black Hole (1979)

THE BLACK HOLE_0001THE BLACK HOLE (1979)

Directed by Gary Nelson

45I can’t help it, I’m nostalgic for this movie. Long before I saw it, I had “The Story of…” on 7″ record. Remember those?  Kids today have no idea what I’m talking about do they!

I think Roddy McDowell is one of the most underrated actors ever, and I could probably listen to him reading his grocery list for two hours and still be entertained. McDowell and the legendary Slim Pickens both voiced robots in this movie (shameless R2D2 ripoffs, except they can fly!*) and the touch of classic, recognizable voices makes the movie that much easier to swallow.

Having said that, The Black Hole isn’t great sci-fi, but it’s not bad. The USS Cygnus (great name, if you know what it refers to) has been missing in space for 20 years. However, the exploration vessel Palomino has just stumbled upon it, seemingly derelict. It is also inexplicably hovering in front of a black hole! Impossible! And as Palomino approaches, Cygnus turns on her lights. She is not a derelict after all!

In fact, she is crewed entirely by robots, except for the commander. Dr. Hans Reinhardt (man, I love when mad scientists have German names!) commands this motley crew, a genius who has discovered the secrets of anti-gravity. But can he be trusted? Dr. Alex Durant (the wonderful Anthony Perkins) seems to trust him, but certain things do not add up. Why does he have gardens on board the ship, food enough to feed an army? Why do his robots have funerals? The psychic Dr. Kate doesn’t trust him either. Her father died under his command, and the stories just don’t sound right.

The starship design in this movie is just stellar, and very unique. All girders and lights, Cygnus is a monstrosity, with depth and foreboding beauty. The smaller Palomino follows similar designs, but is more capsule-shaped. I’ve never seen anything like these two ships before, and the level of detail is impressive.

There are some great performances here by the afformentioned Perkins, and Maximillion Schell cheeses up the place perfectly as Reinhardt. If you’re a mad scientist you may as well go for it.  This isn’t high cinema.  Also noteworthy are Robert Forster as the commander of Palomino, and Ernest Borgnine as the journalist Harry Booth. Absolutely horrible are Joseph Bottoms as Lieutenant Charles Pizer, and Yvette Mimieux as Dr. Kate McCrae. It’s obvious that they’re supposed to be the Han Solo and the token female of the crew, but man…they can’t act. I guess that’s why you’ve never heard of them?

Yeah, it’s a shameless Star Wars rip off. And yeah, the physics of space are ignored when convenient. (Creative viewers can probably rationalize how the crew still can run around the ship as a giant hole is ripped through the roof…forcefields maybe?) And yeah, the robots are kind of cutesy, especially Slim Pickens’ Old Bob. But I’ll be damned if this still isn’t a fun movie to watch. Fun, but dark. The very un-Disney ending evokes heaven, hell, and everything in between while making no logical sense. (The comic book that I had as a kid had a different ending, a more hopeful one, where the crew ended up in an alternate universe to explore.)

It’s not for everybody, certainly not for modern audiences spoiled by CG and flash. But it’s not as bad as I once thought!

3/5 stars

* Yes, I know R2-D2 flew in Episode II.  Fuck Episode II.