It's amazing how the glaze of childhood can color your perception. Case in point - The Black Hole. While I fondly recall most movies from the '80s when I was 7 - 17, and have embraced their datedness, I'm not sure I'd seen Disney's 1979 version of Star Wars in full since my mom and dad took me as a kid...back when my fondness for the movie included reliving it over and over with the Disney Read-Along book and audio record...remember those?
Suffice to say, time has not been kind to this trip into the abyss. While it was savaged upon its initial release by critics, Disney's first PG-rated product - about a space crew that comes across a derelict ship, and the mad scientist onboard jonesing to take a plunge into a black hole - is truly a film that's dressed up with not much story to tell. Part 2001, part 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and part Dante's Inferno, it's all kinds of messy in all sorts of unintentionally hilarious ways. Maximillian Schell's mad doctor hams it up with the groanworthy dialogue, the robots look part R2D2 and part rejects from Forbidden Planet (what's up with Vincent's painted-on eyes?) and the "say again?" finale is remarkable only in that the "hell" version is a lot darker than anything I recall from a Disney movie. The "heaven" scene just made me think - they've got stained-glass window frames in space?
The highlight of Day 38's 70mm screening of Hole was an introduction and post-show Q & A with visual effects man Harrison Ellenshaw, who worked on the movie's matte paintings, and whose father Peter Ellenshaw was the production designer. Say what you want about the story (and Ellenshaw fully admitted it was a scattershot crockpot of ideas that seemed good at the time), The Black Hole still looks great for the most part, and the one shot of the burning meteor barreling towards out heroes on the interstellar catwalk is as memorable as Indy outrunning the boulder in Raiders. Plus, no matter how hapazard the dialogue, it's nearly impossible to make lead actor Robert Forster look uncool. Here and in the less-prestigious B-cult-thriller Alligator, Forster easily makes clear why Quentin Tarantino cast him as his veteran main man years later in Jackie Brown.
Add The Black Hole to your queue as another crazy-bad, but fun sci-fi flick. Plan 9 from Outer Space may be most well-known in the genre, but there are plenty of others to choose from...ever seen Yor, the Hunter from the Future or Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann? Comment below with more of your favorites for all-time laughably bad yet entertaining sci-fi movies...