The Black Hole (1979)

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Released 17-Mar-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction None
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 91:26
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Gary Nelson
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Maximilian Schell
Anthony Perkins
Robert Forster
Joseph Bottoms
Yvette Mimieux
Ernest Borgnine
Roddy McDowall
Slim Pickens
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music John Barry


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Finnish
Spanish Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The USS Palomino and her crew, Captain Dan Holland (Robert Forster), Lieutenant Charles Pizer (Joseph Bottoms), scientists Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins) and  Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux), and journalist Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine), are on their way home after a voyage of exploration when they detect the presence of a very large black hole in their vicinity. Struck by the sheer size and power of this natural phenomenon, they decide to carry out a closer inspection only to find another space craft close to the black hole but, unlike any other objects in the vicinity, seemingly unaffected by the enormous gravitational forces present. A flyby of the apparently lifeless ship reveals it to be the USS Cygnus, also sent out to explore years earlier, and currently presumed lost. After sustaining damage due to the forces generated by the black hole the Palomino tries to return to the inexplicable gravity field surrounding the Cygnus. As they approach, the Cygnus lights up and the Captain decides to dock with the mysterious ship to attempt repairs. They find the ship inhabited by the last remaining survivor of the original crew, Dr. Hans Reinhardt (Maximilian Schell) and witness the incredible technological advancements made by him and his robots. As the Palomino's crew explore the ship and get to know Dr. Reinhardt they suspect a darker aspect to the story he has told them about the loss of the ship's crew. They are also more than a little concerned when he tells them he plans to fly the Cygnus into the black hole.

    The special effects, which were state of the art when the film was produced, still stand up fairly well today. In particular, the black hole looks fantastic. However, there are a couple of criticisms. Specifically, the robot V.I.N.CENT. (voiced by Roddy McDowall)  looks more like toy than a technological marvel endowed with artificial intelligence. Some of the sets also appear quite flimsy and lacking in substance.

    I quite enjoyed seeing this movie after not having viewed it for a very long time. However, you should note that the plot is not very sophisticated and the climax fails in its attempt to be as enigmatic as that of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Disney, whose experience lies mainly in telling sweet little stories aimed at a younger audience, make an attempt with this movie to tell a darker and more ominous tale. Unfortunately, the inclusion of sweet little characters like V.I.N.CENT and his robot pal Bob (Slim Pickens) contribute in no small part to their failure in this regard.

    The Black Hole was nominated for the 1980 Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    In the colour department this transfer is excellent, however a major let down is the presence of film artefacts, specifically small marks, which are quite numerous.

    The picture is presented in its native aspect ratio of 2:35:1 and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    Generally the picture is very sharp and detailed with good shadow detail as well as no appreciable edge enhancement

    This movie was a pleasure to watch with a full colour palette on display. Even better is the fact that the colours are fully saturated and without any sign of bleeding.

    From the video point of view this transfer falls down in one respect. Specifically, there is a continuous stream of mostly small, but occasionally larger, white and black marks which mar the image. The white marks, in particular, stand out noticeably against the frequent black backgrounds. While on the subject of film artefacts, significant grain is visible occasionally, for example from 25:45 to 26:05, and there's a fibre stuck in the bottom of the frame between 84:31 and 84:41. Aliasing is also prevalent, but compression artefacts are absent.

    There are plenty of subtitle selections available, as listed above, but I watched only the English and English For The Hearing Impaired options. Based on a 10 minute sample I found these to be well timed, legible, and essentially word perfect.

    There is no layer change on this single layered DVD-5 disc. The information on the back of the package indicates that this is a dual layered disc, however this is incorrect.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio quality is, in general, quite good but does lack the powerful use of the subwoofer that should have accompanied the visuals in the various action sequences involving explosions and the like.

    I listened to the English Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, which is one of two audio tracks provided with the other being Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1. A couple of flaws were noted, the first being a crackle that emanated from both of the rear channels at 26:08 and several pops issued from the front right channel between 87:09 and 87:12. A low level hiss is also present in the audio throughout the movie.

    Except for a couple of words from Maximilian Schell which weren't enunciated clearly, at all times the dialogue was perfectly understandable. There were no problems apparent in the audio sync department.

    The musical score by  John Barry is full bodied and suitably dramatic when required. I found it particularly enjoyable and eminently supportive of the storyline.

    The surrounds are used to support the musical score. They are also used in support of effects, however their use here is somewhat subdued. Certainly they are not utilised as often or as effectively as we have come to expect during the action sequences of more contemporary movies.

    The subwoofer was used relatively subtly for most of the time with most of the bass emanating from the 5 other channels. There were several opportunities for the sub to shake the rafters but unfortunately the soundtrack did not utilise the sub to anywhere near its full extent.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    No extra material is provided.

Menu

    The menu is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. Neither animation nor audio is included.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    The presence of 16x9 enhancement makes the Region 4 version the clear winner.

Summary

    The Black Hole was an unsuccessful attempt by Disney to move away from family oriented stories and to tell a dark tale set against a sci-fi background. Nevertheless, this is still probably a movie that will appeal to the sci-fi fans out there.

    The video quality, while not perfect, is pretty good.

    The audio quality is good but could have been much better.

    There are no extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Peter Cole (Surely you've got something better to do than read my bio)
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-515, using S-Video output
DisplaySony VPL-VW10HT LCD Projector, ScreenTechnics 16x9 matte white screen (254cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RXV-995
SpeakersFront L&R - B&W DM603, Centre - B&W LCR6, Rear L&R - B&W DM602, Sub - Yamaha YST-SW300

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Comments (Add)
Black Hole - Difficult to play - cztery