Disney goes to Hell

Day 15: Walt Dis­ney vio­lates my child­hood!

The fol­low­ing orig­i­nal­ly appeared on Flick Attack, 16 July 2013.

Three movie scenes utter­ly trau­ma­tized me as a young­ster:
  1. the reveal of the “star child” in 2001: A Space Odyssey (night­mar­ish!);
  2. the rab­bit attack in Mon­ty Python and the Holy Grail (see here for more on that); and
  3. the finale of Walt Disney’s The Black Hole, where­in an osten­si­bly fam­i­ly friend­ly flick sud­den­ly goes medieval and takes a trek through lit­er­al Hell.

I am not being fig­u­ra­tive. After 80+ min­utes of cin­e­mat­ic sci-fi—ending with the entire cast being sucked into the epony­mous hole—Dr. Hans Rein­hardt (Max­i­m­il­ian Schell, Judg­ment at Nurem­berg), impris­oned with­in the armour of his killer robot, dis­cov­ers him­self stand­ing guard over a blast­ed hellscape as tor­tured souls trudge down path­ways carved into a flam­ing moun­tain range. Who knows, maybe Walt him­self is in there.

Today, the scene is a cin­e­mat­ic curios­i­ty, a weird and unfore­seen side trek into Chris­t­ian mythol­o­gy that bare­ly makes con­tex­tu­al sense. But back then? Schell’s eyes sud­den­ly peer­ing out from the fur­nace-red eye slit of his mechan­i­cal beast dam­aged the 8-year-old me worse than any­thing. For­get the Bible; the Hell of The Black Hole is what almost scared me into belief.

It also then ven­tures into Heav­en, but you know what? Cin­e­mat­i­cal­ly, incred­i­bly bor­ing.

Past that, The Black Hole is an unbal­anced amal­ga­ma­tion of Star Wars, Star Trek, Dis­ney cutesi­ness, and exis­ten­tial hor­ror. On the plus side, you’ve got an admit­ted­ly awe­some-look­ing hole in space, some pret­ty ter­rif­ic effects, a ter­ri­fy­ing mute demon robot that per­forms what sure­ly counts as the only dis­em­bow­el­ment to appear in a Dis­ney film (blood­less though it is), and a John Bar­ry score bet­ter than the film 90 per­cent of the time and more suit­able for Mon­day Night Foot­ball for the oth­er 10.

Veer­ing into the mediocre, there are float­ing-by-wire R2-D2s (voiced by Rod­dy McDow­ell and Slim Pick­ens, and by far the most inter­est­ing char­ac­ters); a script as thin as watered-down tapi­o­ca; robot sol­diers that make the bat­tle droids of Phan­tom Men­ace seem like crack shots; and one of those Air­port/Posei­don Adven­ture dis­as­ter film “let’s give a bunch of B-movie actors some work” casts: the mag­net­i­cal­ly unhinged Schell, the stern but love­able Robert Forster, the perky Yvette Mimieux, the twitchy Antho­ny Perkins, the grumpy Ernest Borg­nine and the…um…takes-up-physical-space Joseph Bot­toms?

And an end­ing where the film­mak­ers must have just thrown up their hands and said, “What the hell, I guess you can breathe in out­er space, sure.”

On the whole, not great. But still worth see­ing for some star­tling imagery, fas­ci­nat­ing­ly manip­u­la­tive scenes (oh, how my youngest sis­ter bawled when old B.O.B. died), and again, that just balls-out crazy end­ing.

I’ll be good from now on, Dad­dy! I promise! Don’t let the Satan­bot kill me!

P.S.: Is it just me, or is Event Hori­zon a remake?

For the month of Octo­ber I’ll be post­ing a whole mess of stuff about hor­ror and junk and things. Most­ly just stuff I like, because I’m lazy.