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Films: B is for...

Black Hole, The

You’ve got wonder what Anthony Perkins is doing in this. Live action Disney adventures really did feature some of the most extraordinary casting decisions of all time with this featuring not only Norman but also Maximillian ‘Iron Cross’ Schell, while Darby O’Gill and the Little People boasted Jimmy O’Dea and Sean Connery. Quite why the titular part in Blackbeard’s Ghost went to Peter Ut’nov or how Robert Preston got caught up in The Last Starfighter we don’t know and the reasons behind the appearances elsewhere of Roy Kinnear and Phil Silvers still leave us baffled. When you set your mind to it you quickly realise that these were the transatlantic equivalent of Children’s Film Foundation numbers but with appropriately bigger budgets and aspirations, this being America. Replace Anthony Perkins with Dudley Sutton and Schell with Jimmy Edwards, introduce a horse at some point and you start to see the similarities.

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Richard Davies

    October 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    Also starring Robert Forster pre-motivational speaker & revival by someone with the initials QT.

  2. Paul

    June 9, 2014 at 3:00 am

    My mom took me and my brother to see this when I was eight. Even at that tender age I knew what I was watching was complete and utter pish.

  3. Sidney Balmoral James

    November 29, 2020 at 9:23 am

    Yes, not sure this entry quite does justice to what a bizarre film this is, although it does hone in on oddity number one – the old-hat cast – featuring almost entirely second-string stars of adult-oriented dramas, a good fifteen years past their prime, as the world’s oldest astronauts. Second: the incredibly bleak tone. This is a family film, which features the crew of a ship turned into zombies, Tony Perkins gets eviscerated by whirling blades (and makes a horrible noise as it happens, as you would), and in the finale, we get to see a vision of Hell. I wonder if this was partly due to it being conceived of before Star Wars, so more in the vein of a disaster movie (which in the 70s did tend to show quite horrible things to a family audience). Also, did this help pave the way for the gruesome horrors which Spielberg was able to get away with in Raiders? I would say that this sort of thing shouldn’t be shown to children, but I saw this when I was under ten, and it just seemed to me a rather talky sci-fi, with a cracking asteroid scene, so perhaps I should shut up. Special effects (on the whole) and John Barry score are excellent.

  4. Richardpd

    November 29, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    The Watcher In The Woods was another scary Disney live action film from this era, especially if you are a fan of classic cars as they crash a Citroen DS Safari off a bridge!

    Max Von Syndow managed to be in two oddball science fiction films in 1980, this & Flash Gordon.

    I heard it was shot on 70mm film, and after failing to do a deal with Industrial Light & Magic Disney had to create their own motion control system for the model effects shots.

  5. Richardpd

    November 30, 2020 at 10:18 am

    Actually Max Von Syndow wasn’t in this, & it was released in late 1979 so I was wrong on two points there!

    Ernest Borgnine, Roddy McDowall & Slim Pickens also appear, which for them it was like having a minial job between being laid off from a full-time career and their pensions starting.

    It was Disney’s first PG film due to the above mentioned death & some mild swearing, the Black Cauldron a few years later was their first animated one.

  6. George White

    November 30, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    Dudley Sutton actually did have a major role in a Disney film, Diamonds on Wheels, which was almost identical to a CFF film – the stars being Patrick Allen, George Sewell, Peter Firth and Spencer Banks.
    Disney’s weird casting – well, apparently, they didn’t pay that well until the early 90s, until really Touchstone set in. I think after 20,000 Leagues, where you had both Mason and Douglas in their pomp, they went to getting people like Walter Pidgeon, Robert Taylor, Glenn Ford, Edward G. Robinson, Fred MacMurray, Dorothy McGuire, Jane Wyman and Maureen O’Hara who while still names, weren’t quite as box office as they had been ten, fifteen, twenty, hell, maybe thirty years prior, and a lot of whom were on their way into telly oron their way into doing exploitation movies. Or someone like Howard Keel, who was probably desperate to prove he wasn’t just a song and dance man, but ended up doing the likes of Day of the Triffids before playing the blue rinse brigade pre-Dallas. Or non-American actors who were stil la draw, like Pedro Armendariz or Maurice Chevalier. Or someone like Walter Brennan, who was an a-plus character actor, but rarely had a theatrical big lead.
    And by the mid-60s, they beganto get TV actors who perhaps weren’t seen as being able to carry a major studio film, like Van Dyke, Patrick McGoohan or Bob Crane, Dean Jones, Don Knotts after his run at Universal had come to an end, hell, even Earl Holliman, or in the case of Eddie Albert, Buddy Ebsen and Brian Keith, guys who had been film actors, well-known character actors if never quite solo draws, but had now become stars in their own right again in sitcom, but weren’t exactly fit for leads elswhere in film. James Garner did a film, One Little Indian, but he was a weird example of someone who began as a TV star, then managed to become a film star, then easily moved back and forth between the two mediums.
    That’s why they’d often get big British stars like Robert Newton, John Mills, David Niven, Peter Finch, Richard Todd who were probably grateful to be doing a big US studio film still. Especially in the case of Donald Sinden in the Island at the Top of the World, already well into sitcoms on ITV, and you can see that he probably was delighted in his 50s, to get a starring role in a film again, and plus one shot in the US, with studios in Burbank and location shooting in the Pacific Northwest.
    But a lot of the times, it does seem like such-and-such is doing a Disney film so their kids/grandkids can see them.
    But then by the 70s, you do get cases of them trying to create stars – some worked, like Kurt Russell, but others didn’t – Peter McEnery didn’t exactly become box office gold.

  7. Richardpd

    November 30, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    Thanks for that George.

    Even these days there are a few British actors mostly doing TV who will be more than willing to take a bit-part in an American film, normally ones filmed over here that needs to fill a quota of local talent.

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