Wednesday, 12 February 2014

The Black Hole: Disney gets terrifying

Maximilian Schell as the haunting and terrifying
Dr. Hans Reinhardt in "The Black Hole".
It may have been when Disney went dark. When it went from sunshine and light, to the blackness of space. It was the dawn of the 1980s. I was 10 years old and still pretty impressionable, when I saw a movie in the theatre that really disturbed me. That was the first time that ever happened to me, and I will never forget.

Maximilian Schell died a few weeks ago, and his picture reminded me of that time, so long ago, at the College Centre Mall theatre in Lethbridge, or as we called it, the Woolco Mall. He played the villain in that movie that so bothered me as a 10 year old. That movie, was “The Black Hole”.

Going to the movies
 A movie poster for "The Black Hole",
“The Black Hole” was not at all what I expected. I should have known it would have a dark side because my cousin Carl wanted to go see it. I was spending a few days visiting his family in Lethbridge when they suggested we go see a movie. I had seen a preview of “The Black Hole” one Sunday night on the “Wonderful World of Disney”. Joseph Bottoms, one of the movie’s stars, narrated the segment and made it sound pretty cool. He was par of the crew of a spaceship called the Palomino, and I thought that was the coolest name. (At school my friend Dave said it sounded too “horsey”). They happen upon a space station, and that’s where things get spooky.

Schell plays the leader of the space station who seems very accommodating and welcoming – at first. Then, various crew members of the Palomino observe some off things. The station seems to be serviced by robots. One day, one of the Palomino crew members sees a robot walk with a limp. Ultimately, they discover Schell took over the station and enslaved the station’s crew as robots, lobotomising them in the process. It gets more disturbing, suspenseful, and even a bit terrifying from there.

Parting thoughts
“The Black Hole” was the only movie in the 80s in which I saw Maximilian Schell, but it left a lasting impression. I can understand why he was such a revered actor, because he scared the crap out of me.

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