The Black Hole (1979) Poster


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To film the special effects, Disney originally wanted to rent the Dykstraflex camera system that was created for Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) (the first computer-controlled camera) from Industrial Light & Magic. However, the price and rental terms were unacceptable so Disney created its own version instead. What resulted was Disney's A.C.E.S. (Automated Camera Effects System), which was radically superior to the Dykstraflex system; the Mattescan system, which enabled the camera to move on a matte painting (that was previously impossible); and a computer-controlled modeling stand.
Neither Roddy McDowall nor Slim Pickens are credited for their voice work in the film in either the opening or closing sequences.
Disney's first PG-rated movie.
At the time of its release, the movie featured the longest computer graphics sequence that had ever appeared in a film: the "green grid" sequence that appears under the opening titles.
The character of V.I.N.CENT. was originally to have more elaborate electronic eyes (based on electronic stock ticker-type billboards), which would have given him a greater range of facial expressions. Unfortunately, the electro-mechanical eyes simply didn't work properly and the effect was abandoned at the beginning of principal photography.
It was popular around this time to release a 12-inch, 33 1/3 long-playing record containing a film's dialogue, sound effects, and score, with narration taking the listener from scene to scene. The record released of The Black Hole (1979) featured dialogue not present in the theatrical release of the film.
This film and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) (released the same year) were the two last Hollywood films to include an overture, once a common feature of "major" studio releases. This film's overture is usually cut from television broadcasts, although it is included in showings on Turner Classic Movies and the DVD release.
Disney regarded the quality of the special effects to be so crucial that it called Peter Ellenshaw out of a 10-year retirement to work on the film.
According to press at the time, the film's score was the world's first digitally recorded soundtrack.
The laser pistols originally had light up tips that would activate when the actors pressed the trigger, thus giving the animators cues as to when someone was actually firing the guns. This proved to be a problem however because the actors would unconsciously press the triggers when they were not supposed to often times inadvertently shooting cast members.
The Black Hole (1979) is one of the extremely rare instances in which John Barry has composed an Overture for a film.
The visual effect of the black hole itself was created by forming a whirlpool in a round Plexiglas water tank, and adding different colors of paint.
Dr. Reinhardt's ship was originally called the Centaurus. It was renamed Cygnus after the constellation where the first known black hole was discovered in 1964.
The film contains over 550 visual effects shots, including over 150 matte paintings.
A fixture in Disney's special effects department for more than 40 years, Eustace Lycett (then head of the Photographic Effects Department) retired after completing the composite work on this film.
The film was originally supposed to take place in a completely weightless environment. The technical difficulties prompted a re-write of the script so that when the Palomino ties up the Cygnus gravity returned.
This was regarded as the last big special effect production to be made under the "old studio system." All of the elaborate special effects were created within the Disney studio and not farmed out to outside special effects companies.
Gary Nelson was not satisfied with the way the model shop made "BOB", stating that the robot did not look battered enough. He went to the clay model they were using for reference and proceeded to hit it several times with a baseball bat. They built a new robot based on this model.
Almost all of the dialog in the film was re-recorded by the cast during post-production looping (ADR) - with the exception of only a couple of lines.
The helmets of robot sentinels had a very limited vision, making it difficult to direct and coordinate the actors, particularly when they were firing the lasers.
Robert Forster was slightly hurt on the head during the storm in the greenhouse.
Tom McLoughlin also coordinated for the mimes who play the sentinels and the humanoids. His wife doubled Yvette Mimieux for stunts.
The spaceship Cygnus was actually a 12-foot-long model weighing 175 pounds.
B.O.B stands for Bio-sanitation Battalion. S.T.A.R stands for Special Troops Arms Regiment.
V.I.N.Cent stands for Vital Information Necessary Centralized.
Jennifer O'Neill was originally cast as Dr. Kate McCrae, but she was later replaced by Yvette Mimieux.
John Hough was originally set to direct, but dropped out to direct another film.
Top billed Maximilian Schell turns up 26 minutes in.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

The main reason it was awarded a PG cert was the murder of Antony Perkins' character an hour or so into the film. No blood was seen but it was too graphic for a G rating.
The trailer for the film gave away a major spoiler, showing the death scene of Anthony Perkins.
Reinhardt's robot was already called Maximilian before Maximilian Schell was chosen for the role of Reinhardt. Reinhardt would end the film merged with the robot, thus being ironically trapped in "Maximilian's Shell".
Dr. Reinhardt's dying words, "more light," were supposedly Johann Wolfgang Goethe's final words as well.

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