Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Nothing Sucks Like a Black Hole

Last month I was invited to appear on the Mike and Ike All Star Jamboree (or "ASSJAM") podcast to debate the merits and demerits of Disney's big budget disaster, The Black Hole.  So I figured, since I've just rewatched the movie for the first time since its release, I might as well write up a summary for the sequel to Better Living Through Bad Movies now, while the wounds are still fresh.  Because there's no way I'm ever sitting through this thing again.

(By the way, a special shout-out to Ike (Happy Birthday, man) for reminding me of the crucial role that automaton genitalia play in the film.)

The Black Hole (1979)
Directed by Gary Nelson
Written by Jeb Rosebrook and Gerry Day

Tagline: A journey that begins where everything else ends!

Starting with your patience.

The Black Hole gets a lot of crap for being just another Star Wars rip-off, which I consider unfair, since it’s actually a rip-off of Disney’s own 1954 picture, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but with two crucial differences: this version is set in space rather than at sea, and instead of Nemo being a tortured genius using ruthless means to achieve a noble end, he’s just an asshole.

Another criticism of the film is that nearly every performance is lifeless or just plain bad. No surprise with that talking wig-stand, Yvette Mimieux, but even normally fine actors like Anthony Perkins and Robert Forster sound like they’ve been roofied, possibly because they were forced to go back and re-record all their dialogue, something unusual for a studio film shot on a stage.  But in all fairness, if I’d been working on the that movie, I’d have been drinking too.

It’s the Year 2130. NASA has launched the spaceship Palomino (which, as my friend Jeff points out, looks like a butt-plug on a camcorder tripod) and sent it on a mission to boldly go and wander around for a while. It’s a harsh task, because the Palomino is no Enterprise; it’s cramped, filled with fey robots, and has a zero-gravity environment which is tough on the wardrobe. Fortunately, it’s the future, so everybody’s double-knit leisure suits have memory. Also helpful is the fact that the crew is aggressively middle-aged, and prone to simulate weightlessness by standing on an off-camera plank while sweaty Teamsters pump it up and down like a teeter-totter. The exception is Joseph Bottoms, who really throws himself into the zero-g effect, joyfully and repeatedly dangling from wires in his tight jumpsuit with his pert, shapely buttocks aloft, and which has inspired me to invent a drinking game. Every time he does it, yell “Bottom’s up!” and take a shot.

Anyway, we join the Palomino as it executes an unscheduled course correction, which makes the entire crew irritable, because now they’re going to be late for work. They demand an explanation from their GPS device, V.I.N.CENT, a highly sophisticated Coors Party Ball with the voice of Roddy McDowell and the eyes of that Kit-Cat Clock, but less expressive. He explains that the ship has encountered a black hole, “a rip in the very fabric of space and time,” so they’re going to have to take an alternate route.

Anthony Perkins, the ship’s astrophysicist, stares at the black hole (which is depicted as a constant swirl of fluid blue energy that kind of looks like a toilet in mid-flush) and pronounces it, with attempted awe, “the most destructive force in the universe,” although he sounds so bored he might as well be declaring it, “the most disappointing cheesesteak I ever ate in Philadelphia.”

Surprisingly, there’s a ship parked in the Black Hole’s driveway, a massive experimental craft called The Cygnus (the first time I saw this movie I thought they were calling it “the Sickness,” and an hour and 38 minutes later, I realized I should have taken the hint and snuck into an adjoining theater to see one of the many other, better films that came out that year, including H.O.T.S., C.H.O.M.P.S., Roller Boogie, or Caligula).

By an amazing coincidence, Yvette’s father was on The Sickness, which she tells us was sent out some years ago to find “habitable life.” Personally, I’d be satisfied with a habitable planet, but I guess the first step in space exploration is to find aliens big enough that we can live inside them like maggots, or immature marsupials. (Frankly, if this movie had been about the search for an intelligent race of giant space kangaroos, I probably wouldn’t have left in the middle to go buy Junior Mints.)

Newspaper reporter Ernest Borgnine, who’s embedded with the crew, tells them that The Sickness was commanded by mad scientist Maximillian Schell, who “talked the Space Appropriations Committee into the costliest fiasco of all time – and refused to admit failure,” a technique he learned from the cryogenically preserved head of Dick Cheney.

The Palomino trips and plunges headfirst into the Most Destructive Force in the Universe, which causes their muffler to fall off, so Captain Robert Forster orders Joseph Bottoms to land on the Sickness, which Joseph takes as a cue to stick his butt in the air.


The Sickness abruptly turns on the porch light, and we get the full sense of her size and majesty. A mile-long rectangle of glass and steel, it looks as if NASA just decided to launch the West Edmonton Mall into deep space. The crew takes the jetway and emerges into what looks like a Frontier airlines terminal – lots of uncomfortable plastic chairs, but no passengers -- and Robert tells Joseph to stay with the ship. Joseph responds by pouting, then pulling his ray gun and doing a quick series of poses like that silhouette from the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels.

The Palomino crew arrives at CNN Center in Atlanta, where they discover the ship is being operated by “robots” dressed in Mylar hockey masks and roomy space muumuus. Suddenly, the mad-eyed Maximilian Schell, whose shaggy beard and unbelievable bouffant makes Lon Chaney’s Wolfman look like Pluto from The Hills Have Eyes, pops up to announce that Yvette’s dad is dead and to backfill the back-story. Like every spacecraft in virtually every space movie ever made, The Sickness had the crap kicked out of it by a meteor shower, so Max ordered the crew to abandoned ship. Meanwhile, he stayed behind, and has spent the last twenty years alone, building robot companions and making fun of bad movies.

For some reason, the incredibly secretive and paranoid Max lets the Away Team wander freely around his ship, collecting spare parts to repair their butt-plug. They snoop in closets, admire the matte paintings, and desperately try to avoid stunts or action. At one point, Ernest Borgnine’s suspicions are aroused by a robot with a bad limp, and he gives chase, but he’s on a slightly raised platform that looks a little slippery, and he runs so gingerly, with his arms flailing to maintain his footing, that you can almost hear him chanting, “Don’t break a hip, don’t break a hip…!”

Mad Max and Anthony Perkins get flirty, and Max invites them to dinner in his wood paneled formal dining room, lavishly appointed with chandeliers and candelabras, making The Sickness the only faster-than-light, interstellar space craft to be decorated by Liberace.

Meanwhile, VINCENT makes friends with B.O.B., a levitating beer keg with the voice of Slim Pickens, and we get to watch the robots play a video arcade game. It’s a slow sequence, and sadly, putting your quarter on the machine doesn’t speed things up any.

Let’s cut back to the dinner party, because what action-packed space adventure is complete without a leisurely soup course? Max announces that he’ll be flying The Sickness straight into the Black Hole, confident he can open a portal to another universe, one which is sorely in need of a Camp Snoopy and a Wet Seal.

After dinner, the crew is served mints and exposition, when B.O.B. reveals that all the robots are really the former crew of The Sickness, whom Max lobotomized, using a special automated lobotomizing assembly line. It seems unlikely NASA included this feature as factory standard equipment, so Max would have had to get the crew to build and install it for him, and frankly I would’ve loved to have been at the staff meeting where he assigned Action Items to Team Automatic Lobotomizer.

Captain Robert snaps into action and decides to take over The Sickness! Or maybe just leave. It’s kind of unclear. Then he reads ahead in the script and sees that he’ll be spending the last twenty-two minutes of the film running from blue screens and matte paintings, so he decides he’d better conserve his energy and just do nothing. Maybe have a Gatorade and a Power Bar.  Anthony Perkins, however, announces that he has decided to stay aboard The Sickness with Max, because he finds that he really enjoys being only the second most creepy person in a movie.

Unfortunately, Max’s senior robot, Maximilian, a recycled Cylon that somebody painted the color of Gallo Hearty Burgundy, gets jealous or something and uses his juicing attachment on Anthony’s lower intestines. Then Mad Max decides to lobotomize Yvette, because it’s not like anyone would notice.

Meanwhile, Robert and the Party Balls sneak around the mall some more. Since the movie was released in December, I can only assume they’re looking for Santa. Instead, they find Yvette, who has been stuffed into a quilted, full-body oven mitt and had her head covered with aluminum foil. Seriously, her scalp is wrapped up like a rump roast; apparently, this is the exact point where the Special Effects department said, “Fuck it,” and cracked open the Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Anyway, Max’s man-bots are using Lasik surgery to burn their initials into Yvette’s pre-frontal lobe, but Robert shoots the machine with his plastic laser horseshoe. Was he in time to save her from being lobotomized? There’s no way to tell from her performance, so we’re just going to have to wait and see if her insurance company sends her a bill.

You know what? We could really use a big action sequence right about now. What we get are repetitive shots of our heroes as they squat behind those big pastel colored pipes that kids crawl around in at Chuck E. Cheese, and take pot shots at a row of immobile robots who appear to have all malfunctioned in mid Conga Line.

Robert, Yvette, and the Party Balls are pinned down by hostile fire. Joseph, who’s been sitting in the butt-plug the whole movie, runs to save them. Ernest tags along, then decides, “aw, screw it,” and fakes a leg injury like an Italian soccer player. Then he steals the Palomino and blasts off, leaving the others behind. Immediately, however, he loses control of the ship when he starts sweating, grimacing, and needlessly crouching; in other words – and I’m just going by his performance here – he has a suddenly attack of diarrhea, and crashes into The Sickness, taking out the Fashion Bug and a Cinnabon.

Our heroes decide to escape in “the probe ship.” Yeah, whatever. Meanwhile, as promised, the next 22 minutes consist of B-list actors jogging in front of cheap sets and back projection, interspersed with SFX shots as The Sickness is slowly – let me rephrase that: SLOWLY! – pulled into the Black Hole. On the bright side, we learn that V.I.N.CENT ’s large, telescoping testicles can be used as offensive weapons (try that, Jackie Chan!), when the Party Ball deploys his party balls to coldcock Mad Max’s garage sale Cylon.

Now let’s rip off the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with five minutes of half-assed psychedelic effects as the probe ship penetrates the Black Hole, played at this performance by five gallons of strawberry Jell-O flushed down a john.

But what about Max? Well, he’s just floating in the vacuum of space without a pressure suit, apparently none the worse for wear, although his hair is extremely staticky and tangled from the event horizon, and in need of a good cream rinse. He bumps into his burgundy Cylon which – spoiler alert – is filled with the brain and guts of Yvette’s lobotomized Dad. They do a touching Bro Hug, then suddenly Max is inside the robot himself! Because, irony! He looks confused, a feeling we immediately share when the camera pulls out and we see that he’s standing atop the Matterhorn ride in Disneyland.

Wait. No. Pull out a little farther, and…Oh! Hey. We’re in Hell. Flames, demons, and dozens of skull-faced penitents in black hooded robes. Okay, thanks, Disney.

Cut back to our heroes as they pass through the Black Hole and emerge in another universe, ready to begin life anew, like the story of Genesis. Except it’s Robert Forster, Yvette Mimeaux, and the dewy, fresh-faced Joseph Bottoms, so it’s like Adam and Eve and the twink hustler they picked up for a threesome, making the whole ending less the Garden of Eden and more the Garden of Allah on Sunset Boulevard.


Carl said...

Black Hole: Where conservatives get their "ideas"

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Sounds like a terrible movie, Scott, but I thoroughly enjoyed the review.

Jim Donahue said...

Oh, that ending was so freaking painful.

Li'l Innocent said...

Gosh. Reading this on the same day that the Mars lander is sending back actual right-now pics of actual Mars, is... well...

I think the first time I ever came across the SF idea of being transported, pop!, into an entirely different universe was when I read "The Shrinking Man", the novel from which the movie "The Incredible Shrinking Man" was taken. Pretty damn good book, if my 15-year-old assessment can be trusted.

Anyway, you're a very brave movie spelunker, exposing yourself to flix like that, and I trust you wear your protective gear. Who knows what such things might be doing to your mitochondria?

Chris Vosburg said...

I'm left with the feeling that, like Tron, this could have been a great movie but cold feet ensued at the idea of presenting big ideas without the traditional Disney dumbing down.

Enjoyed the BLTBM touch as always, but now I'm intrigued. This one has been making the rounds on one of the movie channels lately, and yes, here it is, courtesy of the LocateTV website, next showing Sunday morning at 3:15A. Isn't science wonderful?

Looks like I'll have to have an early Saturday Night.

Camas Blues said...

This review is full of WIN! I remember seeing this in the theatre when I was 10. Recently hubby and I watched it again because we got into one of those nerd discussions of how odd it was that TBH and Tron both came out of Disney back-to-back; Tron seemed ahead of its time in many ways and TBH felt like a 50s flick (per hubby). On rewatched TBH did feel like some odd mix of a film from the 1950s with some 70s style thrown in for good measure.
And the ending? AWFUL.
I've heard Disney is thinking of remaking this movie. Hmmm.

Scott said...

Camas: Yes, you're right -- Disney announced a remake of THE BLACK HOLE. But they gave it to the creative team responsible for TRON: LEGACY, just before that movie came out and...un-wowed people. Not much has been heard about the new TBH since.

Scott said...

Li'l: My mitochondria are fine, but I'm worried about my midichlorians.

I'm left with the feeling that, like Tron, this could have been a great movie but...

Chris, this was actually the basis for my bitchfest on the podcast. The Black Hole is incredibly dull, and while I don't mind a movie so top heavy with suck that it collapses flat into the ground like an opera hat, boredom is the one sin I cannot excuse. But even worse, this movie had a 20 million dollar budget, twice what they spent -- just two years earlier -- on Star Wars, making it a criminally missed opportunity.

I cut Tron some critical slack, because -- while it was anything but great from a narrative standpoint -- it was insanely ballsy, given how far it pushed the technology of the time. Tron: Legacy, however, can suck a light cycle.

Woodrowfan said...

TBH did have a cool soundtrack though...

Chris Vosburg said...

Scott writes: But even worse, this movie had a 20 million dollar budget, twice what they spent -- just two years earlier -- on Star Wars,

To the eye of this beholder, these are two very different genres-- Star Wars bored me because it is essentially nothing more than a cowboy movie gussied up with rockets n' robots, while Tron and hopefully, The Black Hole, are SF (which science fiction authors started calling "speculative fiction" in the sixties because they didn't want it to be confused with mere adventure stories gussied up with a few rockets n' robots).

It may seem too subtle to anything other than a troo believer, but these Big Ideas are the heart of SF and that's why I am intrigued by the Black Hole, and may yet find that I'm one of the few who actually enjoy it, unless of course, as I suspect, Disney suits knocked it up with a bunch of script punching* to give it a "broader appeal", thus alienating both SF fan and general audience alike.

Lastly, budgets are bewildering things, and as a fan of the fifties-era sci-fi genre, I marvel at the economy with which some of these gems were made. A hundred large and a six-day shooting schedule, that's all I ask! Shooting permits, who needs 'em, we'll just get up real early and shoot those street scenes!

And as a last add on the difference between SF and Star Wars, I give you 1972's Silent Running, shot for a cool million. Undoubtedly a little wet in the storyline, but still, big ideas, and a great look thanks to Douglas Trumbull's modelmaking and decision to shoot below decks on an abandoned battleship.

*In a review of Rhinestone, the reviewer commented that the most terrifying words a screenwriter will ever hear are "Mr Stallone has a few ideas for the script."

Chris Vosburg said...

Last add budgets:

I watched "Coyote Ugly" twice, because after I watched it the first time, I visited the IMDB and learned that it had cost 40 Million Dollars to make.

I watched a second time, so help me, with one question in mind: What did they spend it on? Talent? Special Effects? Grand location shots? What? What what what what what?

Still can't figure it out. Hookers and blow, I guess.

Scott said...

I didn't know that about Coyote Ugly -- Sheri's the one who watched it for the book -- and I'm tempted to ask her opinion, but I expect by now she's completely expunged it from her memory.

Budgets are indeed baffling things, but I can't help being influenced by them. A movie that puts every dime up on the screen earns extra points from me, even if all the dimes put together only add up to a dollar, because it speaks to filmmaker ingenuity, and the triumph of commitment over ego. (This is why I was long ago drummed out of the Geek Chorus for preferring The Thing From Another World (1951) over Carpenter's The Thing (1982).

I keep muddying the waters by bringing up Star Wars, but only as inspiration, or incitement -- in other words, I doubt Disney would have greenlit The Black Hole if the former hadn't been such a paradigm-shifting smash two years earlier. But TBH is definitely not trying to be a pew pew space opera; the attempted tone is more Jules Verne than George Lucas.

But the fact that they doubled the budget of Star Wars suggests ambition, none of which winds up on the screen. In fact, most of the budget seems to have gone to the title character, which looms over half the film like a cosmic commercial for 2000 Flushes. The director was a TV director, the writers came from The Waltons and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, respectively, and the on screen talent wasn't exactly A-List.

And yet, they do faintly grasp for ideas, big or not, and a soupcon of scientific accuracy (Natalie Portman spends half of 2011's Thor explaining away all the goofiness as evidence of "an Einstein-Rosen bridge," but Maximilian Schell beat her to that particular MacGuffin by 32 years.

But then it all gets drowned in boring beauty shots of the ship, pointless wandering around, odd subplots about robot rivalries, and a huge amount of build-up to a "twist" ending that's telegraphed from the first crazy-eyed close-up of Max.

All that aside, I'm very interested to hear your thoughts after you see it.

Chris Vosburg said...

Scott writes: But then it all gets drowned in boring beauty shots of the ship, pointless wandering around, odd subplots about robot rivalries, and a huge amount of build-up to a "twist" ending

Sounds an awful lot like Hyams' 2010. Which begat Alien, which begat.. well you get the idea.

A great user review of 2010, by the way, at the IMDB page. Reviewer hails from Hilversum, the Netherlands (AKA Kayak's hometown), and his review shows a sensibility after my own heart, and yours I think as well.

Last add The Thing From Another World:

A perfect explication of the difference in genre. TTFAW is SF; Carpenter's Thing is a monster movie. See the difference?

TTFAW has the one of the best scripts I've ever encountered, by the way, and it's enhanced by the uncanny delivery by the talent as if they were an ensemble cast who'd been working together for fifty years.

Check it out next time you watch; they finish each other's sentences like old married couples (Hi Mary!). Just awesome.

Chris Vosburg said...

And a random observation on Carpenter's Thing:

So help me, I laughed myself silly when Kurt Russell put on his "helicopter pilot hat", some sort of Kit-Carson-pony-express deal.

Not only did it look silly, here's the deal with pilots and hats: when the headphones go on the hat goes off. Nobody, but nobody, wears headphones with a hat.

Not even Kurt Russell.

Scott said...

A perfect explication of the difference in genre. TTFAW is SF; Carpenter's Thing is a monster movie. See the difference?

I see your point, but I think, in this case, it's a distinction without a difference. TTFAW is -- at least in my reading of it -- very much a monster movie, but with the trappings of SF. The monster drives the plot, his presence hangs over over every moment and exchange (although I grant that there is more SFish discussion about what that presence actually means than you find in most monster movies) and the threat he presents (and how they respond to it), drives the conflict between the human characters. All classic monster movie stuff. I think the distinction here is more between subgenres, and genre-splicing: TTFAW is a SF/monster movie, Carpenter's Thing is a mixture of gross-out and psychological horror. In fact, because the monster manifests is so many different ways, and doesn't really have a fixed personality or presence -- much of the horror comes from the characters inability to trust one other, and the increasing atmosphere of paranoia -- I'm not even sure it's much of a monster movie, since the monster is almost beside the point to what's really scary about the film.

TTFAW has the one of the best scripts I've ever encountered, by the way, and it's enhanced by the uncanny delivery by the talent as if they were an ensemble cast who'd been working together for fifty years.

I couldn't agree more. The overlapping dialogue in TTFAW (reminiscent of Hawks' earlier Bringing Up Baby, His Girl Friday, and, to a lesser extent, Only Angels Have Wings) is one of my favorite elements, and does a brilliant job of creating the kind of humor and verisimilitude that effortlessly sells an otherwise fantastic scenario. Whether you believe in space aliens or not, you'll believe in those airmen and scientists. And the ballsy, fearless, feminine Margaret Sheridan.

BillyWitchDoctor said...

My favorite moment from The Black Hole will forever be when a huge, round meteor smashes into the Cygnus. Perfectly aligned with the length of the spacecraft and perfectly sized to just fit into the Cygnus' pointlessly-open core (it really is like a mega-mall shot into space), the meteor, which is glowing with heat, rolls through the Cyngus like a bowling ball.

Oh God, now my mind is full of f**k.

But yeah, John Barry.

Scott said...

That is a great moment, isn't it? Giant, spherical meteor rolls down the long axis of the ship like a bowling ball in a gutter. Then our heroes, in the foreground, skitter past it on a catwalk.

Um, guys? Shouldn't we be dead? Isn't the whole ship depressurized now?

Chris Vosburg said...

Scott writes: Whether you believe in space aliens or not, you'll believe in those airmen and scientists. And the ballsy, fearless, feminine Margaret Sheridan.

Nailed it, Scott, and that's another thing: the Margaret Sheridan "Nikki" character was a bit ahead of its time, wasn't it? I mean, a strong female character who completely failed to break a heel while running from James Arness, needed her male co-workers like a fish needs a bicycle, and actually needled the lead character about his drunken inability to, uh, come across, and kept it up throughout.

There was nothing like Nikki in any other movie of the era, unless you count women who were clearly labeled "psychopath" in the last reel.

Keith said...

Oh, gawd. What a horrible picture. Why would anyone want to see it again?

Yes, it's a lame-assed remake of "20,000 Leagues" but without the compelling characters or script or any redeeming features whatsoever. Margaret Dumont or Billie Burke could have driven that pitiful spacecraft into the "Hole" and it would have been much more entertaining.

Did this thing lose more money than "Jack Carter?"

Thank the lord they didn't cast Haley Mills for this trash. She would have hit them in the head with that butt-plug.

Scott said...

Absolutely, Chris, I couldn't adore that character more. Nikki is probably the least distressed damsel in all of 50s cinema.

I love that she's a smart, regular gal who's comfortable with both the eggheads and the flyboys, and doesn't betray her boss because she's fallen for Captain Hendry's charms -- she does it because her boss has clearly snapped and put them all in danger. Even then, she doesn't make a moral or emotional meal out of it, but does take the time to explain Carrington's motivations ("He hasn't slept since you found that thing. And he's not thinking right. I know him. And he doesn't think the way we do anyway") so the Army boys don't overreact and lock him up in a store room.

My favorite bit, however, comes at the end, when Hendry allows the reporter to stay with the Air Force men who are preparing to fight the alien, and she starts to volunteer as well. He cuts her off, telling her to get back to the generator room with the other civilians, and you're all set for an argument, or a trembling farewell, or at least a Significant Glance, but instead, she cuts him off with a little wave and a "Good luck to you."

Chris Vosburg said...

Okay, saw TBH on Flix, and whew, glad that's over, and glad they didn't take it over the 100 minute mark.

Like the Alps: beautiful, but stupid. Clunk clunk clunk, went the dialog, every friggin' line falling dead to the ground as soon as it's delivered.

A real stinker, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, starting with the overly grandiose decision to set the film's overture to a full two and half minutes of blackscreen, which made me start to wonder if the lenscap was left on or something. Nope, we're just being full of ourselves. Look you, this is big art, get it?

First look at Vincent had me rolling on the floor-- it's such a conscious and manipulative effort to make him just so damned adorable and all.

Quite liked Slim Pickens' trashbot character, despite myself.

Other favorites: Vincent goes cross-eyed when he's drilling Maximilian's midsection, the crew (including the bots, for heaven's sake) flashbacks all over the place while sailing down the drain, and the hokey "hell" scenes at the end. Big art, see, buster?

Looks like they spent that 20mil on sets, by the way, and pyrotechnic effects.

Scott said...

Yep, yep, and double yep. The sets were certainly extensive, and some rather cool (I liked the Palomino), but inside the Cygnus, many of the backdrops were kind of cheap-looking, seemingly fashioned from that thin, brittle, translucent plastic that covers the fluorescent light fixtures at the DMV, accompanied -- as I said in the summary -- by those pastel pipes from Chuck E. Cheese or Camp Snoopy. In fact, certain sections of the film made it look as though the producers had just bought the sets from Woody Allen's Sleeper.

Then there are all the unnecessary logic problems. The Palomino can travel interstellar distances, but has no artificial gravity -- yet the Cygnus -- a far older ship -- does. Okay, fine, maybe it's a matter of volume, and Palomino was too small for a gravity generator. And yet V.I.N.CENT floats in both normal and zero-g environments, so clearly they have the technology to create tiny anti-gravity generators. (Of course, this was purely a budgetary and production problem. Originally, the whole thing was intended to take place in zero-g, but that was deemed too expensive and difficult, so they split the difference and never bothered with an explanation.)

And that damn robot. I remember when I saw the film in it's original release, my first glimpse of him filled me with a despair that only increased with every foot of film that ran through the projector.

But at the risk of becoming the thing I hate (and I'll shut up about it after this, I promise), TBH is just flat-out boring in an unforgivable and needless way. They had all that Carrera marble to work with, and they made an ashtray? I don't mind a film that's a disaster of Irwin Allen proportions, and drags the viewer down with it, because I'll take that ride. But boredom I cannot excuse.

That's the reason I haven't yet revisited the Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman The Avengers. It's one of the worst movies I've ever sat through, but it's also stunningly dull. It didn't fill me with that typical bad movie energy that can often lead to a cathartic, post-game bout of entertaining verbal abuse. I just felt poleaxed. And as long as I delayed rewatching TBH, I don't know that I'll ever find the courage to face that one again.

Chris Vosburg said...

As I suspected, I got the sense that the story wass being pulled in several different directions at once, and rechecked the writing credits at IMDB.

Sure enough, four people: Story credit to Jeb Rosenbrook, Bob Bardash & Richard Landau, screenplay credit to Jeb Rosenbrook & Gerry Day.

It's as if they couldn't decide who their audience was and tried to cover all bases, with the predictable end result.

I also got the sense that none of the actors had any idea why their character was saying whatever it was saying, leading to a few of those mystifying line deliveries which emphasize the wrong syllables or phrase.

Probably this is why Robert Forster's hair began falling out.

Chris Vosburg said...

And a last add because I don't know where else to put this:

I put the Hallmark Channel Perry Mason weekend marathon on hold to watch TBH, and was glad to retrun as soon as possible.

Sadly Hallmark engages in Digital time compression for its Perry episodes, for the uninitated, this means they speed up action ever so slightly (while not affecting the pitch of the audio), enabling them to add an additional minute or two of advertising content in the time slot.

In Perry's case, for those of us who know the show well, it's funny: Perry, always a very deliberate talker and ponderously slow walker, suddenly has an energetic delivery and a spring in his step.

Paul Drake on the other hand, normally had a very fast delivery, so Time Compression renders some of his lines bizarrely funny, like that old 80s Federal Express Fast Talker ad: "I'm putting you in charge of Pittsburgh, Peter. I know it's perfect Peter that's why I picked Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's perfect, Peter!"

Go Paul go!