Now, I have read that like many pictures Black Hole kinda/sorta languished in development for a short time. If I have my facts correct, it actually began as a space disaster movie -- something in the vein of Irwin Allen's popular disaster movies that were big box office for the day -- but several iterations of a shooting script couldn't quite get the central idea right ... and -- also as I understand it -- that whole 'black hole' idea wasn't even part of the first several attempts. Somewhere in the mid-1970's, the writing was dusted off and the whole idea of the collapsed star was inserted; and yet no screenwriter could come up with anything that worked, at least so far as the financiers were concerned. As many of you know, Star Wars arrived in 1977, and the George Lucas property quite literally lit a fire under every major studio: there was a frenzy to tap into Science Fiction and Fantasy, so the Mouse House pulled out the script yet again and fast-tracked it for production.
For what it's worth, I've also thought that Black Hole felt like a story that evolved from something else. I never quite understood how -- twenty years earlier -- Earth had produced a ship the size of the Cygnus for space exploration only to -- twenty years later -- have something like the Palomino tasked with the same duties. It just never quite gelled -- there should've been some greater backstory explaining these differences along with their respective missions -- but, inevitably these things happen when second-tier ideas get bumped up to prime real estate. That and the fact that the project went into production without an ending -- what truly awaited the crew that were going to find themselves inside the Black Hole wasn't decided until the very last minute -- pretty much tells me that I was right all along to question how much of this was 'fixed' in post production ... and that's rarely a good thing.
And another thing?
Tonally, the film just never quite works. It was clear that certain storytelling ideas suggested that the Walt Disney Company was ready, willing, and able to push their cinematic fare into let's say is more adult territory. There are some rather gruesome elements to Black Hole -- including a rather grisly death here and there -- that kinda/sorta defies the studio's usual focus on kiddie adventures. But because this was still a Disney production, I think the producers felt it a prerequisite to include some simpler pieces -- i.e. the exceedingly kid-friendly robots along with a dumbing down of the science of the day that had both discovered and was interested in such ideas of black holes -- and, again, these two worlds never merged effectively.
Still, I don't like dissecting too much any intellectual property on its birthday, so I'll leave it at that for today. Instead, I'll celebrate the fact that The Black Hole did come into being, and it brought with it one of the more talented casts of players for an occasionally thoughtful space yarn. It's also a flick that has been tossed around now and then with suggestions for a reboot; and I, for one, would definitely be interested in seeing this curious oddity get its own thematic do-over.
So ... Happy Birthday, The Black Hole! Who ever knew you'd look so grand at 44 years young!