Saturday, August 19, 2006

Which Hole?

During my time packing in Texas, I often turned to DVD entertainment. Having thought again of a favorite child-hood movie because of my photo-centric post (clearly the most influential post on this blog given how many times I have referenced it), I loaded The Black Hole into the ol’ movie-o-gram.

Today, I thought to myself, “What better blog entry than one focused on a film that only five other people in the whole nation have seen? Better make it an extra long entry, too!” Eh – Nobody reads blogs on the weekend anyway.

Let’s first say that Disney’s space-epic shows both its age and its creakiness. At age four, I loved it. To be fair to me and it, the film didn’t have a bad start. A small group of space explorers, about to end 18 months of failed exploration for intelligent life, happen upon a ghost ship. Long thought lost, they explore the U.S.S. Cygnus and find Dr. Hans Reinhardt, the only survivor of a crew of hundreds.

The film had some lofty ambitions. It tried to cross Dante’s Inferno with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Somewhere, quite early in production, the film producers envisioned a meditation on good, evil, death, and rebirth.

After the opening sequences, however, the movie’s timing goes to shit. Everybody involved, from director to actors, suddenly show themselves wanting the film to be over as soon as possible. The Black Hole had glimmers of some grand ideas, but poor execution, horrific writing, and mediocre acting left it flat.

If you have never seen this movie, in other words, you aren’t missing much. Only the truly nostalgic can bare it (kind of like tv’s Wonder Woman or Charlie’s Angels, but without the hair. Yvette Mimieux’s character, Kate McCray, had a disappointingly sensible seventies perm.).

Disney’s aesthetic and writing failures didn’t surprise me. What I did notice this time around, though, was just how queer this film seems as an adult. First, there are all the queer actors associated with it: Anthony Perkins, Roddy McDowall, and Joseph Bottoms. Okay, granted, I don’t have any real sense of Bottoms actual sexuality, but my third-grade sense of humor leads me to make presumptions based on his name. He also appeared to wear tons of eye-shadow for this movie. I am not sayin’, I am just sayin’.

This film’s dialogue also had more queer sexual innuendo than an original Little Mermaid poster. In particular, Anthony Perkins’ character, Alex Durant, falls head-over-heals for the slightly-murderous (though I always argued misunderstood) Dr. Hans Reinhardt. Take a look at some sample dialogue:

    Kate (Concerned and Confused): Alex, I am beginning to feel that you want to go with him.

    Alex (dreamy-eyed): On a glorious pilgrimage straight into what might be the mind of God? I do. I do.

Later in the film, the pick up with the conversation again:

    Kate (Still Concerned, Always Confused): Alex, I won’t have you throwing your life away for this.

    Alex (with a quasi erection): He can do it. I know he can.

    Kate (with horror!): Oh, God, Alex!

    Alex: There’s entirely different world beyond that black hole. A point where time and space as we know it no longer exists. We will be the first to see it, to explore it, to experience it.

    [Yeah, Alex, who hasn’t been promised that at some visit to a gay bar?]

    Harry: Damn it all, Dan. If we wait for Alex, it may be too late. Don’t you see? He’s hypnotized by that man!

Don’t fret, like 90 percent of queer driven characters in film, Alex came to an unhappy demise. Sliced up by Reinhardt’s robot guard, Maximilian, Alex and his queer inclinations go down in a fiery blaze.

Speaking of the robots, they make homo-lusting-Alex look like, well, a Disney character. I am not sure why seventies’ Sci-Fi dictated that robots needed fey tendencies, but they sure reigned supreme (I am looking at you, C-3PO). In the case of The Black Hole, real-life-queer-boy Roddy McDowall voiced the epicene robot V.I.N.Cent. Like any good queer, he seemed to only speak in well-crafted epigrams.

I do have some half-baked ideas about the love of these Sci-Fi fuss-bots. Perhaps my theories stretch things a bit. Still, given that popular culture presented queer folk as not quite human, it must have made sense at some unconscious level to use the same queer markers for characters that really weren’t human. Characters that allegedly don’t have a sexuality or are supposed to be “neutered” (like robots) end up being coded as queer. Not having a sexuality and having a desire for somebody of the same-sex often get conflated in our society.

In this film, Maximilian, a giant, red, longer than-he-is-wide, cyclops robot stands as the threat of queer sexuality. Reinhardt spends an unhealthy amount of time with his one-eyed monster, which he named Maximilian. The real first name of the actor who played Reinhardt, coincidentally, was also Maximilian. Dr. Reinhardt, heal thy self!

In the end sequence of the film, Maximilian and Reinhardt encounter each other in the middle of the black hole. For some reason, Reinhardt suddenly has long flowing hair that we had not seen entering the singularity. Robot and doctor embrace (no, I am not kidding), with Maximilian topping, and then merge together into a single individual. From that point on, they reign jointly over hell.

The film-makers imply that Reinhardt pays for his life-time of perverse desires (ambition, cheating death) with an eternity of perversion brought about by same-sex (though robotic) rape. The threat of same-sex sex symbolizes the most violent and horrific end.

Maximilian riding Reinhardt like a birthday-pony does not stand alone as the only same-sex rape reference in the film. In a pivotal scene, robot B.O.B., voiced by Slim Pickens, testifies about his abuse at the hands of Maximilian’s predecessor. “He had his revenge,” he shakily tells V.I.N.Cent., “He did things to me that I sure don’t like to think about.” We are only left guessing.

Phallic-domed Max gets around more, though. During the climatic battle, Maximilian locks V.I.N.Cent. into an embrace. During the scene, Max literally shakes with, um, delight? Ecstasy? Meanwhile, V.I.N.Cent.’s head goes from being entirely withdrawn, to out, to fully extended.

V.I.N.Cent.’s final escape involves his own phallic turnabout. He extends his long boring tool and drills away at Maximilian until the bigger robot submits. One doesn’t have to be Freud to see what’s going on there.

In the midst of all this cloaked sexual violence, B.O.B. and V.I.N.Cent. have a plutonic love affair. They talk openly of their admiration for each other and sense of partnership. In the classic tradition of on-screen buddy films, however, the love between B.O.B. and V.I.N.Cent. remains untainted by the vulgar suggestions of sex (contrasted with evil Maximilian). Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the two male robots could show affection to each other as dueling partners. In the end, of course, one still has to die.


Such are the things that I contemplate on a Saturday morning. I will end, though, with a special thanks to V.U.B.O.Q. He thoughtfully sent me a Boston-welcome present of the nifty knitted cap (modeled below). Some universal concerns exist that GayProf won’t hack the chilly Boston winter. Rest assured, I am tough.

I appreciate that cap for the warmth and also because it will be perfect to toss up in the air a-la-Mary-Richards. Thanks again, VUBOQ!!


Anonymous said...

As one of the other 5 people who've seen this film (and loved it as a child), I say "Bravo!" for devoting an entire blog post to it.

I had never considered the same-sex elements of the movie, and now I'm deeply disturbed. Thanks for raping my childhood. Why not destroy Winnie the Pooh while you're at it. :)

However, didn't you miss the one major serious sexual element of the movie in your review? The whole movie is about Dr. Reinhardt wanting to plunge into a big black hole. Seems pretty gay to me. :) IMDB says that the film was renamed when shown in Russia because "black hole" is obscene there.

To this day, whenever my husband (another of the 5) and I encounter someone who is obviously a voracious devote of um ... shall we say ... black hole penetration, we intone under our breaths "In! Through! And beyond!!"

GayProf said...

Alan: Thanks for raping my childhood.

Oh, Alan, raping your childhood isn't just about this post. It's a motto for my entire blog.

Anonymous said...


Center of Gravitas: Raping your childhood since 2005.


Charles CĂ©leste Hutchins said...

My brother and I watched that movie several times. We even had the book/record combination that went with it. (Alas, it's probably lost now)

I think the comments section now accounts for all five viewers.

Doug said...

I saw it many times as a child. Does that mean I'm the long-lost sixth viewer?

I was scared shitless of Max. Now I'll have to get the movie and watch it again to put my fears to rest.

I love the hat, GayProf, and the image of you tossing it in the air Mary-Richards-style.

Frank said...

You know, I watched that movie once, I think, years and years ago when I was just a little nerdling. It evinced nothing more than a big yawn and I haven't thought of it since. Now, I may just have to watch it again and look for all the homotext.

Regarding C-3PO, I've heard that the guy who plays him was actually notorious for hitting on the female crew of the prequels. If true, it just goes to show you that those damn Brits really can throw one's gaydar out of kilter; I would never have pegged someone who played 3PO so camp as straight. And what are your thoughts on R2-D2? Some have suggested that he's actually a "she" lesbian (all the tools, don't ya know), but I don't know.

Love the cap! I want to see photos of your Mary Richards moment!

Anonymous said...

I too want to see the MTM moment replayed in downtown Boston. But then the hat goes for good. GP you're "sit in the front row and stare" cute. Ditch the hat.

Also, sometimes a robot is just a robot.

Anonymous said...

I have a strange liking for The Black Hole and, honestly, I never thought about the subtext until now...well, except I always assumed that Maximilian possessed certain "functions" which were not revealed to the audience.

I love the hat!

Michael said...

Things I learned today:

I am five years older than the Prof!

Other people agree that this movie, cherished as a child, holds up horribly. I certainly had to have earned some purgatory points for making my parents take me to it. I was appalled when I saw it on cable a few years ago. The plot drags, the dialogue stinks, and th acting is not even up to Disney Apple Dumpling Gang standards. (Hell, even the Cat from Outer Space acting is better.)

The Black Hole has huge sexual subtext outside of the enormous phallus thata is Reinholt's ship going into the hole. Unlike Alan, who feels you have raped his childhood, my Black Hole cherry (*ahem*) was popped years ago watching the thing as an adult. Once seen by any body with a high-school education, the film simply cannot be made worse. In fact, you may have elevated it somewhat with your fascinating queer reading.

Anonymous said...

I like this new trend ... every post ending with a pic of GayProf wearing a fabulous hat! :)


Earl Cootie said...

Did you say a something about a long, boring tool?

Anonymous said...

I'm not one of the five people who has seen the movie, so I can only add that as a very young queerling, I was magnetically drawn to Roddy McDowall.

A very fine hat, indeed. V.U.B.O.Q. has very talented hands!

Artistic Soul said...

I read blogs on the weekend - it's actually when I get to catch up! lol.

Seriously though, you should write an essay from your post here and publish it. It would be awesome.

TK said...

I think only gay men saw this movie!

Gaypprof, you have brought to light all kinds of feeling I had about that movie, but were (mostly) kept hidden in my subconscious. That whole creepy embrace at the end was over the top. And that whole Anthony Perkins love business... yep.

Dorian said...

I have this film on DVD. I even still have my The Black Hole bed-sheets, in my mom's linen closet. And the DVD was one of the ones I made sure made the move into my new house. Standing in line to see this movie for the the first time was also the first time I ever saw a real-life punk rocker, with a huge green mohawk. Something quite rare for Cheyenne, Wyoming.

But that's a great, insiteful and witty examination of the film. And I like the hat, too.

Adam said...

All Hail VUBOQ and his knitting skill! You look fab in that hat.

Anonymous said...

Add me to the list of those who've seen it, though it's been so long that I only remember one scene:

This big tunnel with a giant ball of fire that was rolling at them while they had to run across a bridge.

Suddenly, it all seems so dirty.

jeremy said...

Yeah, I loved that movie as a kid. I made my mom rent it like a million times (and it was played on our wood-paneled top-loading RCA VCR). Like Les, my bro and I had the book/record combo.
Thanks for another rad post Prof!

vuboq said...

glad you liked the hat :-)

Laura Elizabeth said...

Love the hat! I knit and crochet and don't "do" hats 'cuz they're not easy - nice work vuboq!

Re: the movie. Well... now I have to go find the damn thing!

Curse you GayProf, Curse You!

No, not really.

I am thinking of hunting the movie down and having showing at my sister's house for all our friends.

pacalaga said...

I am one of the millions who either did not see this film, or who may have seen it but erased it from memory.
Thus, I am only able to comment on C-3P0. I never thought he was gay, just extremely, deeply, truly annoying.
The only other robot I remember from long ago was Twiggy from Buck Rogers, and I am pretty sure he was bi.

Elizabeth McClung said...

I saw this film, and loved it because it was during the very very short period of "dark" disney films where some glue sniffing exec at disney decided that "family film" somehow meant horrific cannibalistic zombie making madman who either "converts" or attempts to destroy every nice person before going off to rule in perpetual agony in hell. HA! The execs were saying to themselves, No peace loving ET here! They next went with The black Cauldron - also some of the best disney horror from this time, like Watcher in the Woods.

I actually have the pop-up book of The Black hole, which thanks to GayProf - sounds incredible dirty just to say, since I have to say the penile imagry was somehow lost on me earlier - I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just saying long one eye robots don't tend to make me instantly thing "This is about penis" - though you have put Battlestar Galactica Cyclons in a new light (as they have one eye too).

I agree with Alan, thanks for raping my childhood - it was wonderfully horrific to read your blog - but as a fan of queering everything disney, I applaud - can you work your way through other classics - I can only imagine what you might get out of "the Dark Crystal"

Kevin said...

I LOVED that movie as a kid. Then, some years later, I couldn't bellieve how poorly it was made -- I mean you could see the wires that made people fly through the air ...

I can only imagine how homofaggoty the Disney space quest film is were I to watch it now.

Larry said...

You are such a cutie :) Too bad you're out of my league :(

I used to think Miximilian was the coolest thing ever when I was little. Then I saw the movie when I was much older... and well.. let's just say it wasn't a positive viewing experience and leave it at that :)

GayProf said...

Larry: Who told you we weren’t in the same league? I ain’t no Chicago Cubs.

It never hurts to ask. We should all try-out for the teams with whom we want to play. ;-)

Kalv1n said...

Seeing how many people have commented, I'm beginning to wonder about your original assertion of no one reading blogs on the weekend, but I suppose I sure didn't or I wouldn't be commenting on Monday. I think I'll avoid this movie. Something about old Disney live-action movies just somehow doesn't appeal to me.

Maybe I'll have to work on queering things more frequently. It's strange how we seem to queer things a lot. Can you do so more racializing?

Gay Erasmus said...

My god, it's all coming back to me now.

This movie made me gay.

And to think they played it at the family hour of 1pm on a Sunday afternoon.

Michael said...

Hum The Black Hole!..the title sound good

Roger Owen Green said...

The comic book store I worked at the time ordered gazillion copies of the Black Hole comic book, figuring it'd be big. we were giving them away for YEARS thereafter.

Joe.My.God. said...

I remember being so excited to see The Black Hole. Afterwards, not so much.

C.W. Roden said...

The merging of Reinhart and Maximilian is ironic.
Maximilian Schell has to spend eternity inside Maxamilian's shell....LOL!