Tuesday, November 04, 2008

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 80: Golden Books' The Black Hole Collection

I still remember the day that my grandfather (who passed away in late 2002), purchased this sci-fi movie collectible for me.

It was a hot day in the late summer of 1980 (August, I think...) and my family was spending a week's vacation at the Jersey shore with my grandparents. I was sun-burned, and wanted to play inside.

We all went out to a local five-and-dime store, and my grandfather instructed me to buy anything I wanted...within reason.

Well, I wanted this:

...The Golden Books' The Black Hole omnibus of officially licensed items, which included in one rectangular collectible box a potpourri of goodies including a little Golden Book, a Golden Poster Storybook, a Golden Book of Things to Do, a Press-out Book, a coloring book (with crayons), and two robot puppets.

All of these treasures -- naturally -- related to Gary Nelson's The Black Hole, the notorious and expensive 1979 Disney sci-fi bomb...which I happened to love. And which, beyond all reason, beyond all explanation, I still love. So sue me.

The Black Hole Press-Out Book was my favorite item in this collection. It was a giant over sized book constructed of heavy paper. You could perforate and punch out the various components of the unique space ships seen in the film (including the probe ship, the Palomino, and the mysterious Cygnus), and then put them together to have good-sized replicas.

You could also punch-out paper "stand-up" figures of the movie's primary characters: Captain Holland (Robert Forster), Dr. Kate McCrae (Yvette Mimieux), Joe Pizer (Joseph Bottoms), Dr. Alex Durant (Anthony Perkins), Harry Booth (Ernest Borgnine), and even the evil Dr. Reinhardt (Maximillian Schell).

The robots were also represented in the Press-Out book, and you could stand-up little card-board figures of V.I.N.cent (voiced by Roddy McDowall), Maximillian and even Old B.O.B. (Slim Pickens). Once you were finished poking out the figures, you could put all of these cut-outs against an accurately illustrated backdrop of the multi-story Cygnus command center. Reinhardt's vast command chair and console was also included.

The "Press Out" Robot Puppets were fun too. They were ostensibly "easy to assemble" and the set came with two characters. First was Maximillian, "the sinister robot," and the second was V.I.N.cent, the "lovable" robot from The Black Hole. I remember I did a particularly botched job of assembling V.I.N.cent, which disappointed me no end. He ws my favorite character.

The "Golden Poster Storybook" was this gigantic poster which told the story of the film in glorious, colorful photographs. In the days before VCRs and DVDs, this was priceless (especially as the Black Hole comic-book featured really bad art in which the characters bore no resemblance to their on-screen counterparts).

Yep, this Golden Books toy set was truly "an astronomical assortment of fun that's out of this world." Hard for me to believe I've had the bloomin' thing for about twenty-eight years now.

Jeez, I feel old; like my youth got sucked into a black hole along with that probe ship...


  1. The Black Hole is one of my favourite nostalgic films. Huzzah, I'm not alone anymore. I don't think I've found anyone who likes it.

    I used to have the pop-up books and all the rather unsatisfying memorabilia (all I wanted was a Palomino toy or those sentry guns, the latter never made it from the toy prototype and the guns were never even molded for the figures). Now, I simply enjoy the film and hope that one day, they'll remaster the full Barry score rather than the lack lustre LP that was released recently on Itunes.

    I feel somewhat less lonely now..

  2. Another Black Hole fan here!

    I think it's actually a pretty decent suspense/mystery set in space right up until the last 10 minutes or so, when the writers suddenly forgot there's no air in space and decided the best way to end the thing would be the recycle the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment from Fantasia.

    I've always loved the look and atmosphere of the film, though, and Anthony Perkins' fate was the stuff of childhood nightmares for many years. Even now, the sound effect of his gurgling overlaid with the whirring of Max's blades has the power to raise the hair on my neck...

  3. Our numbers are up to three! There must be more Black Hole fans out there.

    Make your voice heard!

  4. This article triggered my own memories of grandparents buying me the press-out book, but I don't think I had the other items in that omnibus. I just sent John an email thanking him for opening the floodgates to my own childhood.

    To reply to an earlier comment, I learned just the other day that the soundtrack has been remastered, it's now available from Intrada. They say it's "complete" including material that wasn't used in the film!

    As for the film itself, I discovered in the late 80's early 90's that it's actually much more entertaining to just watch the old VHS in fast-forward. Much better pace, and none of the verbosity. ;)

    That didn't stop me from buying it (twice) on DVD, though.

    TRON: Legacy director Joe Kasinski (sp?) is rumored to be planning a remake. Did you spot the poster and Old Bob Kubrick in Sam Flynn's 80's bedroom?

  5. Anonymous11:16 AM

    I'm a huge fan of The Black Hole myself. I can't count the number of times I've watched it over the years. There's something about the mood and tone of the film I just love, and the music and effects are still fantastic to this day. It's been at least a couple years now since I've seen it, and I keep putting off another viewing hoping that a Blu-ray will be announced. Maybe if the remake gets done, that will prompt a Blu-ray release like the new Tron film did.

  6. One thing I realized watching Black Hole as an adult is that it's actually a horror movie masquerading as a a sci-fi movie. It's the classic set-up. A group of travelers come upon a a creepy old house/castle. Toss in a mad scientist, his creepy assistant, and what turn out to be essentially zombies.