In addition to watching and writing about films, I’ve become something of a memorabilia collector in recent years. Cursed with a teacher’s salary, I ain’t out there bidding on Dorothy’s ruby slippers or anything, but certainly enjoy haunting local antique stores for a variety of movie-related stuff. Or when feeling particularly bold, I’ll occasionally overpay for some retro relic on eBay.
More often than not, I leave antique stores empty-handed. But every now and then, I’ll find a small treasure that doesn’t completely empty my wallet and give it a new home in the Dave Cave.
Each payday I try to make a trip to the last record store in Portland. But unlike most visits, I definitely knew what I was looking for - the new Porcupine Tree album - so I was pretty much in and out within 15 minutes. Since I already refinanced my house to pay for the gas to get there, I killed two birds with one stone and popped by Antique Alley, which is roughly in the same area.
Antique Alley is a neat place, taking up the entire basement of a city block in Portland’s historic Hollywood District. I usually find an interesting thing or two wherever I go there. This time it was a 1999 VHS release of the 1979 Disney debacle, The Black Hole, packaged in a tin box with a collectible booklet and several lobby cards (the latter still in shrinkwrap). I generally don’t collect old VHS, but it was in great condition and ya gotta love all the bells & whistles thrown in to commemorate such a shitty movie.
Make no mistake…The Black Hole isn’t just shitty. It’s aggressively shitty, easily the dumbest science-fiction film released by a major studio during the ‘70s. Considering this is the same decade which gave us Logan’s Run, that’s really saying something. Loaded with shitty action, shitty science, shitty special effects (considering the budget), shitty dialogue and shitty performances by a cast who should have known better, it was decidedly not the next Star Wars (which Disney obviously hoped for). I thought it was shitty when I watched it in a theater at 15, an opinion that’s remained unchanged ever since. In fact, The Black Hole is so shitty it ends up being even funnier than Spaceballs. Logan’s Run, too, for that matter.
But as shitty as it is, there must be a special place in my heart for The Black Hole, because on the drive home, I realized I’ve actually - unconsciously? - acquired numerous other things related to the film over time. About a year ago, I nabbed John Barry’s soundtrack on vinyl from the same store. Maybe it was even sold by the same vendor. Barry’s score is one part of the film that’s not shitty. That and Maximilian, the film’s evil robot. Even though he resembles the front of a Chevy Camaro, he’s pretty cool, especially when drilling a hole through Anthony Perkin’s chest (payback for such a shitty performance).
Speaking of robots, The Black Hole’s “cute” one, V.I.N.CENT, is shitty, too, but not shitty enough to dissuade me from ordering a box of action figures containing him and Maximilian (though they're actually reproductions, not antiques). While I’m pretty sure I overpaid for them, they proudly sit in my Dave Cave display case, still in the box. Without really trying, I’ve been slowly putting together a shitty little shrine to The Black Hole. And I might not be done. I’ve recently learned that a company called Mego released a line of The Black Hole tie-in toys back in 1979, which graced shelves of Toys 'R Us stores for approximately 12 minutes. I find that hilarious. At least the basic concept of Star Wars allowed you to use your imagination to create new adventures with your Luke, Han and Vader action figures. But what exactly did Disney think kids were gonna do with a mustached Harry Booth doll (the journalist played by Ernest Borgnine)? Any kid who got one of those in their Christmas stocking probably stopped believing in Santa.
But I just gotta have one of those vintage Ernest Borgnine dolls. It would be totally awesome, if not a bit ironic, to not only own an action figure from a film with virtually no action, but sculpted from one of the least photogenic lead-actors of all time.
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