Hold me, Daddy. I’m afeared.

Hey, remember when Disney didn’t suck and blow simultaneously?

Deep down, most of us suspect that ol’ Uncle Walt was a sexist, racist, feeb-informing Machiavellian rat king. (Still, who doesn’t love Pinocchio?) And while there’s no doubt Disney’s recent corporate merge with Pixar and subsequent shakedown (leaving prodigies Lasseter, Catmull and Jobs steering the ship) will bring back much of the first company’s long lost artistry, the question bears repeating: have the past 20 years of Disney output blown epileptic pygmy goats, or what? Wtf happened?*

Never mind. Let’s focus on the semi-positive and take a look Disney’s chaotic neutral, pre-sucky years. I know I’m not the only one with fond recollections of the many offbeat live action flicks Disney produced in the late 70s and early 80s. Uncle Walt was in cryogenic deep freeze and the company’s heyday was fading, but gems like TRON, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and most poignantly their ridonkulous sci-fi space epic, The Black Hole all have a special place in this gal’s personal What Made Me Weird lexicon.

Yvette Mimieux gets some much-needed laser surgery.

Produced on the heels of Star Wars’ popularity, The Black Hole is one of Disney’s last gasps of cornball genius. Sure, it’s got problems. No originality, for starters. As one reviewer put it “[this is] nothing but a ‘creepy old house’ movie set in space.” Also, the screenwriters seem to have been unsure what demographic they were writing for, resulting in a plot that insults adult viewers’ intellects while still managing to scare the ever-loving crap out of children (and making The Black Hole the first PG-rated film in Disney history). Hokey dialog and unfortunate wardrobe choices abound. But if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times; you can’t go wrong with Ernest Borgnine. If that’s not enough to entice you, there’s John Barry’s amazing score, the incredible scale models and sets, scene after scene featuring beautiful, richly colored matte paintings of deep space, and Anthony Perkins getting the Cuisinart treatment.

Best for last, the Maximilian <3 Reinhardt 4-Ebber (In Hell) ending:

OH NO THEY DINT. That shit warped me for life. Seriously, off the top of your head, can you think of any mainstream family fare to top this? I can’t. Except perhaps the “alternate” ending from another live action Disney film of that era, the supernatural thriller, Watcher In the Woods. For better or worse, fans never saw the final act as it was originally intended until Watcher’s recent release on DVD. Click here to revel in some wackadoo polyester sci-fi seance action. That’s the short version, mind you. Diehard fans and curious rubberneckers will need to rent the DVD to witness the astounding 14 minute ending that had test-audiences rolling in the aisles and producers panicking.

Just goes to show. When suffering from third act writer’s block, dropping tons of blotter is always an option.

Befuddled Disney writers and producers of yesteryear, Coilhouse gives you a 21 ray gun salute.

Pyoo pyoo!

*Okay, so they owned Miramax when The Crying Game came out, the first Pirates flick gets a hall pass, and kudos to them for bringing Ghibli Studios to a wider American audience, but… DANG.

19 Responses to “REINHARDT/MAXIMILIAN 2008”

  1. bunny Says:

    As I have told you, I was so terrified by what the last scene of Black Hole could be as a kid I NEVER EVER watched the end. I ALWAYS closed my eyes with the horrible image of Maximilian and the Dr fused together, burned into my imagination. I don’t know how I knew that what the last scene was. I think my sadistic older brother told me to scare me… either way the image that starts off the post is my very first time seeing what I imagined to be such a TERRIBLE sight!!

    Oh, and the most incredible artist I have ever known and a pretty cool European travel companion did the matte painting of the kids on the roof from Something Wicked… he was about 18.

  2. Kevin Says:

    While I’ve not seen it since I was a wee creature, I’m fairly certain some of my fetishes were spawned by that film.

  3. Paul Komoda Says:

    The memories of The Black Hole are very vivid for me.
    And, yes, I completely agree that the Hell sequence at the end with Max/Reinhardt perched above the inferno of the destroyed Cygnus is magnificently haunting. That image of the eyes peering out from the robot’s visor really freaked me out as a kid!
    Even though I love the image of the legion of zombified humanoids walking in procession, I was always curious why they had to share their master’s fate….they were just innocent victims right?
    Pretty intense stuff, considering the tone of the film that came before it.

    I also loved the image of the Cygnus…like some lit-up Victorian cathedral, it was a beautiful sight, though it never made sense to me why someone would drive something so apparently fragile into a black hole!
    V.I.N.C.E.N.T. and Old Bob have a nice, pre-South Park look to them.
    I built all the model kits and everything when this first came out.
    I better stop right here.

    I’m not kidding, I went on a TOTAL Ernest Borgnine kick this morning.

  4. foxtongue Says:

    AKA 20,000 Leagues in SPACE!!

    I completely and utterly blame this film for my squicky-ick reaction to any idea of non-organic implants. *shakes head* Tinker with my genetics all you want, but please don’t try anything mechanist on me. I’ll claw it out.

  5. Jon Munger Says:

    +20 geek points for invoking Chaotic Neutral. Well played, ma’am.

    Well played indeed.

  6. Josh Ellis Says:

    Yeah, who let Ken Russell on set to shoot that ending? God, that always horrified me, on some deep uncomfortable level that I couldn’t really get my head around as a kid. It’s just so bizarre and heavy and out of place in a Disney space movie. I saw THE BLACK HOLE a couple of years ago on late-night TV — I’d totally forgotten the whole Reinhardt-in-hell bit — and it was still unnerving.

    It reminds me of when I was about eleven and, browsing through cable on a Saturday night, came across the bit in HELLRAISER 2 when the girl goes into the funhouse in Hell and sees the images of the clown juggling with his own torn-out eyes and the fetus sewing its own lips shut. I remember having that same sort of deep discomfort — Freddy and Jason hacking up horny high school kids was one thing, and easily dismissed, but this felt…profane, the same way Reinhardt’s panicked, silent gaze from inside that frozen machine on a rock in Hell felt profane.

    Probably why I spent most of my teens and early twenties studying mysticism, and why I’m an atheist now. And why I have a Pinhead action figure on my bookshelf. This is the stuff that warps you.

  7. gooby Says:

    Oh, Disney… we over look your nastiness cuz you let Frank and Ollie make some perty movies for us, but we don’t forgive your company for Atlantis, Brother Bear, or Treasure Planet, etc..

    I remember watching The Black Hole not to long ago and having the power go out in the middle. I awoke in the middle of the night in sweat and palpitations as John Barry’s theme looped over and over for hours, as the power had gone back on and the DVD was stuck on the menu screen.

    I miss when space looked like that, it was bright and filled with colors, and the spaceships were pitch black silhouettes with tiny lights sparkling across them. Now, space is dumb, and ships are boring grey or white floating in effortless black.

    But thinking back to that era of Disney, its strange to think how far out on a limb they stood to produce movies like Tron, that movie deserves its OWN shelf at the video store!

    But lets not forget the other gems from that era of Disney, the film that was supposed to be the end of Tim Burton’s career as a character designer- despite the munchies and crunchies and the fortune telling pig, The Horned King from the Black Cauldron terrified just as much as when Disney took me to Bald Mountain for an night.

    Albeit, scary in an “I’m scared of zombies way”, and no where near the “I’m scared of death and hell” fear that the Maximilian scene hit in a a very real place for me at the time.

    In a lighter note, this era of Disney also gave us Pete’s Dragon, which they are trying so hard to brush off of their map.

    Who doesn’t love a movie where a kid gets a jibber jabberin dragon (voiced by Charlie Callas, can it get better?!) thats beats up everyone who’s mean to him?!! ITs got snake oil salesmen, hillbilly’s, a dragon, AND he gets to live in a freakin lighthouse!

    But I know that film doesn’t go anywhere near the darkness that Disney was exploring for a bit there, and though those Pixar chaps are sure to bring in a new goloden age for the company, I doubt they will ever go as dark as they did for a bit there.

    “All sunshine makes a desert, so the Arabs say”- V.I.N.CENT

  8. Tanya Says:

    Meredith Yayanos, you’re my heeeero

  9. Shay Says:

    It’s great to hear I’m not the only one scarred for life for renting out The Black Hole reptitively when I was a wee lad off the Disney rack and the local video store.

    Mind you, The Time Machine and The Blue Bird are also up there on the “watched at a way too young age” category.

  10. andrew Says:

    I remember having a school folder with Maximillian on it even before I saw the movie because he looked so cool. My friends were jealous.

  11. john colby Says:

    For a Disney film that pic was VERY fucked up. Whats up with the ending where the Maximillion robot and mad scientist merge to take over hell ????? It was WAY too much for young lad such as myself. I there a really good version with tons of extars out on DVD ?

  12. Nadya Says:

    Something about that shot of Yvettte Mimieux reminds me of Sam Lowry’s mom in Brazil.

    I also want to say that the photo of “Rat King” on Wikipedia made me feel kinda nauseous… which NOTHING ever does anymore. I imagined how being one of those rats must feel, then I imagined how one of those rat kinds must smell. That’s probably a lot more than what most people thought when they read/clicked on that, but… well.

    Poor little young Brtiney. :(

    I completely missed out on The Black Hole! MUST WATCH!

  13. Paul Komoda Says:

    I just checked out the aforementioned Rat King. What a hideous concept! There’s something about multiple animals, or humans for that matter, fused together into one agonized mass, that I’ve always found particularly horrifying. I’m thinking of the deleted Monkey-Cat sequence from Cronenberg’s”The Fly”, among other things.

    Oddly enough, I’ve never seen The Watcher In The Woods, so I’m not aware of how much different the alternate ending is from the original. Quite an interesting creature, though!

  14. Mer Says:

    Paul, for frame of reference, the original cut of Watcher has noooooo references to outright time traveling alien flapping muppet creatures. No otherworldly influences beyond ghosts or spirits. It’s a teenybopper mysterious supernatural thriller with some weird dream sequences and hallucinatory moments, but nothing that would ever make you think THE GREAT CONJUNCTION IS AT HAND, FWAP FWAP FWAP.

    In the full 14 min “alternate” cut you can see that they were pouring mas dinero into the production of a big space alien ending. Flappy McWatcherson takes the girl back to his spaceship through a time/space portal where the girl who has been missing for 30 years is in a sparkly tube in a state of suspended animation. Watched in context (or out of it) it is spectacularly silly.

    Rat Kings are horrifying, aren’t they? They give me nightmares. They probably give Cronenberg a hard on. An apt spiritual representation of Walt Disney and his corporation. Well, maybe that’s not entirely fair. I’ve just heard way to many horrible things about the guy. Surely some of them have been exaggerated, but it’s a known fact that Disney didn’t hire women to animate, had people of color fired for no reason, disliked what he called “New York Jews” and was an SAC informant for the F.B.I. who named union strikers on his animation team as communists during the McCarthy hearings. A far cry from the personable, cuddly Unk image he projected in the media, eh?

  15. the daniel Says:

    the black hole: netflix’d

  16. Paul Komoda Says:

    Thanks for the info, Mer!

    The Watcher looks like a combination of an Urskek and that monster from Species 2.Interesting to see that Henry Selick was credited as part of the alien design team.

    Disney….yes, quite an unsavory character beneath it all. I recently watched that documentary which brought the aforementioned behavioral traits to light( Nadya passed it on to me!).
    Still, there’s no denying that Uncle Walt, or at least his legacy, made me weird on profound levels.
    I was introduced to the terrible majesty of giant(rubber)squids through “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”. The Disneyland Haunted Mansion permanently altered my state of conciousness.

    I’ll confess that I was a big fan of” Herbie The Love Bug” early on.

  17. Mer Says:

    Josh, Hellraiser screwed me up so bad. SO bad. And I just kept coming back for more. I even went to see that awful Pinhead… IN SPACE flick in the theaters. Directed by, uh… Alan Smithee. Thank god I was drunk.

    Still, there’s no denying that Uncle Walt, or at least his legacy, made me weird on profound levels.

    Ditto, Paul.

    I was introduced to the terrible majesty of giant(rubber)squids through “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”.

    Double ditto.
    Aged 5, I just about peed my pants in terror on that damn Haunted Mansion ride. Then, as soon as it was over, I demanded that my parents take me on it over and over again.

    Can’t say I follow you down the road with Herbie, tho. You’re on your own, pal. :)

  18. Stig Says:

    How dare you! The Lion King was okay! And Pocahontas featured a dastardly 15th century dog that was obese and rolled around on a skateboard!

    I think you owe the Head an apology.

  19. maximillian76 Says:

    Mr Thau please, create in CGI Maximillian rules the Cygnus scene. Try to do it please.