No, Tenki -- I'm not using a laptop. Desktop system, flatscreen monitor. 1024x1280, but problem occurs at every workable resolution.
Do you find that you also lose AL+TAB and other functionality when in "black screen" mode?
Yea, I was. I just did some research and at least PART of it is related to an old NVIDIA driver bug. problem is, if you're using older cards, like my laptop (geforce go 6150) they haven't updated those at all for years I found a modded recent driver files my latop could use here: http://forums.laptopvideo2go.com/topic/27279-v25947-windows-7vista-32bit-hpcompaq-oem-inf
/ that solved the problem for me at least. You grab the driver file, extraxt it, and then replace the .inf file that was in the driver with the one they have linked at the top. Naturally it's a bit your mileage may vary, and use at your own risk, but the game is working for me at least.
Great find, Tenki. Thank you. I'm going to dig into that route and see what I find out. This is certainly an older video card and I suspect this is just the problem, even though I have applied all available updates.
I'll post more about my desktop solution as I figure it out.
Tenki has is correct -- this is a problem specific to my card, my driver, and my stupidity.
The NVIDIA site has an update from this week that sorted all of my problems. Updating through Windows XP when this problem started actually enabled a worse and older driver, so, even though I thought I was getting everything up-to-date, I was actually compounding the problem.
All in all, problem solved. Driver problem -- who would have thought it? Oh, everyone. [hangs head in shame]