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Release Date(s)1980 (December 3, 2013)
Saturn 3 is an odd duck of a movie. It came along at a time when science fiction films were on the slope downward. Some might argue that Alien was the pinnacle of the genre’s popularity at that time, and Saturn 3 was intended to follow suit. It had a big name in the cast (Kirk Douglas), a TV and poster goddess (Farrah Fawcett) and a reputable working actor (Harvey Keitel), plus tons of cool science fiction stuff. So what went wrong? Well, everything really.
Saturn 3, for all intents and purposes, is a B movie. It’s not exactly a strong one, but it’s not exactly weak either. You can tell very easily within the first five or ten minutes what the film is all about and why it came into being. It’s a bit of an amalgam of all of the things that were popular at the time having to do with science fiction: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Star Wars, and Alien, especially Alien. Even the musical score evokes these films. The story, which is about a robot that falls in love with the only woman aboard a spaceship and will do anything to get her, is about as schlockish as you could ask for. The unfortunate truth is that Roger Corman and filmmakers in Italy were actually making BETTER science fiction rip-offs at the time.
The biggest turn-off for me was the terrible performance from Farrah Fawcett, who is simply present because her appeal to the young guys in the audience. Her breathy dialogue, ear-piercing screams and clichéd female antagonist schtick get old very quickly. The film is also infamous for the trouble it went through during production. The original director quit the film and legendary director Stanley Donen (of Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides For Seven Brothers fame, among many other classics) was brought in to finish the film. The film’s pace is completely all over the place most of the time, and the editing feels sloppy and disjointed. And the monster/robot isn’t much of a winner either. It’s just a big bunch of wires walking around really. However, the movie is saved by the cool set design and cinematography by Billy Williams, and not Farrah Fawcett’s assets. It’s really an all-around strange movie, but it’s an interesting one despite its flaws, of which there are many.
As for the film’s video presentation, this Blu-ray sports a brand new transfer of it. There’s a strong amount of detail and a high level of film grain, especially during composite shots. Colors are good, as are the blacks, but skin tones are merely ok. Contrast and brightness fare well, and I didn’t see any signs of any unnecessary digital tampering. As for the audio, you’re given two options: English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD. Both tracks are good, and the 5.1 track isn’t the best you’re ever going to hear, but it gets the job done. Dialogue, sound effects and score are very crisp and clear. The surround channels don’t get a whole lot of use except for the score, which has plenty of room to breathe, but the rest of the soundtrack is mostly front-heavy. So it’s a bit immersive, but doesn’t go very far with it. Subtitles in English are included for those who might need them.
As for the extras, there’s a surprising amount to cull through. Other than the extra DVD of the film, there’s an audio commentary with an expert on the film, Greg Moss, and film critic David Bradley; an interview with actor Rou Dotrice, the voice of Hector; an interview with special effects director Colin Chilvers; additional scenes from the network TV version, as well as an additional deleted scene; the film’s theatrical trailer; TV spots; and finally, a still gallery. Not incredibly deep, but all nice additions nonetheless.
Saturn 3 is a cult classic, but not much more than that. It has the makings of a great knock-off, like one my favorites Starcrash, but it falls short due to its many flaws. I’d still recommend the film though for those who are curious about it. Some are bound to like it more than others. It’s definitely the kind of movie that you either like or don’t like, but if you’re a fan of the film, then this Blu-ray release should make you very happy.
- Tim Salmons