Saturn 3 (1980)

*. The whole project was doomed from the start.
*. It was production designer John Barry’s baby. He wrote the original story and was slated to make his directorial debut with it, but got pulled at the last minute, apparently due to a falling out with Kirk Douglas. Never a good thing.
*. Barry was replaced by Stanley “The King of Hollywood musicals” Donen, who was one of the producers. I’m not sure Donen belonged in space. Actually, after the demise of the big studio musicals, he might not have belonged in Hollywood.
*. The cast didn’t belong in space either. Kirk Douglas does his best, but never seems at home. Farrah Fawcett is strictly eye candy. And Harvey Keitel . . . well, he was so out of place even his voice had to be dubbed.
*. I thought Fawcett’s Alex sounded dubbed as well. And the dog screams like a girl. What’s up with the sound in this film?
*. The script was by Martin Amis, and what Amis knew about screenwriting was nothing. There’s no continuity in the action, or even explanation for anything that’s happening. Roger Ebert: “The level of intelligence of the screenplay of Saturn 3 is shockingly low — the story is so dumb it would be laughed out of any junior high school class in the country.”
*. I mean, who is Benson (Keitel) and what is he up to anyway? Why has he gone to Saturn 3? What does he want to do there? Just hide out? Grow some hydroponic weed and chill with Farrah? Then, when Hector takes over, what is his game? I guess Hector’s brain has been infected with Benson’s obsession with Alex, but what does Hector think he’s going to do with her? Does he want to breed her in some Demon Seed sort of way?
*. Another dig at the script: “Did you know the original Hector came to a tragic end? He was killed by Achilles . . .” Yes, but what of it? What comparison is Amis (or Barry) trying to draw between the robot and Homer’s Hector?
*. Despite Barry being a design man, I thought everything about the look of the film was terrible. The usual endless dark corridors with lots of jetting steam and ductwork. Model spaceships doing slow crawls across the screen. Farrah Fawcett in a parade of sexy outfits, including a different nightie for every day of the week and a jogging ensemble including go-go boots and a blouse that’s only connected at her neck.
*. And then there’s Hector. Despite being the first of the “demigod series” he looks like a pair of Christmas tree lights sticking out of a Terminator chassis, brought to life by a tank of brain matter that circulates through by a network of silly-straws.
*. Douglas is in great shape. He even manages a nude scene, which is impressive for a senior. Fawcett was thirty years younger. One can sympathize with Keitel wanting to “use” her body. The only fun scene in the movie has him upbraiding her for her “penally unsocial” monogamy. It’s a crime that Douglas gets to keep her for his “personal consumption.” Don’t mistake that for a liberated or progressive point of view, by the way. I’d say this vision of the future looks like it’s taking a big step backward for women.
*. In recent years there’s been a slight uptick of interest in this film, in part because of some of the names involved but I think more for its delayed “camp” value. Well, I’m not going to jump on this particular train. It just seems to me to be a really bad movie, and not worth much attention.

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