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Saturn 3 (Blu-ray)

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
Scream Factory
Aspect Ratio: 
Directed by: 
Stanley Donen
John Barry
Farrah Fawcett
Kirk Douglas
Harvey Keitel
Bottom Line: 
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Chances are, if you were a heterosexual male growing up in the late 1970s, you owned at least one piece of Farrah Fawcett ephemera. For me, it was a rug. Yes, I had a Farrah rug. It was a bathmat-sized reproduction of her iconic red bathing suit poster lovingly crafted out of photorealistic man-made fuzzy stuff woven into a sea grass base. I was probably around seven or eight at the time, and, while I somehow knew I WANTED Mrs. Fawcett-Majors, I hadn’t a clue what I’d do with her if I did, in fact, get her.

Farrah (who was then married to The Six Million Dollar Man, himself, Lee Majors) was, quite possibly, the biggest sex symbol of the decade, and, as one third of Charlie’s Angels, was a fixture on television sets and bedroom walls (or floors) around the country. Fawcett would remain a television staple into the new millennium until, sadly, her life was cut short after a protracted battle with cancer, but, despite her beauty and talent, Fawcett never achieved much success beyond the boob tube. Of course, her choice in projects probably didn’t help, and one particular disaster – 1980’s hilariously misguided Saturn 3 – may have helped set the tone for her film career.

Deep in the asteroid belt surrounding Saturn, on the planet’s third moon, Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Fawcett) run a small hydroponics research station with hopes of discovering new ways to help to feed an overpopulated Earth. Adam and Alex’s life on the isolated base is ideal, as the two are not only colleagues, but, despite a large gap in age, lovers, as well (not like Adam has much by way of competition). When they’re not seeking out new and inventive ways to feed the starving masses, they are making sweet, sweet love, messing about with mind-altering sexy-time drugs, and walking around bare-assed (well, only Adam, sadly). It’s a good life (for Adam).

Their love-in is interrupted by the arrival of Captain Benson (a curiously dubbed Harvey Keitel, whose “New Yawk” accent didn’t sound futuristic enough, I guess). Benson is a no-nonsense bureaucrat with a simple mission; replace one of the space station’s scientists with an android capable of doing the same job, but without the need for food, water, or anything more than an outlet to occasionally recharge its batteries. Of course, Adam knows he’s next in line for retirement, but, when Benson slaps together his potential replacement, Hector (who is programmed via a direct link to Benson’s brain) Adam is understandably reticent to leave his beloved Alex in the chrome claws of this towering hunk of wires and metal. Still, ever the good host, Adam does his best to play along with Benson, but, when it’s revealed that the Captain isn’t who he claims to be, Adam and Alex’s peaceful existence is shattered, and they must fight to survive against both the madman that is Benson, and the powerful (but oh-so-slow-moving) robot who shares his homicidal tendencies.

Saturn 3 was envisioned by effects guru-turned-writer/director, John Barry, as a big-budget sci-fi opus that would cash-in on the success of similarly themed peril-in-space flicks like Alien and Kubrick’s 2001. Of course, Fawcett was cast to get the proverbial “asses in seats”, as it was assumed that her sex-goddess stature would prove a major draw to horny teen males the world over. The male lead was first offered to the likes of Sean Connery and Michael Caine, before, ultimately, falling into the lap of Kirk Douglas. Douglas proved to be difficult to work with, Fawcett refused to do all of the sexy things they thought they were going to get from her when she was cast, and Barry, a first-time director, was so overwhelmed with the process that he was ultimately dismissed, and replaced by producer, Stanley Donen (not long after, Barry, reportedly devastated by his firing from Saturn 3, would succumb to a rare blood disease whilst working as a set director on The Empire Strikes Back, and died at the age of 43). By this time, virtually everything about the film had changed to the point where it was almost unrecognizable when compared to the original script. The resulting film was a mishmash of ideas, clumsily-staged action scenes (mostly due to malfunctions with the Hector robot and Douglas’ overcompensating for his age), and a whole lot of Kirk Douglas’ wrinkly old ass.

Even as a youngster (I saw Saturn 3 on cable, a few years after its release), I was disappointed. The promise of a nude Farrah (or, at the very least, a scantily clad Farrah) went mostly undelivered, and the film, itself, was just bizarre, cold, and strangely disaffecting. I absolutely hated Kirk Douglas in the role of Adam and couldn’t, for the life of me, understand why he was cast as Alex’s lover when he looked more like her grandfather. I was also disappointed by the film’s antagonists as neither Keitel (nor his creepy dubbed voice) or the clumsy, lumbering Hector looked to be much of a threat to anyone.

It’s been more than thirty years since I last saw Saturn 3, and, I have to be honest, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to seeing it again when Scream Factory announced it as part of its release slate. Having seen it again, I can unequivocally state that Saturn 3 is still a steaming turd, but dammit if it isn’t a hoot to poke fun at.

First thing’s first; Scream Factory’s transfer of Saturn 3 is nothing short of spectacular. I don’t know what sort of mojo they mustered up for this one, but the image quality here is astoundingly good, easily rivaling the best of their transfers thus far (which is saying a lot!). The image is exceptionally crisp and well-defined, and teeming with fine detail (check out the weave on Farrah’s space robes and Douglas’ chiseled, wrinkled visage), while colors are bright and vibrant. Blacks are rich and true, with no sign of digital crush or artifacting, and the transfer, as a whole, is just so remarkably clean that, were it not for the chintzy effects work, one would be forgiven for mistaking this for a recently made film.  Paired up with the 2.0 DTS HD track, Saturn 3 looks and sounds amazing, with nicely balanced and surprisingly robust punch that, despite the wider audio spectrum, I felt the also-included 5.1 track lacked.

While not a “collector’s edition” title, Saturn 3 is loaded up with great extras, including a commentary track by Greg Moss, the mad-genius behind the blog Something is Wrong on Saturn 3, which is literally the most comprehensive source of Saturn 3 information anywhere. Moss brings his expertise here in a hugely enjoyable and informative track that, for me, is reason enough to own this Blu-ray. Seriously, I cannot remember the last time I recommended a purchase based on a commentary track; this one is that good!

We also get the notorious “Blue Dreamers” scene in which Farrah dons her space-dominatrix costume (presented in HD, albeit a bit rough around the edges), a selection of “additional scenes” added for network broadcasts (HD), a pair of interviews, including one with Roy Dotrice (the British actor who overdubbed Keitel’s voice) and SFX director Colin Chilvers, as well as a stills gallery, TV Spots, and a theatrical trailer (all presented in HD). It’s a very nice haul for what Scream Factory considers one of their “standard” releases!

Saturn 3 is a terrible movie. It’s not unwatchable, but it’s definitely not one you’ll cue up for repeated viewings. There’s no sugarcoating that fact, but, when you sit back and watch the film accompanied by Greg Moss’ excellent commentary, you’ll learn why it turned out as bad as it did! This paired with Scream Factory’s incredible transfer and collection of nifty extras makes this one an easy recommendation for both the film’s fans and harshest critics. This is a two skull movie with a five skull presentation. Get it!

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