Monday, July 20, 2009

Hey, it was the '70s - Saturn 3 (1980)

Well, Saturn 3 might have been released in 1980, but it was definitely filmed in the '70s. The movie mostly takes place inside a space station on Saturn that, given the opportunity, Willy Wonka would have probably made an exact replica of. At times, it's pretty psychedelic, man. But there's also an interesting parallel between this movie and Moon; intrusion upon isolation takes place in both films. The difference between them is that in Saturn 3, the intrusion is wholly unwanted. I think I'll make this review my tribute to Farrah Fawcett, since her death was upstaged by Hurricane Michael. I hope you enjoy it, dear Farrah.

Besides Fawcett, Saturn 3 also boasts a cast featuring Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel, which, obviously, only helps the film. Everyone does a great job. But if I were to take away one thing from this film, it would be the realization that some good ideas were abound, but everything was stuck firmly in the decade it was made. The music was overbearing, some of the plot points were contrived, and a crucial scene towards the end made shit for sense. All that being said, I still enjoyed my time with the film, and I'd rank it as average among its peers. Something interesting to note, however, is some similarities to later films. Harvey Keitel has an implant, or port, if you will, in the back of his head that allows him to download information directly from his brain. He also walks around with blue pills, espousing their awesomeness. Hmm, what does that remind you of? And towards the end of the film, there's a definite Terminator-esque chase scene. Seeing that Saturn 3 pre-dates both of those films, I'll let you decide about that what you will.

The story goes something like this: a space station on Saturn has been behind on its quota of whatever the hell its doing, so the powers that be have sent aid in the form of Harvey Keitel in order to increase the station's output. Within the first 10 minutes, however, Keitel is made out to be some kind of bad guy. Why, I'm not sure. He's shown blatently killing a fellow astronaut, and then he seemingly takes his place aboard the vessel heading for Saturn. I never understood why that happened, or who exactly Keitel was supposed to be. Obviously, he wasn't the intended help for Douglas and Fawcett, but his real identity is never made clear. Whatever, I guess. So he arrives on the space station and begins to build a robot to help Douglas and Fawcett around the station. Almost immediately, the robot starts showing signs of independant, sentient behavior. He forcefully picks up Fawcett and shows resilience by not conforming to everything Keitel orders of him. I think you know where the story is heading at this point.

Yep. The robot and Harvey Keitel merge and form a super-sentient mix of human and artificial intelligence. How or why this happens is left up to interpretation. Either that, or they were too lazy to actually come up with an answer. Be that as it may, the robot starts attacking Douglas and Fawcett, and it's up to them to make an escape or die trying. Telling you all this about the robot might be considered a spoiler, but I really don't think Saturn 3 was built around narrative suspense. It's more of a pulpy brand of sci-fi with some nifty ideas about space exploration that never get developed at all. But hey, Farrah dons her birthday suit, so it's not all downhill.

The overall result is pretty much what I would expect from the director of Singin' in the Rain, Charade and Bedazzled. Sci-fi is not Stanley Donen's calling, and as such, it suffers from a cardinal sin for movies in this particular genre: dating itself. For the most part, the special effects are fine, but it's not a film about special effects. The whole story takes place in a static environment, and the setting is firmly rooted in the decade it was made. And while it's true that other films by, say, Robert Wise may also look a bit dated now, Saturn 3 doesn't really have any redeeming qualities that transcends its own making. But even after beguiling it that much, it still did its job. It never bored me. So take that statement as you will; Saturn 3 won't go down, in my mind, as a Sci-Fi classic, but it held my attention(laughter and all) throughout. There's certainly worse I could do with an hour-and-a-half of my time.

There is an outfit early on in this trailer that Farrah Fawcett absolutely NEVER wears during the actual movie. I think you'll know which one I'm talking about.

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