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Written by / 4/29/2014 / No comments / , , , ,

GALACTIC RINGFUL OF CINEMATIC INFLUENCES FOR 'SATURN 3'

Year of Release: 1980
SATURN 3 is a relatively low budget, guilty-pleasure science-fiction thriller that borrows heavily from several impressively budgeted movies in more ways than plot and structure…

Japanese Poster
In 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, for the voice of HAL 9000, Martin Balsam was originally intended for what Douglas Rains pulled off brilliantly but, according to trivia, director Stanley Kubrick felt the PSYCHO actor sounded too New York, which may explain Stanley Donan replacing Harvey Keitel’s voice with British stage actor and soon-to-be AMADEUS father, Roy Dotrice... And alright so there’s a big difference, since HAL was a faceless computer… Although Keitel’s Benson, who arrives at a remote base orbiting the planet Saturn, disrupting the idyllic existence of Alex and Adam (i.e. Adam and Eve) played by Farrah Fawcett and Kirk Douglas, is very mechanical himself, ironically in charge of creating and mind-controlling an 8-foot robot named Hector… And much like Kubrick’s ODYSSEY, the machine winds up taking over in a very unfriendly fashion. As far as staying in shape, Douglas (rfit jogs around inside the ship, like Gary Lockwood's Dr. Frank Poole, sans the shadow boxing.

Not a long time before this, Star Wars began THIS way...
Now let's really start: The movie begins beneath an immense vessel moving slowly through outer space, reminiscent of the grandiose opening shot of STAR WARS… Other influences include THE BLACK HOLE, where a "mad scientist" wields a hovering killer droid/bodyguard; FRANKENSTEIN for obvious reasons; and last but certainly not least, ALIEN, the sci-fi horror where an impenetrable, indestructible adversary winds up chasing our heroes throughout a contained, claustrophobic interior, resulting in the entire third act of that and this movie.

Poster Artwork
The setup of SATURN 3 has Douglas and Fawcett in the far reaches of space generating food for a dying Earth... And you can bet that Bruce Dern's SILENT RUNNING astronaut would be very well pleased in their highly progressive efforts...

Nuther Foreign Poster
What's important is that two nice people are stuck with a man who'd committed a murder in the prologue.

But what matters is the exploitation element of Fawcett’s brief nude scene (and her simply being cast) aside, the robotic antagonist, brought to life by SUPERMAN production designer John Barry, is actually quite menacing and the tension builds throughout in a nice, steady, palpable pace within the sleek looking blue corridor interior: As for the humans on board, much like the relationship between Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young in SOYLENT GREEN, Douglas’s Adam, despite having deep feelings, is legitimately using Fawcett’s Alex for his job... she's merely around to keep him, you know, company (i.e. like "Furniture)... and there’s a worthwhile creepy element in the stone-faced Keitel wanting to share the goods. But setting this "love triangle" aside, the tension between Douglas and Keitel provides the most suspense. And a further homage: Douglas slowly reaching his fingers through a steel grate, about to lift himself up to save Fawcett, is very reminiscent of Orson Welles as Harry Lime at the end of THE THIRD MAN, attempting to rise from that famous British sewer.

Score: ***1/2 for Saturn 3
In the co-lead, Douglas hams it up just a bit, his famous dimple-chin seeming ready to explode at times, even when he's not in a jealous rage or pitted against the steely foe...

There are actually good establishing shots
Then again, when you’re stuck in space, overacting is often welcome, and even necessary: just ask William Shatner's original STAR TREK fans. And for those troubled and distracted by Keitel’s voice-replacement, he does seem possessed throughout the film (and to note: Keitel and Roy Doctrice are somewhat similar looking: like a pair of intense, stocky badgers): So perhaps it's not really him after all, and well, all other things aside, this is primarily, for better or worse, Fawcett’s ride, reacting as a three-way wishbone between two men and that formidable robot, the latter providing the true scene-stealing capabilities and keeping everyone, including the audience, on constant alert – making SATURN 3 an enjoyably entertaining curio despite its maligned reputation because, adding to the exploitive element is the mere curiosity factor of classic musical director Stanely Donen, who made SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, wanting an edgy science-fiction flick in his wheelhouse. Then again, two years following the very adventurous nostalgic double feature, MOVIE MOVIE, the old guy, despite his age, was at his final creative peak.
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