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Saturn 3 (Blu-ray Review)

Saturn-3Before we get into this review, I must make a confession.  I’ve never seen Saturn 1 or Saturn 2 before viewing Saturn 3.  I may not be the best person to have tackled this.  Okay, lame joke, this isn’t a sequel or anything.  Its title could mean a few things.  For one, it takes place on the 3rd moon of the planet Saturn.  The film deals with the inhabitants of a research facility there and there’s only 3 of them.  So they could, in turn, be the “Saturn 3”.  What you get here is an interesting look at a highly stylized and wonderously imagined film in the wake of Alien’s success.  The cult film plays upon terror and horror in the emptiness and loneliness of space, but isn’t near as successful of stirring up those emotions as they are some of the relationship ones.  Aside from plot this is a spectacle of a film to look at, so lets get right down to it.

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Film

In the distant future, Earth is overcrowded.  There are those who do research from other planets.  On the third moon from Saturn, there is a facility containing only the elderly Adam, his lover Alex and their dog.  This is their third year.  Alex has never been to Earth before, her whole life being in space.  One day a man claiming to be Captain James arrives.  He is to facilitate the creation of a robot that will take one of their spots in the research.  The man is actual a homicidal madmen named Benson who killed Captain James.  He takes a liking to Alex and wants to leave the robot and take her for himself.  As the robot is built using brain tissue from Benson, it also takes a liking to Alex.  The battle begins on deactivating the robot and getting Benson out of Saturn.

Saturn 3 was a movie that came in to fruition to cash in on the success of Alien.  It was a somewhat troubled production, swapping directors early on due to a falling out with actor Kirk Douglas.  The producers and crew had different ideas on what they wanted this film to be and somewhere along the line we get a film in the middle of that.  It’s an interesting and slightly engaging sci fi movie.  However, it surprisingly feels like it kind of overwelcomes its stay even at the sort runtime of 87 minutes.  The film becomes a bit repetitive in plot and dialogue and somewhere around there you kind of lose interest or want more going on onscreen.

What kept me engaged was the remarkable visuals.  The first director on the film was John Barry who had won an Academy Award for Star Wars a few years earlier.  Not all the effects hold up, there’s some obvious model work in some places.  But, the sets in the film are absolutely outstanding.  I fell quite in love with them.  Its physically crafted and heavily stylized stuff we don’t much anymore in our modern era of lost wonder, fully cgi and “grim and gritty” futures that flood multiplexes.  As I’ll mention more in the Video section, this film was beautiful as Farrah Fawcett to look at.

 In a weird choice, the young Harvey Keitel (who my wife thought resembled Tommy Wiseau) is completely dubbed over in this movie.  Apparently the producers wanted to “keep the film British”.  They were unhappy with his very Brooklyn accent.  I just wonder then, why did they cast him in the first place?  Also, if they wanted to keep it British, why are Farrah Fawcett and Kirk Douglas in the movie to begin with?  As I stated earlier, this was apparently a pretty messy production and that thought right there probably on scratches the surface of the problems the film’s two directors faced when making Saturn 3.

Let’s talk about Farrah already?  Man oh man she is stunning amongst the stars.  This isn’t her first foray into sci fi either, having done one of my all-time favorites, Logan’s Run, years earlier.  Apparently she was put in the movie to bring in the teen boy audience.   Well, she also works for this 31 year old boy as well.  She looks stunning as ever in her futuristic outfits and even wearing just a towel.  While her role is kind of the thankless “prize to be won”, I was worried for her about both male characters wanting her affection.  I don’t think I need to explain about Benson.  I was met with discomfort when introduced to Kirk Douglas as her lover, 31 years her senior.  He was 64 when shooting this and she turned 33 on set.  While they do make light of it in the dialogue, its still awkward to look at.  It reeks of Douglas being in age denial and taking a part just so he can roll around in bed with the hottest young actress of the moment.  I feel a stronger story for this may have played Benson as less a madman, lending Alex (Fawcett) to more curiosity as Adam (Douglas) slowly becomes more psychopathic due to his overprotectiveness and fear of losing his lover to a more age appropriate man offering her the gift of Earth and travels.  That’s just me though.  What we get is a geriatric super awesome good guy understanding hero that saves the day and gets to bed the hot young piece.

I thought  Saturn 3 was all right.  It drags a shorter story out longer than it needed to be, but it still was an interesting adventure.  The sets, costuming and Farrah Fawcett are what did it for me.  This is definitely a film that defines “cult”.  And when it comes to that, there’s nobody better to bring it to your Blu-ray player than Scream Factory.  If you’re a person who likes that 70s science fiction aesthetic with some horror (there’s a death at the beginning of the film that’s quite awesome, I won’t spoil) and a side of Farrah Fawcett, I recommend it.  I think there’s a much stronger film hidden amongst this troubled production.  This is the type of film that is a perfect candidate to look back on when trying to remake things, but we all know the studios just like name brands.

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Video

Pardon my language, but HOLY SHIT!  Scream Factory’s 1080p MPEG-4 AVC picture, as I said on Twitter, is jaw-dropping and marvelous.  This may be THE BEST I have seen from them, and they typically do work well to my liking.  If I could give it a 6 I would.  Every detail, EVERY damn detail is accounted for in the 1:78.1 frame.  The characters, backgrounds and props all have a wonderful depth and realization to them giving off a terrific 3 dimensional image.  You can see every bump and tumble on Kirk Douglas’ face that you feel like you know what it feels like without even touching him.  And Farrah, oh Farrah looks absolutely stunning.   Blu-ray does her some good.  The colors in the film are as prominent as they can possibly be.  The sets and everything appear gorgeous as every on this Blu-ray.  The lighting, everything works out terrifically.  I can speak highly on this picture enough.  The film is merely ok, but this picture quality makes it better than it is and keeps you staring in wonder the entire time you’re watching it.

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Audio

Saturn 3 brings a nice fulfilling 5.1 DTS-HD MA track right into your living room.  This track is very crisp and clean and doesn’t sound as if its from 1980 at all.  Don’t be alarmed, the film has no audio until the opening credits are over.  The film has some really good moments full utilizing the subwoofer.  It also has a lot of fun planting with recorded voices, placing them in interesting speaker space and at different volumes.  This track is much better than I was expecting.  Its quite surprising how well this one works out.  While I recommend the 5.1, as always a very good 2.0 DTS-HD MA track is provided to give you closer to the 1980s theatrical experience.

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Extras  

This release also come with a Farrah Fawcett labeled DVD copy of the film.  The extras provided on this releases are highly informative and well worth your time checking out regardless of your thoughts on the film.

Audio Commentary With Film Expert Greg Moss – There’s no retrospective doc or making of provided, but this commentary suffices.  Greg Moss goes through tons of information on the film, from preproduction, to onset squabbles and other things.  It’s incredibly informative, well versed and stays on track.  Probably the highlight of the release.

Interview With Voice Artist Roy Dotrice (HD, 6:29) – The actor discusses how he was brought on and the technique with which one dubs over another actor’s voice.  He also expresses confusion as to why he was utilized and displays the utmost respect for Harvey Keitel whose voice he covered up on the film.

Interview With Special Effects Director Colin Chilvers (HD, 15:55) – Chilvers talks about working with Barry before he was canned from the film and bringing his vision to fruition.  He also goes over many scenes filling you in on the process of bringing them to life.

Additional Scenes From The Network TV Version (HD, 9:55) – A bunch of additional dialogue, character moments and deeper exploration of things that were apparently restored when the film aired on television.

Deleted Ecstasy Scene (HD, 3:32) – Uncut footage (so uncut we get a clap board) from after the blue pills are taken.  The outfit which the trailers sell Farrah Fawcett wearing is from this scene.

Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2:55)

TV Spots (HD, :52) – 2 of them

Still Gallery – 64 behind the scenes, promotional shots, posters, inserts and lobby card images.

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Summary

I know I gave the film itself a middle of the road score, but Scream Factory has done a lot to boost this thing up for the final score.  The extras are incredibly engaging and informative.  The commentary track provides an incredible passion and history regarding the production and all the film’s players.  Its almost worth recommending it over the actual audio.  However, that audio is pretty great in itself.  The highlight of the disc is its picture quality.  This is possibly the best work I’ve seen from Scream Factory.  The print is in pristine condition and the transfer here is outstanding.  It might just have to be seen to be believed, but it is downright amazing for a 33 year old, forgotten, cult, sci fi/horror, B picture.  Oh and did I mention it’s got the iconic Farrah Fawcett in glorious futuristic outfits and towels (plus a quick shot of some nudity).  The film itself is merely ok and seems like an idea that had the chance to be great had there been a better compromise between studio and the creative collective.


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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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