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Stanley Donen, John Barry
Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel
Writing Credits:
Martin Amis, John Barry (story)

Trapped between unnatural love and inhuman desire.

In the distant future, two lovers stationed at a remote base in the asteroid fields of Saturn are intruded upon by a retentive technocrat from Earth and his charge: a malevolent 8-ft robot-which later takes a murderous mind of its own.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 88 min.
Price: $26.99
Release Date: 12/3/2013

• Audio Commentary with Fan Page Owner Greg Moss and Film Critic David Bradley
• Interview with Voice Artist Roy Dotrice
• Interview with Special Effects Director Colin Chilvers
• Additional Scenes from the Network TV Version
• Deleted “Ecstasy” Scene
• Trailer and TV Spots
• Still Gallery
• DVD Copy


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Saturn 3 [Blu-Ray] (1980)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 27, 2013)

Back in 1980, Saturn 3 caused a stir among my seventh grade friends and me. Why? Because it supposedly included some nude shots of Farrah Fawcett, one of the era’s major sex symbols.

I don’t think any of us actually saw the movie, though I don’t believe its “R”-rating was the reason. After all, my dad took my friend Kevin and me to see the skin-filled 10 a few months prior to Saturn’s release, so clearly there was no fear of “R” movies. I know I wanted to see Saturn and feel pretty sure I pestered my dad about it.

So what kept me from a theatrical screening of Saturn? I suspect its poor reviews turned into the main factor, as my dad simply didn’t want to have to sit through some POS sci-fi flick.

By the time VHS entered my life, Saturn 3 was old news, and the movie’s crummy reputation didn’t entice me to see it. As such, almost 34 years after the film’s initial release, this Blu-ray finally lets me find out if I missed anything in 1980.

Set in an unspecified distant future, Captain Benson (Harvey Keitel) wants to pilot a mission to the outpost of “Saturn 3”, but he fails a mental stability exam. Benson immediately confirms the accuracy of that evaluation; he murders Captain James (Douglas Lambert) and steals his cohort’s spot on the flight.

Saturn 3 acts as an “experimental food research station” and comes manned by two humans: Major Adam (Kirk Douglas) and his lover Alex (Fawcett). The suits back on Earth decide that they’re behind schedule so Benson intends to replace one of them with a cyborg called “Hector”. With the aged Adam close to his “abort” time, it seems likely that he’ll get the boot, so he and Alex try to figure out how to thwart Benson and his huge, ominous metal pal Hector.

Saturn opens with a totally silent credit sequence, which seems like a daring choice – albeit one that may make home viewers worry they got defective Blu-rays. Once that segment concludes, though, any and all attempts at creativity go out the airlock, as the film firmly embraces a mix of prior movies.

These “influences” come across more like theft, and they begin immediately, as the movie’s very first shot blatantly steals the opening to Star Wars. Saturn comes with scads of other clear antecedents, as you’ll pick up on obvious lifts from Alien and Logan’s Run, among others.

If Saturn managed to meld these influences into an interesting package, I might not mind their obvious nature, but unfortunately, it becomes a total snoozer. I suppose the film had the potential to deliver a taught little thriller that surrounds the Alex/Adam/Benson triangle, with some sci-fi action/menace brought in via Hector.

Whatever possible strengths exist, though, they become squandered among the boredom and cheesiness. Star Wars raised the bar on what audiences would accept from sci-fi effects and production design, but Saturn feels like a pre-1977 throwback. While these elements don’t totally flop – they’re superior to what we saw in 1976’s Logan’s Run, for instance – they lack the sophistication we would’ve expected in 1980.

Even with stronger production values, though, Saturn would still be a boring clunker. Apparently the late 70s was a golden age for noted directors who went into genres they clearly didn’t understand. In 1978, Sidney Lumet – creator of gritty dramas like Dog Day Afternoon - found himself out of his element when made a musical called The Wiz. In 1979, Robert Wise – best-known for Oscar winners West Side Story and Sound of Music - went sci-fi with Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

With classics like Singin’ in the Rain and Charade behind him, nothing in Donen’s past indicated he should handle a sci-fi thriller, yet he ended up behind the camera of Saturn. Actually, Donen replaced John Barry, an Oscar-winning production designer who worked on legendary films like Star Wars, A Clockwork Orange and Superman. Barry thought up the story and started out as director but was quickly replaced, allegedly due to conflicts with Douglas.

Would Saturn have fared better with Barry behind the camera? Possibly – it couldn’t get much worse. Donen simply displays no affinity for the subject matter whatsoever and can't create any sense of intrigue or drama. The movie plods along its sleepy storyline and leaves us without much reason to care about the characters or the events.

The actors don’t help. Though all talented independently, none of the performers can do anything productive with the parts. Even if we ignore the potential “Ick Factor” of the romantic pairing between 63-year-old Douglas and 32-year-old Fawcett, they show zero chemistry, and Keitel seems stiff and out of place as the human villain.

It probably doesn’t help that for reasons not firmly understood, Roy Dotrice – often remembered as Mozart’s father in 1984’s Amadeus - dubbed all of Keitel’s lines. The sound of Dotrice’s voice from Keitel’s mouth always remains disconcerting and harms an already lackluster performance.

Whatever intentions Barry originally had for Saturn 3, the end product feels like nothing more than a cheap attempt to cash in on the movie trends of the era. Via flicks such as Star Wars, Alien and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, sci-fi was hot at the time, and Saturn comes across more like one of that period’s quickie rip-offs than anything to be appreciated in its own right. It offers a slow, forgettable snoozer.

Oh, and memo to my 12-year-old self: you didn’t miss anything when you couldn’t see Farrah nude. She shows her boobs for a split-second – and since Farrah obviously had implants, they don’t even look good!

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

Saturn 3 appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This was a fairly satisfying presentation.

Sharpness seemed positive. Only a little softness ever affected the image, and those elements remained modest, which meant the majority of the movie displayed nice clarity and definition. I noticed no signs of jagged edges or shimmering, and print flaws stayed minor. A few specks and marks appeared, but not with any frequency, so they seemed unobtrusive.

Colors worked fine. The movie kept to a semi-restrained palette, but the hues still appeared pretty full and robust. Blacks looked dark and tight, and shadows showed nice clarity; a few low-light shots could be a tad dense, but those didn’t interfere much. Overall, I liked this quality transfer.

For this DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix, the forward soundfield offered most of the action, with plenty of localized audio from all three front channels that blended together well. The rears also provided a faiir amount of information. They bolstered the forward mix in a satisfying manner and added a reasonable amount of information to the action sequences.

Audio quality was perfectly satisfactory for an older film. Speech sounded clear and concise, with only a smidgen of edgiiness. The score was usually pretty lively and seemed good for its age.

Effects fared well. They lacked much distortion and represented the elements with nice accuracy. Bass response was also satisfying, as low-end kicked in some decent depth. Despite the movie’s age, the audio held up nicely.

The Blu-ray comes with a mix of extras, and we open with an audio commentary from fan page Owner Greg Moss and film critic David Bradley. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific discussion of the project’s origins and development, cast and crew, controversies and the change of director, sets and production design, deleted scenes, music, and the movie’s release/reception.

For the first act, the commentary works well, as we get a good collection of notes. After that, we continue to get some useful nuggets, but the track slows and provides more fitful information value. There’s enough meat to make it worth a listen, but it’s unfortunate that the discussion sags as it goes.

Two interviews follow. In the first, we hear from voice artist Roy Dotrice, as he offers a six-minute, 29-second chat about how he got his part and the challenges of dubbing Harvey Keitel. Dotrice proves to be charming and funny as he discusses his unusual role in the production.

An interview with special effects director Colin Chilvers runs 15 minutes, 55 seconds. Chilvers covers how he came onto the project, working with John Barry and then Stanley Donen, and aspects of the film’s effects. While not as fun as Dotrice’s chat, Chilvers gives us a nice look at his efforts on the flick.

Alternate footage shows up in the next two domains. We find 12 additional scenes from the network TV version (9:55) as well as a deleted “Ecstasy” scene (3:32). Of the TV segments, most are short additions to existing sequences; the longest shows Adam on a mission with Hector while Benson tries to cuddle up to Alex.

“Ecstasy” shows Alex and Adam as they trip on their blue pills. With disco music and Farrah’s glam outfit, it’s horribly dated, and it’s missing some audio. It adds nothing other than camp value, though at least it explains the shots of Farrah in the Barbarella gear we see in this disc’s promo materials; unless I nodded off, she doesn’t wear that suit in the final film.

In addition to the film’s trailer and two TV spots, we find a still gallery. It shows 63 images, with a mix of movie shots, behind the scenes elements and advertisements. It becomes a quality compilation.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Saturn 3. It includes the same extras as the Blu-ray.

Though not without potential, Saturn 3 ends up as a dull dud. It borrows too much from other sci-fi films of its era and lacks any drama or intrigue. The Blu-ray presents pretty good picture and audio along with a nice set of supplements. I can’t recommend this dated, dopey sci-fi effort.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.5 Stars Number of Votes: 4
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main