Case Number 26613: Small Claims Court

SATURN 3 (1980) (BLU-RAY)

Shout! Factory // 1980 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // November 25th, 2013

The Charge

Something is watching...waiting...and wanting on...Saturn 3!

The Case

Adam (Kirk Douglas, Greedy) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett, Logan's Run) are scientists stationed on Titan, the planet Saturn's third moon. The twosome live a charmed life isolated underground as they look for new food supplies for a withering Earth. Their existence is interrupted with the arrival of Captain Benson (Harvey Keitel, Reservoir Dogs), who brings along a bizarre robot named Hector. As Saturn goes into an eclipse and cuts off all communications, Alex and Adam find themselves in the presence of a mysterious man and a murderous machine that will stop at nothing to get what they both want!

Saturn 3 was released a few years after such genre staples as George Lucas' Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Ridley Scott's Alien. If you only recognized two out of the three movies I just mentioned, there's probably a very good reason: one of them -- take a wild guess which one! -- is a pale imitation of the other two. No bonus points for assuming the movie I'm talking about is the lackluster flop Saturn 3.

Sometimes you can tell a movie is going to be bad just by the cover of the Blu-ray case and/or movie poster. Peering at the cover artwork of Saturn 3, you can already tell the movie is going to be a messy affair. What, exactly, are we looking at? A robot with a flashlight for a head? A 1970s version of Robocop? A mentally deficient C3-PO? The point is: who the hell knows? When the cover art is that perplexing, it doesn't give the potential viewer a very good feeling about the movie contained within.

Saturn 3 (even the title is rote and uninteresting) is a poorly paced science fiction film that features performances by three major Hollywood stars: sex symbol Farrah Fawcett, golden age icon Kirk Douglas, and tough guy Harvey Keitel. Notice I said there are performances, but didn't note that they were good performances. That's some fairly bright star wattage up on the screen, and yet each character has been set on "dim bulb." Kirk Douglas looks as out of place in a movie with spaceships as Pauly Shore would in The Color Purple. Farrah Fawcett spends the movie with perfect make up and feathered hair because when you're in outer space you want to look your very best. Harvey Keitel plays the character of Benson with all the charisma of a tube of empty toothpaste; Director Stanley Donen (On The Town, Singin' in the Rain) was unhappy with Keitel's New York accent, so the actor was dubbed (poorly, I might add) by English actor Roy Dotrice. If that's not a bad omen, I don't know what is.

The screenplay by British author Martin Amis (his only screen credit) makes hardly any sense when it comes to character and plot. I'm still not 100% sure why Benson showed up on Saturn 3. There isn't a lick of memorable dialogue or action contained in the film, which is mostly the fault of director Donen. The special effects look horrendous for a major studio film from 1980 -- some of the shots look like they were cribbed straight out of a cheap B-movie from 1953. Eventually a robot named Hector (!) shows up; it appears to have been constructed out of old VCR and toaster oven parts from Radio Shack. This may be one of the least engaging cinematic robots since Keanu Reeves started making movies. Every sequence with 'Hector' is laughably bad. Or maybe it's laughably sad. Take your pick.

Saturn 3 is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen in 1080p high definition. The transfer is surprisingly good for a film of such low budget origins. There are a lot of colors in Saturn 3; in fact, there are probably too many colors -- at times the film feels like it's been decorated by an IKEA store manager. The image is mostly clear with a few small imperfections along the way. The soundtrack is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio Surround in English. The audio mix is decent but not great; the bulk of the film is very front heavy without much in the way of surround sounds or directional effects (except for a few explosions here and there). Also included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo mix in English as well as English subtitles.

Bonus features include a commentary track by Greg Moss (who runs a Saturn 3 fan page) and film critic David Bradley, a few interviews with screenwriter and special effects artist Colin Chilvers and actor Roy Dotrice, some deleted scenes, and a theatrical trailer for the film. Also included is a bonus DVD of the film.

It's hard to believe that anyone thought Saturn 3 was a good idea, especially considering the fact that it came after so many great genre milestones. After watching Wookies and chest-bursters and even Starship Enterprises, who wants to sit through a sci-fi movie with Harvey Kietel wearing a ponytail and a robot that appears to have been made out of old toasters? If you raised your hand, you'll get your just desserts with Saturn 3.

The Verdict

This one should be shot into space for the rest of eternity, never to be seen again.

Review content copyright © 2013 Patrick Naugle; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 50

Perp Profile
Studio: Shout! Factory
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)

Audio Formats:
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English

Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 1980
MPAA Rating: Rated R

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurette
* Trailer
* DVD Copy

* IMDb