Review: SATURN 3 (1980)
In grade school I had two friends that had cable before I did. Back then it was HBO that was the big boy on the block, the only boy now that I think about it, and I can’t rightly recall which one it was, Mike or Rob, that told me about this movie. And I’m not sure if it was after they had seen it at the movies or from cable. Anyway, the thing I remember the most from their talk of the movie was that this giant robot rips off Harvey Keitel’s head and uses it as its own.
For a young kid like myself who wasn’t totally into horror movies back then, well, I was, but they frightened me something awful until a traumatizing night at the drive-in to see The Thing in 1982 hardened me up real good, an image of a robot with no head using a torn off human’s one as its own certainly burned itself into my memory.
I have vague recollections of Starlog covering the movie so I already knew what the robot looked like. Eventually it hit TV but to this day I have only snippets of it still lodged in my brain. One of those snippets was being sort of under whelmed when it came time to seeing the robot with its human head. Just goes to show you imagination can sometimes be more potent than the real thing. Sometimes but not all the time. In this case it certainly was.
I haven’t seen Saturn 3 again since that TV viewing and was curious to know if Shout Factory!’s DVD/Blu-Ray combo would be a keeper. I’ve learned in the last few years that movies I used to either dislike or feel indifferent towards when I was young I now find appealing and vice versa. Saturn 3 now falls into the former category.
In an undisclosed future Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett) work on a hydroponics base on of one Saturn’s moon with their dog (Spoiler: dog gets iced). Everything is going along just fine until Captain Benson (Harvey Keitel) shows up to upgrade their system with a robot that’s the first in the Demigod line. It’s supposed to replace either Alex or Adam, much like we have nowadays where companies go the automated route to replace human workers.
We have two problems with this scenario: Benson is mentally ill, as in psychopathic and the robot he constructs, who he names Hector, gets it’s systems upgrade by connecting directly into Benson’s head, which means we now also have a mentally ill robot.
In the opening, we learned through a brief scene that Benson was not scheduled to go to Saturn 3 due to his psyche exam failure but takes it upon himself to go anyway by killing the guy who took his place.
Benson is certainly an odd person, which you get the sense of when you finally meet him on Saturn’s moon. Very unemotional, has an odd way of talking and not shy about asking Alex if he can bang her. When Hector is finally constructed and starts running amok the Frankenstein vibe is more than obvious. And this is where the movie settles in with Adam and Alex trying to survive Hector’s psychopathy and eventual delusions of grandeur. Harvey Keitel is eventually dispatched and that aforementioned “torn off head scene” surfaces where Hector puts Benson’s decapitated head upon his own. You see he’s basically a humanoid shaped creation with only a rudimentary neck armature and two lenses that act as a head.
This is not a gory movie, with more science fiction and action than horror. Despite that we do get a hand and a head that gets severed. The former happens right on screen, while the latter occurs off screen with only a brief reveal later on of where Keitel’s head went.
Video/Audio/Subtitle: 1080p High Definition 1.85:1 widescreen—5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio—English only subtitles.
Saturn 3 hits DVD and Blu-ray in combo form from Shout Factory! under their Scream Factory sub-label on December 3rd and the blu-ray transfer is gorgeous. Especially when we get into the Saturn 3 moonbase where there is fluorescent white lighting and blues in the architecture. This new remaster brings out those colors fantastically.
As extras go, first off, you get a commentary with Greg Moss who has a very thorough fan site that covers everything you ever wanted to know about Saturn 3 (http://saturn3makingof.com/) and Film Critic, David Bradley who moderates.
There are also two separate interviews, one with Voice Actor, Roy Dotrice (6:29), whom I will always remember from Space: 1999. He guest starred in two epsiodes from Season One. Here he talks about his dubbing of Harvey Keitel’s voice. The reason he was given was that he sounded too American. Dotrice is British, but he makes the argument what was Kirk and Farrah speaking? And one with Special Effects Director, Collin Chilvers (15:55) who was coming off of Superman (1978) when he took this job.
Other features included Additional Scenes From The Network Version (9:55) which kind of make the film a little better. No idea why they were cut. A Deleted Ecstasy Scene (3:32) with audio that cuts out near the end. A theatrical trailer, 2 TV spots and a Still Gallery (5:22).
Saturn 3 is a strange movie and one you wouldn’t associate with Kirk Douglas but I dug it.