The Wishlist, Part 1. Wherein I pine over films that are overdue for a DVD re-release, or have yet to see the light in that format at all. Today’s subject: the 1980 sci-fi fiasco Saturn 3.
The film is a joy for a number of reasons. First, there’s the absurd plot: on a research base orbiting Saturn, passions flare as the idyll of the couple living there is disrupted by an unstable new arrival and his killer robot, who both wind up lusting after the woman on board. If the storyline were all that was ri…ible about the film, it might well be pretty entertaining on that count alone. Then there are the production values. The special effects appear to have been lifted from two completely different movies with utterly dissimilar budgets. At one moment, the audience is presented with 2001/Star Wars-style mile-long spaceships, complete with portentous fanfare on the soundtrack. At the next, the FX are suddenly far more reminiscent of a typical episode of Thunderbirds. Those shows looked pretty damn good for puppet adventures, but an audience catching big-budget SF pic within just a few months of Alien would be expecting a bit more consistency. But the film seems equally proud of all its effects, good or bad, and displays them like a doting parent.
Now let’s consider the cast. The couple is played by Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett (yep, I’m buyin’ it). The villain is a dubbed Harvey Keitel (just the man you expect to see in a science fiction picture). So the front-of-camera talent is already a bizarre mix, and the fact that they are turning in work that suggests they are taking this film very, very seriously only adds to the accidental comedy. This is a serious skeleton in the closet for all concerned.
But the bones are rattling behind the camera as well. Original director John Barry was replaced by Stanley Donen. You have to admire the thinking here. Let’s see, we’re making a sci-fi/horror film. Who would be the perfect director? I know! That guy who did Charade, Singin’ in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. That’s what you call a proven track record in dealing with killer sex-crazed robots. Job done!
The real prize, however, lies with the screenwriter, who is none other than Martin Amis. That’s right, the bad boy of British literature earned himself some early cash money with this puppy. What, one wonders, completely unable to hide a disbelieving grin, was he thinking? I suppose this is a product of the follies of youth. Amis has at least one other early career oddity: a 1982 book called Invasion of the Space Invaders. In From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games, Ed Halter describes Amis’ book as a “colorful, large format guide to conquering the top games of the time.” He says further that “Amis has since all but disavowed the book (according to one account, mere mention of it in his presence summons a withering scowl).” One can only imagine how much he would enjoy being reminded of Saturn 3. The book may seem quaint now, but the movie was an embarrassment the day it opened.
So all sorts of joys await the curious viewer. The problem, of course, is actually tracking this thing down. It WAS released on DVD back in 1999, but is now available used only at exorbitant prices. So please, won’t somebody do us trash-hounds a favour and re-release this forgotten disasterpiece?