Saturn 3: Harvey Keitel is British
I’m now two movies into my 285-movie project to absorb all the fantasy films of the 1980’s, and let me tell you, I’m already wondering if this was a good idea. On February 15, 1980, eleven days after the release of Hangar 18, the genre fans of America were treated to Saturn 3.
Saturn 3 opens in space, near a planet, with a low-angle shot of an enormous spaceship passing directly overhead.
Let that sink in.
It goes downhill from there.
Some guy kills some other guy by opening an airlock in the locker room. Because there’s an airlock in the freaking locker room. Then the killer takes the dead guy’s place on a mission to deliver new equipment to the station Saturn 3. Neither the murder nor the identity theft are referred back to.
Saturn 3 is a station on one of the moons of Saturn, but which moon is never specified. I assume this is because the filmmakers couldn’t be bothered to call a scientist or go to a library – or whatever people did in 1980 instead of Wikipedia – to find out what the moons of Saturn are called.
We are told that the station’s purpose is food research. They are attempting to solve a massive hunger problem on Earth. Or at least they’re supposed to be. The entire staff consists of Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett, and we never see them do anything except have sex, take drugs and play chess. If these two are scientists, I’m a two-headed goat.
So the murderer arrives and, taking off his helmet for the first time, reveals himself to be Harvey Keitel… sort of. For some reason, he’s been dubbed with a British accent. I looked it up and found out the guy who did the dub was a Brit trying not to sound British, but he failed miserably. I have no idea what was wrong with Harvey’s normal Brooklyn voice. Why in the crap would you cast an actor if you didn’t like his voice? It made an already weak movie impossible to take seriously.
Anyway, after hitting on Farrah Fawcett as creepily as possible, Brit/Harvey eventually builds a robot that is supposed to help with all the research they’re not doing up there. For some reason the robot has a human brain and it needs to learn things by being plugged into Brit/Harvey’s brain. This all goes wrong, because of course, Brit/Harvey is evil. So the robot is evil too… etc. etc.
Now I’m not going to go on forever about this film, but I have to point out… this is the dumbest-looking robot in sci-fi history. I mean, it’s like someone sat down to figure out all the things that might make an evil robot look scary and made sure this didn’t have any of them.
You know how the Cylons had those lights that went back and forth across their head? Well Hector from Saturn 3 doesn’t have a head. Just a little glowing camera on a stick. He’s just so clunky, awkward and slow that I facepalmed every time he came on screen.
So… I know we’re not even two full months into the decade here, but the 1980’s were shaping up to be a pretty crummy decade for fantasy. So far we’ve had just two sci-fi movies – one a bad attempt at The Andromeda Strain meets Roswell, and the second a horrible mishmash of Star Wars cinematography, 2001 design and Alien claustrophobia. Actually, it sounds cool when I say it like that, so let me counteract it by reminding you to look at the robot in that poster up top. Pretty bad.
Come on, though! Look at some of the things that are coming up! Two Star Wars sequels! Willow! All three Indiana Jones movies! Ghostbusters! E.T.! And much more!
Anyway, I think I’ll save my next post for a twofer. Next on my list are The Psychotronic Man and the Rankin/Bass animated version of Return of the King. See you then.