Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Film Review: SATURN 3 (1980, Stanley Donen)

Stars: 2 of 5.
Running Time: 87 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Kirk Douglas, Harvey Keitel, Farrah Fawcett. Written by novelist Martin Amis. Soundtrack by Elmer Bernstein.
Tag-lines: "Trapped between unnatural love and inhuman desire."
Best exchange: Keitel: "I wish you would talk! You know you can; why won't you talk?" Robot: –NOT YET READY Keitel: "Why not? What have I done wrong?" Robot: –MURDER Keitel: "Not that! Blank that; that's not what I meant." Robot: –BLANKED AS ORDERED Keitel: "That was an improper thought leakage. What have I done wrong?" Robot: –YOU FAILED COURSE Keitel: "Don't get smart." Robot: –WHAT SHALL I GET

THE BLACK HOLE + DEMON SEED + a bunch of pretentious ideas = an excruciating 87 minutes that smacks of 'made for TV.' The plot is this: a bored, sociopathic Harvey Keitel (with a ratty little ponytail) comes to Saturn 3 to interrupt the Utopian existence of a geriatric Kirk Douglas and wide-eyed Farrah Fawcett (who, as always, has approximately the same acting chops as Loni Anderson). Keitel brings a robot with him (which they call a "Roh-butt" á la the Professor in ROBOT MONSTER)

and all hell breaks loose. Director Stanley Donen (SINGIN' IN THE RAIN) misuses each of his primaries:

Keitel says everything in monotone (he seems to be dubbed). His "crazed scientist" is extraordinarily lethargic. He doesn't moan or cry or get naked, or even half-naked, all of which are key markers for how much Keitel cares about a project.

The real Keitel only shines through for a fleeting moment where he insinuates he's eaten dog and asks Fawcett: "Yes, you have a great body...may I use it?"

"May I use it?"

Kirk Douglas is similarly bland, and you know it's because he's been told to be bland. Let's face it, Douglas was one of the smarmiest men on the planet, and you've got him paired with a woman half his age. You can't let him turn up the smarmy, even a little bit? Bah.

Alright, I guess he gets to be a tiny bit smarmy, but this frame is completely misleading, and is not at all indicative of this picture as a whole.


Gotta love promotional stills. "Kirk, can you hold it a little higher? No- nah- alright, that's it. ...No, look more pained. But like you're in danger, too. But you have a hardened resolve. Aw, shit, your costume's falling apart."

There's unexpected (laughable) gore, rub-on tattoos, special effects that look more like SPACE ACADEMY than STAR WARS (despite a similar budget), and a soundtrack that can't make up it's mind whether it's going to be serious and orchestral or something noodlin', 70's, and heavy on the tambourine. The whole thing's about as enlightening as talking to Dr. Sbaitso.

So, SATURN 3, what do you have to say in your defense? Ohhh, I see. So you were trying to work in some 'Garden of Eden' symbolism and some Greek mythology and some weak commentary on pollution and drug culture? Alright, I take it all back. Five stars.
...Jussst kidding.

-Sean Gill

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