Star Wars has got a lot to answer for. I know that may seem like
an obvious statement, after all, we're living in a world where jaded 30-somethings
are still failing to come to terms with the fact that their beloved
"greatest film of all time" has been royally shafted by its
uniformly dreadful "prequels". What's more, we've been treated
to a never-ending conveyor belt of Star Wars wannabes in the past
few years - The Matrix being a prime example of this kind of soulless,
boring, unfulfilling cinema.
But think back to the late 70s. Back then, the idea of a ponce wrapped
in rolled gold bumming a whistling pepper pot was seen as "charming",
no-one had noticed just how ugly and acne-ridden Luke "the supposed
hero" Skywalker actually was, and a big model triangle zooming into
shot from the top of the screen was enough to make some cretins in the
audience actually duck. Simpler times, for simpler people
But even the morons of 1979 Can't have been impressed by the so-called
"special" effects of Saturn 3, a film so uniformly dreadful
in all departments (the space scenes, the acting, the dubbing, the apparently-very-expensive-but-a-bit-crap-looking
robot monster), that it's gone beyond the term "cult" into new
territory altogether. I'm not even convinced that anyone had actually
sat through the entire turgid affair until I waded through it one recent
The film even starts in a kind-of 2001-meets-Star Wars way,
with the silent majesty of space being interrupted (silently) by a huge
space ship flying in (from the top of the screen). Sadly, the scene is
wrecked by the inclusion of an obviously painted planet in the background
But onwards, and downwards
Captain James is late for the launch
of his ship. Hurrying along he meets Vince, who failed the "mental
test", apparently. Keen to pass it this time, Vince embarks on a
bit of extra-curricular homework - ejecting the poor Captain out of the
airlock, so that he explodes in deep space. Yup, mental.
James' shuttle takes off in a cloud of dry ice (wonder who's driving it?),
and we're treated to yet more dire SFX as it navigates "the rings
of Saturn". The ship is on its way to Saturn 3, an experimental food
research station. "When they want to give the solar system an enema,
this is where they stick the tube in," apparently. Good to see that
even in the distant future, the art of vaudeville isn't quite dead. You
know who wrote this? Martin Amis. His dad wrote Lucky Jim, you
Vince (or Captain James, as his hosts on the space station assume him
to be) is Harvey Keitel (yes, that one), looking quite surprised
that not only has he ended up in a Z-grade sci-fi/horror film, but that
some bastard has dubbed his voice with a strange English accent. He's
brought drugs (tut tut) and an enormous robot called Hector, which is
in pieces at the moment, but when finished will have a human brain etc.
His hosts on Saturn 3 are none other than Kirk "I'll appear in anything
as long as I get to show my arse" Douglas and Farrah "please
don't, Kirk - I've just eaten" Fawcett. Films don't get much more
British than this one
Keen to improve his mental rating, Keitel starts with some heavy-handed
chat-up lines to the unimpressed Farrah ("You have a great body,
may I use it?"), and continues by telling the pair that when Hector
(the robot) is finished, one of them will be "obsolete" (cheers).
While Kirk and Farrah enjoy a "blue dreamer", a pill which gives
you wet dreams (apparently we were to be treated to a steamy kinky sex
scene at this point, but it got cut), Keitel gets Hector up-and-running.
It's at this point the casual viewer might begin to get an inkling of
just where the budget all went - the robot is actually almost impressive
- until you get to its head. It hasn't got one, just a CCTV camera. Plastic
tubes and chrome-plated shin guards don't come cheap, and they obviously
built old Hector from the ground up, suddenly realising that all the money
had gone when they got to his shoulders. Oops. Although having said that,
the design allegedly comes from a drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci. Yes, I
don't believe that either.
"He doesn't like to be laughed at
" says Keitel. That's
a shame, because he's bloody hilarious. Unlike what passes for jokes on
For some reason that I really can't be bothered to go into, Keitel's lecherous
thoughts about Fawcett are being transferred into the robot. In the film's
one queasy scene, he demonstrates Hector's sensitivity by getting the
robot to use its big clamp-hand-things to remove a speck of grit from
Farrah's eye, but things are going from bad to worse. Hector is actually
barking mad - he kills the dog (did I mention they had a dog? They had
a dog), and even Keitel realises that when it comes to mentalism, he could
learn a thing or two from the big silver guy with no head.
Things end in a welter of naked Kirk Douglas, sweaty chase scenes and
some quite nasty gore effects (especially considering the film's rather
tame A certificate). People get their hands chopped off, and robots (mentioning
no names) decide to impress the girlies by ripping people's skin off and
trying to wear it. Delightful.
I may have been a bit hard on Saturn 3 at the beginning of this
review. Yes, it's crap. But the eye scene is very effective, and the horror
at the end is quite well done. Hector, with his ability to perform intricate
surgery or casually snip off a limb, could have been a terrifying foe.
It's a shame the money ran out.