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Saturn 3 (1980)
Tonight's Feature Presentation

SATURN 3 (1980)

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett, Harvey Keitel, Roy Dotrice (voice)

Written By: Martin Amis, John Barry (story) Directed By: Stanley Donen

The Short Version

Behold one of the dumbest sci fi flicks of the post drive-in era.

The plot boils down to “everyone wants to have sex with Farrah Fawcett.”

Including the gigantic horny robot with the little tiny head.

Why cast Harvey Keitel only to dub him over?

You only watch Saturn 3 if you’re truly dedicated to Bad Movie Nights.  If you are, it’s a must.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


When they want to give cheese an enema, this is what comes out.


Pairs Well With...

MAD DOG 20/20.

It may be the only catalyst capable of causing Saturn 3 to make sense.

“Saturn 3.  When they want to give the solar system an enema, that’s where they stick the tube in.”

One of the most celebrated science fiction movies ever made came out in 1980.  Saturn 3 was not it… unless the celebration being referred to is one that only occurs on Bad Movie Nights.   Though even then, Saturn 3 goes beyond the traditional mantle of being “Bad Movie Night” material and extends its reign to “The Next Morning’s Hangover.”

It is, indeed, a bottle of Mad Dog 20/20 transubstantiated into celluloid and made up to look like a big horny robot with a tiny little head.

What; you think I’m kidding?

Let’s see how much of the story I can make it through before my brain forces me to stop.

 In a far-off future, humans have begun colonize the solar system, though there are still enough left on Earth for the old homeworld to be suffering through a starvation crisis.  In order to help solve this problem, an agricultural research base called Saturn 3 has been established just inside the rings of Saturn –

Wait… what?  Okay, right; not gonna ask.  Anyway…

This extremely important project is left in the hands of two people, Adam (Kirk Douglas, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett, Logan’s Run), lovers who tend to the roomful plants growing inside a gigantic base that is otherwise devoid of apparent greenery and whose progress is checked on every six months or so by –

Wait… what?  I’ll let the May/December Viagra thing go (despite the complete lack of chemistry there), but…  One of humanity’s most important research projects is being conducted by just two people (who clearly are all that absorbed in their work) stationed on a rock out in the ass end of space where nothing could possibly grow on its own, in a structure that looks big enough to hold hundreds if not thousands of people and which only appears to have one room devoted to the actual growing of plants?  And with the exception of the occasional supply ship, they only have to make a two-minute radio check-in every six months?  Were the writers even trying?  Yeah, fine; I’m asking questions they didn’t think anyone would bother to ask.  So anyway…

As the movie opens, a shuttle is set to depart for Saturn 3, ready to deliver a build-it-yourself gigantic robot helper (Demigod class – and no, I’m not making that up), complete with ready-to-program human brain tissue that resides within a giant tube in the robot’s chest, since it only has a little tiny head.  A guy named Captain Benson (body of Harvey Keitel, Reservoir Dogs – voice of Roy Dotrice, Hellboy II: The Golden Army) was supposed to be the pilot, but he got disqualified after failing a psychological evaluation.  No matter, that; he just kills his intended replacement and goes out to Saturn 3 regardless –

No; do not say “what” and do not ask “why.”  The script never tells you, and none of the possibilities that one might guess at stand up to logical scrutiny or make any sense.  (Some notions might seem to have promise after a few drinks, but under the cold light of sobriety… nope; sorry.)  The writers apparently didn’t ask or didn’t care, so why should you?  But anyway…

Once Captain Benson arrives at Saturn 3, he starts to build the robot (he calls it Hector), strongly hinting that once the metal marvel’s blank slate of a brain has been filled with relevant knowledge, there will probably not be any need for Adam – who now wants to be called “Major” – to stick around or perhaps even keep breathing anymore.  Later that evening, the Captain engages in the following conversation with Alex, which, in fact, sums up the entire plot of Saturn 3 even before the third sentence gets uttered:

Benson: “You have a great body.  May I use it?”

Alex:  “I’m with the Major.”

Benson:  “For his personal consumption only?

Alex:  “Yes.”

Benson: “That’s penally unsociable on Earth; you know that?”

Alex:  “Well it isn’t here.”

So, like most men who made it through the 1970s, the Captain wants to have sex with Farrah Fawcett.  The Major, who is already having sex with Farrah Fawcett, would like to keep having sex with Farrah Fawcett without sharing.  What’s more, once the Captain finishes transmitting his thought patterns onto the brain of Hector, the gigantic eight-foot-tall robot with the tiny head also wants to have sex with Farrah Fawcett, so of course these other people need to die and –

Wait… what?  Yeah, I get the part about wanting to have sex with Farrah Fawcett (and yes, since you’re wondering, there’s a quick nude shot if you don’t blink), but the brain and the robot and the okay I think I’ve had just about enough of this crap!

There’s no getting around it, folks: Saturn 3 is one of the single dumbest science fiction movies of the post drive-in era still graced with a Hollywood-sized budget.  The nonsensical plot actively insults the viewer’s intelligence at every turn.  The creative team appears to have subsisted on the hope that the sounds of whirring gears, flashes of pretty lights, and a whole lot of shiny metal (though only one room that’s half full of plants) would be enough to convince people that this must be a really cool science fiction movie instead of an idiotic, poorly paced, half-assed snooze fest.  Though I’m sure the real backstory is far less fun, the general vibe is that someone took some acid, watched Silent Running, Alien, and some random thing with robots, capped off the night with the Farrah Fawcett issue of Playboy (December 1978), and then wrote down the first weirdness that came to mind the next day. 

Come to think of it, that probably would have been more interesting than the boring reality that is Saturn 3.

And hey, what’s with the dumbass casting of Benson?  If one doesn’t want the character to sound like an American street tough, why would one bother hiring Harvey Keitel to play the role at all?  Is he that much of a super stud that only some major Harvey Hotness would do inside that space suit, even if it meant dubbing over those raspy Brooklyn tones with some British vocal Vaseline?  It’s dumb, it’s awkward, and frankly, I just don’t get it.

Nor do I get the logic of the highly telegraphed ending of the film (which I won’t spoil for you), but I think you’ve already figured out that Saturn 3 and logic don’t exactly reside in the same galaxy.

Bottom line, Saturn 3 is an aggressively stupid movie whose sins are compounded by acting and direction that are almost unfathomably boring.  For the casual viewer, this is a film to be avoided, but for those vaguely deranged souls (myself included) who are absolutely dedicated to the sacred ritual of Bad Movie Nights, Saturn 3 is compulsory stop on the tour.  This is idiocy that begs to be experienced by true connoisseurs… preferably in the company of like-minded friends and with plenty of very strong liquor on hand.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, February, 2014

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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