Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saturn 3 (1980)

Today is the first anniversary of Unseen Films. I'll be posting something about that later on today. For now I'm continuing on with a weekend of suggested titles from my little brother who's birthday was yesterday.

On one of the moons of Saturn Kirk Douglas lives in blissful isolation with Farrah Fawcett. Sent to their little paradise is a technician with a new robot that is to be tested. Unfortunately man who arrives is an impostor, he's a mad man who's taken the place of real man and unfortunately he's in control of a ten foot tall robot that as a result of how it's controlled has the mind of the mad man.

This is an odd film. It was the brain child of John Barry, the well known designer best known for designing the look of the early Star Wars and Superman films. If I remember correctly Barry had the idea for several years but was unable to do anything with it. Then the Star Wars happened and everyone jumped to make science fiction films. Barry's dream project was greenlit. Sadly Barry was removed and Stanley Donen stepped in.

The result is decidedly uneven.

From the stories that I read the production was a mess. Donen, who was the lead producer, didn't like what was going on so he stepped in. The film is somehow connected to Sir Lew Grade who lost his shirt with the infamous flops Raise the Titanic and The Legend of the Lone Ranger. Money to fund those money pits may have been pulled from this film to fund those. The script was worked and reworked past the point of working completely.

From most perspectives the film is a mess, and yet I'm recommending it.

Despite not wholly working it is worth taking the time to see. Part of the reason is the incredible set design. The world on Saturn 3 is really cool. Its shiny and flashy and the sort of science fiction world that you'd love to go wandering through. I was so taken my the film when I saw it I tried to figure out how to build something similar in my basement. It never happened because it can't be done in the very limited space I had.

The design of Hector, the robot is really cool. A huge hulking monster with lights for eyes on a stalk and claws for hands, it seems more like a thing from hell rather than something man made. Say what you will I have yet to meet anyone who's seen Hector in action who hasn't been impressed and said he was a reason to see the film.

The story, essentially a version of Adam and Eve and the serpent, isn't bad. There is more than enough drama to keep one interested in what is happening. The real problem is that the film suffers from the feeling that there are sequences missing. In researching this piece I discovered that there is a rumored version of the film that runs some twenty minutes longer than the theatrical release. I don't know how true it is but having seen the film many times since it's release I can easily believe that there is more to this story.

I'm not going to lie to you and say its a great film, but it is a good one. It's one of those films that has been hanging around the fringes of my psyche since I saw it the first time. If a film's quality is measured by how it stays with you then this film is worth seeing.

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