United Kingdom – 1980
Director – Stanley Donen
CBS/FOX Home Video, 1987, VHS
Run Time – 1 hour 28 minutes
Until my friend laid this old tape in my hands I had never heard of Saturn 3. That isn’t saying much I suppose, but he hadn’t either, and we are both big fans of robot oriented space-fiction so it was a pleasant surprise. Before watching the film I did a little research and discovered some interesting stuff. Despite not initially wanting to write extensively about what is a fairly mainstream film, after watching I was inspired to say something about it its relationship to space-fi in general.
Star Wars, which was released just a few years before. Although not mentioned in anything I read, I think it also owes a large debt to Kubrick’s 2001 in both overall plot, and Elmer Bernstein's score. But even if it’s not exceedingly original, Saturn 3 does a damned good job of wearing it’s pedigree on its sleeve.
The important thing to remember about Star Wars, especially because it has compounded its cultural significance in the last decade, is that it wasn’t very creative. As I’ve said before, it’s an entertaining movie, but the plot as we know is a generic and predictable white hero myth. Saturn 3 is not as epic or inspiring than its predecessor, but neither is it any less creative. What was so remarkable about Star Wars (and this is what I think most people find so endearing about it) was the visual design. Saturn 3 interestingly enough, was written and (initially) directed by John Barry, the same man responsible for the look of Star Wars.
I’ve always cushioned my disappointment with the termination of sci-fi cinema’s great sagas with a simple philosophy; If the human geography of space has been expanded as much as my favorite films claim, then it is quite possible that each space-fiction film (of a nominally similar quality) merely represents another local facet in the same broad story. In that sense, there is no “end” to what I call the “Space-Fi Narrative Continuum”*. Garnished with moments of genuine intelligence and clothed in awesome visuals, Saturn 3 definitely makes the cut.
*In the future I'll refer to qualifying films under this label. Previously reviewed films which qualify have been back referenced.
This Japanese poster is from Movie Outlaw