Saturn 3 (1980)

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Released 11-Mar-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1980
Running Time 93:42 (Case: 103)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Stanley Donen
Studio
Distributor
Lord Grade
Magna Home Entertainment
Starring Kirk Douglas
Harvey Keitel
Farrah Fawcett
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Elmer Bernstein


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Saturn 3 was originally conceived by Set Designer John Barry, most famous for designing some of the best sets in the James Bond franchise, Star Wars and Richard Donner's Superman. Saturn 3 was to be his first directorial effort. Unfortunately, Barry died during pre-production, so director Stanley Donen took over the reigns, and not for the better. Donen was famous for directing big Hollywood musicals and as Saturn 3 would show, he was unsuitable for directing science fiction cinema. The plot is simple enough - a murderer arrives on space station Saturn 3, which is inhabited by a scientist and his consort. The murderer constructs a robot that proceeds to malfunction and becomes homicidal. The rest of the film is a cat and mouse game of survival.

    The production design is quite startling and it is easy to see why Barry was a master in this field. The interior of the space station is very organic and is bathed in shades of blue that makes for an impressive atmosphere. The Robot, named Hector, is well made and the design work is very unusual which adds to its intimidating presence. The robot's design was based on a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci of all people, which in itself is unique. Some of the story elements are decent. For example, one of the plot points involves a human-to-machine interface, which is achieved through a portal found at the base of the cerebrum. This concept was later and more effectively used in The Matrix some 20 years later, but it is good to see Saturn 3 trying to incorporate some elements of actual scientific possibility.

    The film's many faults unfortunately outweigh its virtues. The film lacks tension, which is the fault of Donen. He obviously struggled with the concept as the formula is decidedly different from that of a musical. The screenplay is poorly written, with little to no attention paid to character motivations or back story. Harvey Keitel for reasons unknown has been dubbed by an English thespian who has a monotonous voice devoid of emotion. Some of the model work is poor, especially shots of the planet surface, which gives away its scale at every turn. Lack of detail is always the downfall of model work and Saturn 3 is a prime example of this. The performances are uninspired, especially Farrah Fawcett who has all the presence of a wooden plank. That said, she does bare some skin and spends most of the time running around in her underwear - this makes her contribution a lot more acceptable (God Love The Seventies).

    Saturn 3 is no more than a curiosity. Other than the odd nice effect and production design, the film lacks pace, tension and is very uninvolving.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Magna Pacific have presented us with a non anamorphic transfer in the original film's aspect ratio of 1:85:1. This is a very nice surprise as the box states that the transfer is a full frame version.

    Sharpness detail is superb for a film this old, with excellent shadow detail and little to no grain.

   The colours are well rendered, so well so that some of the interior shots of the space station are stunning.

   There are little to no film artefacts of any description to speak of throughout the print.

   I am truly amazed at the quality of the transfer found here. Not only is the print in pristine condition, but the film is presented widescreen. Magna Pacific are to be congratulated.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The only track found on the disc is an acceptable 2.0 Dolby Digital mono track.

    Dialogue is always clear and there are no audio sync problems as this film was studio-bound.

    The score by Elmer Bernstein adds nicely to the film, but is not one of his best efforts.

    Surround channel usage is non-existent. There are no directional sounds that I could detect. That said, the track is still decent but could have used some remastering.

    The subwoofer barely gets a work out, but does add some depth to the sound.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     There are no extras.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The R4 version misses out on nothing.

    The R1 version misses out on a widescreen presentation.

    The R4 version is clearly the winner.

Summary

    Saturn 3 is one of many sci-fi films made directly after Star Wars to cash in on the space opera craze. It is only just adequate as a film and only mildly interesting due to the design work and the then star power of the three leads. If more detail had been spent on plot instead of design it would have made for a decent 90 minutes. The transfer is superb with a decent but only rudimentary sound track and zero extras.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Greg Morfoot (if interested here is my bio)
Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 76cm Widescreen Flatron Television. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony HT-K215.
AmplificationSony HT-K215
SpeakersSS-MS215

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