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Review: Saturn 3

Starring: Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett, Harvey Keitel
Directed by: Stanley Donen

Saturn 3 (1980) is sleazy vicarious voyeurism; a harbinger for the world today; where voyeurs do not need to see first hand to obsess, they just need the technology.

Kirk Douglas stars as Major Adam, a research scientist living on a huge spaceship with just one companion, his lover and assistant Alex (Farrah Fawcett). When Bensen (Harvey Keitel) murders an assigned visitor and boards the ship, he assembles a ‘demi-god’ robot named Hector and correlates the machine to function alongside his own brain.

As Bensen is obsessed with possessing Alex, his robot is programmed to feel the same way. Intent on eliminating the aged Major and taking Alex for his own, Bensen uses Hector to overrun the ship. However with such ingrained homicidal tendencies the robot soon becomes unstable; Hector attacks Bensen and then turns his attention on Adam and Alex, hunting them through the vast corridors of the ship.

Interestingly this film manages to be both innovative and derivative of its genre. The production design overtly resembles Star Wars, while the outmoded attire such as polyester vests and flares are more suited to 1970s sci-fi television. Yet the relentless Hector was clearly a blueprint for the equally persistent T-101 cyborg in James Cameron’s The Terminator.

What makes Saturn 3 so unpleasant is its objectification of Farrah’s character as a passive sex object. She does nothing but squeal, run and strip. This is a dark voyeur fantasy; Alex is in place to stimulate first Bensen’s then Hector’s desires, and to titillate a receptive audience. In her final scene she is reduced to a glorified fashion prop for a new hairstyle. With only camp retrospection to recommend it, Saturn 3 remains a mere gender curio of the era; it is too rotten to be anything else.

© 2009 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.