Given the fact that written science fiction encourages the
greatest possible free play of ideas, why is it that filmed science fiction
almost always seems required to be dumb, dumb, dumb? You can count on one hand
the recent s-f films that have contained truly challenging ideas: "2001,"
of course, and then "Silent Running," "Zardoz" (for its
story but not its ending), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and,
for certain of its scenes, "Alien." Certain other s-f movies have
redeemed themselves by sheer visual energy and high spirits; "Star
Wars" is the obvious example.
how, this late in the game, can we still get movies like "Saturn 3"?
Who paid for it? The credits name Lord Lew Grade and Elliott Kastner. They've
got a tidy little partnership over in England that's well enough financed to
chum out about a dozen international releases a year, some of them as good as
"The Muppet Movie," most of them as bad as "Saturn 3."
level of intelligence of the screenplay of "Saturn 3" is shockingly
low - the story is so dumb it would be laughed out of any junior high school
class in the country - and yet the movie was financed. Why? Why couldn't Lord
Grade and Kastner for once decide that since they'd committed themselves to
spend this money anyway, they had nothing to lose in financing a creative and intelligent
screenplay? Why do they feel compelled to support the lowest common
denominator, of filmmaking?
all right, then: How dumb is "Saturn 3"? 1 will give you an example.
The movie's about Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett, who are the only two crew
members on Saturn 3, a space research station near Saturn. They have a visitor,
who is supposed to be a Captain James, but is really the evil Benson (Harvey
Keitel) who has killed James and replaced him for reasons of his own. Benson
has brought along a robot named Hector. And, toward the end of the movie,
Hector is chasing Kirk and Farrah.
what do they do? They remove the floor panels of the space station and cover
the hole with a flimsy material, so that when Hector steps on it, it'll
collapse, and Hector will fall through to the bitterly cold cauldron beneath.
We haven't seen this brilliant idea since Tarzan was putting stakes in the
bottoms of holes to catch elephants. And Tarzan, at least, would have been
bright enough to realize that if you make a hole in the floor of a space
station, your atmosphere will rush out explosively. How can they still get away
with disregarding all the elementary laws of physics in science fiction movies?
this movie's dumb in other ways, too. The love triangle between Douglas,
Fawcett and Keitel is so awkwardly and unbelievably handled that we are left in
stunned indifference. The purpose of Keitel's visit is left so unclear we can't
believe Douglas would accept it. The hostility of the robot is unexplained.
then there are dubious details like (a) the spaceship whizzes through the rocks
in the rings of Saturn without hitting any of them; (b) the space station is
rambling and spacious despite the fact that every square inch of construction
would be at an incredible premium millions of miles from Earth; (c) gravity is
the same as on Earth; (d) ... but never mind.
movie is awesomely stupid, totally implausible from a scientific viewpoint, and
a shameful waste of money. If Grade and Kastner intend to continue producing
films with standards this low, I think they ought instead, in simple fairness,
to simply give their money to filmmakers at random. The results couldn't be