Digi-Schlock: SATURN 3 (Scream Factory Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack)

With enough time, every movie eventually finds a cult following.  Saturn 3 provides a prototypical example: it was lambasted by critics and fared poorly at the box office during its initial release but developed a cult following via television screenings and home video releases.  The rise of the internet furthered its cult following, with the biggest boost coming from an amazing Saturn 3 fansite created by Greg Moss.

It seems this cult has reached critical mass now because Scream Factory has just unleashed a blu-ray/DVD combo special edition of Saturn 3 – and thankfully it combines a quality video presentation with plenty of extras that offer insight into the film’s troubled genesis.

Things starts nicely with a sleek new anamorphic transfer presented in both blu-ray and DVD formats.  The blu-ray was viewed for this review and it’s a massive step up from the old VHS copies that most fans have had to content themselves with.  The detail is crisp, the color palette suitably rich and the black levels are solid throughout (very important for a movie set in outer space).  Both 5.1 and 2.0 lossless stereo tracks are presented on this disc – the 5.1 track was listened to for this set and it’s a very good remix that gives plenty of directional speaker activity to the film’s futuristic sound effects and a rousing orchestra-plus-synths score from Elmer Bernstein.

Saturn3-bluThe extras begin with a commentary track featuring Greg Moss and film journalist Dave Bradley as a narrator.  As his website indicates, Moss has painstakingly gathered every available bit of info about Saturn 3 and he shares it all here.  The opening 15 minutes are particularly impressive: in this short space, Moss tells of how John Barry dreamt up the film’s concept, how Stanley Donen became involved, why Barry left the production and the tragic tale of Barry’s untimely death shortly afterwards.

That’s a lot of info right there but Moss has plenty more to share as the track progresses.  Topics include theories on why Harvey Keitel’s performance was redubbed, how the film had the biggest indoor set up to that point in U.K. film history, detailed descriptions of scenes deleted from the film and why the film’s visual effects look so unfinished (hint: it has to do with a concurrent production from Lord Lew Grade, Raise The Titanic).  In short, this track offers every nugget of trivia you could want to know about Saturn 3, including what happened to the Hector robot.  It’s good listening for cult movie buffs.

Two featurettes were also produced for this set.  The first is a six-minute chat with English character actor Roy Dotrice, who dubbed Keitel’s performance.  He describes the technical demands of post-dubbing a film and reveals the reasons that Donen decided on the dubbing while also complimenting Keitel’s work (and questioning the “need” for the vocal reworking).  He’s sly and self-deprecating throughout and it’s interesting to hear his perspective on his unusual credit here.

The other featurette offers an interview with Colin Chilvers, who directed special effects for the film.  He discusses the techniques used in several sequences, how the budget and time constraints limited the work of the effects department, the relationship between Donen and Barry and the many challenges of working with the Hector robot (which was not built by the effects men working on the set).  It’s a low-key discussion but plenty informative for fans.

Fans will be happy to hear that several deleted scenes are also included, which are broken into two segments.  The first is a nine-minute block extracts that were included in the television version: they’re drawn from what looks like a VHS source.  Some are just snippets that smooth out some abrupt edits in the finished film but there’s an extended sequence from the film’s mid-section that is very interesting and would have worked in the film.  A separate inclusion is the “Deleted Ecstasy” scene, which essentially offers a rough edit of the first half of the legendary, deleted “blue dreamers” scene, complete with Fawcett in a Barbarella-style outfit that must be seen to be believed.

The set is rounded out with promotional materials.  A theatrical trailer and two t.v. spots play up the space opera and thriller qualities of the film: surprisingly, the t.v. spots barely show the actual stars and focus on the effects and shocks.  The final inclusion is a pretty extensive image gallery that includes a variety of stills (including shots from deleted scenes), promo photos, lobby cards and poster art from around the world.

All in all, Scream Factory has delivered an impressive special edition here for a film that many sci-fi buffs have yet to discover and they deserve kudos for going the extra mile on this previously ignored title.

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