This tape opens with the end of the Nine O’Clock News., and Newsroom South East, on how London is unprepared for the new dialling codes in London.
Weather from Ian McCaskill, followed by a famine appeal for Ethiopia, from Cliff Michelmore.
After this, there’s a trailer for the Joss Ackland Hillwalking drama First and Last.
Then, a film which doesn’t get much remembered. Saturn 3 was directed by Stanley Donen, better known for some classic Hollywood musicals, but Donen was the replacement for the original director, John Barry, not the composer but the great production designer. The story is still credited to Barry, but the screenplay is by Martin Amis of all people, which might explain why it’s rather misanthropic.
(That title typeface looks like the same one used for Raiders of the Lost Ark to me).
It opens with a man in a spacesuit who kills another man by opening an airlock so he’s sucked out and diced by some poorly positioned cables. The killer takes on the other man’s name and mission, to the food research station Saturn 3.
Some of the opening shots actually look like they might come from a musical.
The man arrives on Saturn 3, and we learn he’s Harvey Keitel.
The residents of Saturn 3 are Kirk Douglas
And Farrah Fawcett
We already know Keitel failed his mental test from his first scene, and his behaviour here is unnerving. He seems emotionless and rulebound, warning Fawcett off touching his equipment. “No taction contact” he says.
The film wastes no time getting Kirk Douglas out of his clothes, something he clearly delights in (as we saw way back in The Fury). Farrah Fawcett is similarly decostumed, merely increasing the ick factor.
The Ick Factor only increases when Keitel asks Fawcett “You have a great body. May I use it?” Although I guess he gets points for asking consent. “I’m with the Major” she replies. “For his personal consumption only? That’s penally unsocial on Earth, do you know that?” So it’s yet another future where women are reduced to the property of men. Or even worse, consumables.
Oh yuck, now Keitel is watching them have sex on a CCTV.
But never mind, Fawcett and Douglas are keeping healthy.
Keitel is there to deliver and set up a new robot. Once it’s operating, one of them will be obsolete. Naturally this raises the tension.
The new robot, Hector (first of the Demigod series) is impressive.
But he’s a bad loser. Douglas plays him at chess and beats him, so Hector destroys a chesspiece. Keitel’s training him using direct input (“Brain to Brain”) so there’s no secret where his attitude is coming from.
There’s a genuinely scary scene where Fawcett gets a chip of rock in her eye, and he gets Hector to get it out, much against her will.
Keitel is having problems with Hector’s ‘education’. They even argue.
Before we know it, Hector’s killed Fawcett’s dog, and starts on Fawcett before Keitel intervenes. He tells her Hector wants her because he wants her, and Hector then turns on him, trying to crush him with a crane, until Douglas saves them both.
They think they’ve deactivated Hector, but he starts reassembling himself. Keitel comes to Douglas and Fawcett’s quarters while they are in bed, announcing his intention to leave, and demanding that Fawcett leave with him. “You’re inadequate, in every way” he tells Douglas, who won’t take that one lying down, and attacks him. Wouldn’t you know it, Douglas sleeps in the nude. Eew. No screengrab of that.
Keitel tries to drag Fawcett away with him, but the newly reconstructed Hector appears, and grabs him, slicing off a hand in the process.
After an unsuccessful attempt to trap Hector (by literally digging a pit for him to fall into) Hector blows up Keitel’s ship, cutting off their only means of escape.
Returning to the base, they are surpised to hear Keitel’s voice talking to them, but it’s not actually him. Hector has repurposed him.
Hector keeps them prisoner, puts a neural link in Douglas’ head, and sets them to work towards an unspecified goal, but Douglas has a plan, and manages to push Hector into the pit, falls in with him, and lets off a grenade, destroying Hector and himself.
The film ends with Fawcett finally travelling to Earth, where she’s never been. The music is very ominous at this point, but for no reason that’s adequately explained here.
I read the novelization of this when it came out – I used to read a lot of novelizations – and I’m fairly sure that ended with Fawcett either having Douglas’ mind along with hers, or in a synthetic brain, and travelling to Earth with that. A slightly more interesting ending, and one that I feel might have been intended here, but possibly lost in the edit, if it was ever shot. The violence and nudity in this version seem quite heavily cut too, although perhaps that’s for the best.
At the end, a couple of names in the credits caught my eye. Chris Corbould, on the list of Special Effects Assistants, would go on to provide physical effects for a lot of the recent Bond films, and for many of Chris Nolan’s films. And Roger Limb, providing Electronic Sound Effects, would regularly provide effects and music for BBC productions.
And one final note – something that isn’t in the credits is that Keitel’s dialogue was replaced by Roy Dotrice, doing an American accent, which lends a further layer of oddness to his performance.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 5th December 1989 – 21:30
After this, there’s a trailer for Crimewatch UK.
Then, an episode of Film 89, with reviews of the following films:
There’s a report on Kylie Minogue’s first film, The Delinquents.
In the movie news, yet another story about how a big movie studio (Universal this time) are going to build a big Theme Park in the UK.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 5th December 1989 – 22:55
Recording continues with an advert for the Radio Times featuring Mick Jagger.
Then, Network. Not the Paddy Chayevsky movie, but the occasional BBC current affairs programme about broadcasting. This one is about the forthcoming Broadcasting Bill, and whether it will cause a drop in quality. There’s a film by the campaign for Quality Television, featuring David Bellamy
John Cleese actually does the Fry & Laurie joke about choice between plastic cutlery.
Inevitably, on the other side of the argument, Sky mouthpiece Jonathon Miller, who was a fixture on these kinds of programmes, standing up for the Murdoch point of view.
Teresa Gorman represents the government.
Tony Banks talks for Labour, and gets a shot in at Murdoch, leading Miller to whine on about personal attacks.
It’s quite a spirited debate.
BBC Genome: BBC One – 5th December 1989 – 23:25
The tape ends right after this programme.