Two lovers stationed at a remote base in the asteroid fields of Saturn are intruded upon by a retentive technocrat from Earth and his charge: a malevolent 8-ft robot. Remember, in space no one can hear you scream…
Plot Keywords: robot / scientist / future / dog / brain
Taglines: The Ultimate Space Adventure
Certificate: Argentina:13 | Australia:M | Canada:18A (Ontario) | Iceland:12 | Norway:18 | United Kingdom:15 | United States:R | West Germany:12 (f)
Cast: Farrah Fawcett , Kirk Douglas , Harvey Keitel , Ed Bishop , Roy Dotrice , Douglas Lambert , Christopher Muncke
Company: ITC Films
Country: United Kingdom
Released Date: 15 Feb 1980 (USA)
Film Location: Shepperton Studios, Shepperton, Surrey, England, UK
Runtime: 96 min
Soundmix: Dolby (35 mm prints) | 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
jcbcritique » All right — first off, I'm going to recommend that you see this, even if just to satisfy your own curiosity (which I'm presuming on your behalf, I suppose). My own curiosity stems from the fact that Martin Amis was the screenwriter here. For those who don't know, Amis is the gold standard for modern literary fiction (although more recently, he has been off-form, c.f. the horrendous "Yellow Dog"). His narrative prose is too often described as "Mandarin"; that is, erudite, rife with classical allusion, and thoroughgoing familiarity with the major English writers and poets (particularly and most importantly Milton, whose "Paradise Lost" he basically cannibalizes for the plot and much of the language of his "The Information", and also P.G. Wodehouse, whose prose style his is most akin to). Amis, the son of novelist Kingsley Amis, claims to have read nothing but comic books as a boy.
There's nothing overtly Amis-ian about the dialogue itself — one or two stillborn jokes about Saturn being the "place where they would insert the tube if the solar system needed an enema" (which sounds like the astro-physics stuff from The Info or London Fields, where sodomy is talked about in terms of "black holes," and Nicola herself is a "black hole of sex", right?). There are "erudite" elements like classical references to the Roman god Saturn (at least in the title itself, and not really developed in the screenplay) and naming of the robot "Hector", of "the Demigod III series" (one of the characters constantly reminds us of Hector's bad treatment at the hands of Achilles, to wit, "Hector's body was dragged around the walls of Troy by Achilles").
The acting by Douglas and Fawcett is just unbelievably bad. No way to get around it. As I think back on it, the screenplay may have been pretty good actually, but their delivery was ruining it, every time. Douglas's big, hammy face and shoulders filling up the screen and stepping all over what may have been witty little bits here and there. He was badly, badly mis-cast in this one — it should've been someone like Jack Lemmon or Kevin Spacey. Farrah Fawcett (earning her paycheck as a set decoration, basically) was perfectly cast, in light of the fact that this is basically an "Adam and Eve In Space" story. Amis's females (c.f. "Other People," or "Success") tend to take Milton's Eve as their model.
Now, if the execution, in terms of acting or staging what-have-you, didn't come off, the overall structure of the thing was anagogically sound. There's no question that Amis's novelist's sense of architecture was at its high ebb at this part of his career (the contemporaneous book would be "Success", Amis's most cleanly and cleverly plotted). As I said, it's basically Adam and Eve "in space," and the ending, as with our first parents, is not a happy one.
Harvey Keitel is the intruder on Douglas's and Fawcett's Eden. And what's interesting is that his character is a forebear of the "Devil" character in Amis's later novel, "The Information", Scozzy. Keitel's character is, like Scozzy, a sort of cyborg, a series of pixellated surfaces, motivated only by desire for Fawcett. By the end of the movie, his person merges with the robot Hector.
The movie's coda was surprisingly strong, actually, almost unwarrantedly powerful, given the crappiness of what had led up to it.
Overall, you'd have to give Amis credit for trying to bring depth to a pretty shallow genre (references to Homer, Virgil, and Genesis, in a 90 minute sci-fi horror flick), and for knowing when to "get out of the way" for the visual aspect of the action.
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