Saturn 3Ah, the ’80s. Hollywood – and indeed all points beyond – tried relentlessly to cash in on the post-Star Wars hunger for all things science fiction, and often failed. Case in point: Saturn 3, whose star power was invested primarily in the wildly unlikely combination of co-stars Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett, both of whom stripped down for love scenes that were about as plausible as any of the movie’s sci-fi conceits. Left with the unenviable task of scoring Saturn 3 – which had already suffered a change of director mere weeks into production – was Elmer Bernstein, whose later forays in the genre (Heavy Metal, Ghostbusters, etc.) were usually accompanied by more palatable movies. With British financiers – recently stung by the sinking ticket sales of Raise The Titanic! – bankrolling the movie, by the time Saturn 3 came out, Bernstein’s score was just about guaranteed to be the best thing about it.

And yet, if you actually watched Saturn 3, you didn’t hear much of that music, since it was sliced, diced and edited to match the whims of the director. This 2006 CD release of the full, unedited score from Intrada contains much that didn’t make it into the movie itself. One of the first casualties was a surprising detour into disco (it was 1980…) in the whopping nine-minute opening theme; this concession to the popular musical flavors of tha time was left on the cutting room floor, echoed in only one other track (“Blue Dreamers”). Much of the score has a slow-boiling foreboding feel to it, punctuated by some boisterous action scenes; as the liner notes by Jeff Bond point out, a lot of the music wound up being used in parts of the movie other than the scenes for which it was composed.

Bond’s notes also seem to paint Saturn 3 as little more than a warm-up for Heavy Metal and Ghostbusters, but the only time I found myself instantly reminded of Bernstein’s later work was “The Run”, which does sound like a lost scene from Ghostbusters. This soundtrack employs some fairly unusual music by Bernstein standards – nothing really revolutionary, but not a sound we’re accustomed to from him.

3 out of 4In the end, Saturn 3 is up there with a contemporary, the Roger Corman wanna-be epic Battle Beyond The Stars: the score was far better than the movie, and you’re probably doing yourself a mercy (and getting a lot more enjoyment out of the deal) listening to the music alone. That Bernstein’s carefully constructed (if occasionally too prone to 1980 novelty) soundtrack was chopped up and treated like glorified library music was the final indignity that Saturn 3 had to suffer before bombing in theaters.

Order this CD

  1. Space Murder (9:18)
  2. The Lab (2:05)
  3. Meet Hector (4:44)
  4. The Brain (2:08)
  5. Blue Dreamers (2:42)
  6. Hector Mimics Benson (1:25)
  7. Peeping Toms (7:15)
  8. Adam’s Target (2:00)
  9. Benson Is Off (2:16)
  10. Training Hector (3:13)
  11. Adam Rescues Alex (2:39)
  12. Hector Loses It (6:52)
  13. The Run (1:48)
  14. A Head For Hector (3:31)
  15. Alex Alone (2:06)
  16. The Big Dive (4:37)
  17. End Credits (3:22)

Released by: Intrada
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 62:48