The great film critic, Roger Ebert really hated this film and just felt it was dumb, citing as evidence the scene in which the two main characters, on the run from a psychotic robot, break a hole in the floor of their space station so that it will fall into the hyper-cold waters below. Surely the air pressure would render such action suicidal mused Ebert and, thinking about it, he was probably right unless the station formed an air-tight seal over the cavern…?
There is so much pressure to not like this film but you know I always like to find something even in the most lost of causes…
Saturn 3 was, improbably, directed by Stanley Donen who also directed Singing in the Rain… it has a script from Martin Amis (who later based his 80’s masterpiece Money on the experience) and features Harvey Keitel dubbed with an mid-Atlantic English accent (courtesy of Roy Dotrice)… in truth it’s a bit of a muddle but not one that isn’t fun to watch.
Against all this is a robot with a tiny head…
|The big spaceship arrives...|
The film opens with an attempt at space operatics as a laughably giant spaceship hoves into view in orbit around Saturn. On board there is an unseemly rush to launch a probe, shadowy figures emerge in a large hanger - echoing the emergence of the aliens in Close Encounters – whilst the call goes out for the probe’s Captain Harding (voiced by UFO’s Ed Bishop!); you’d expect things to be better organised.
|The Captain is late for take-off!|
The base is run by Major Adam (Douglas) and his partner Alex (Fawcett) who, along with their dog Sally, have been alone for three years – Alex has never been to Earth whilst the much older Adam has spent time there.
|Harvey Keitel keeps schtum...|
Whilst Adam and Alex continue with their daily routines, exercising, taking communal showers and generally living in relaxed inter-planetary idyll, Benson constructs his robot. You wonder why the couple are not more concerned with his strangeness: he’s clearly loopy.
But, they find out soon enough, as the robot is completed and named Hector… at first the mechanoid appears harmless as Adam easily defeats it at chess and it shows its control in extracting s shard of rock from Alex’s eye – in a genuinely unsettling moment.
|Hector's steady hand comes to the rescue... this time...|
Hector is disassembled and left in pieces in the lab and, as Adam and Alex work on what to do with the bonkers Benson he arrives in their quarters and tries to wrest Alex away from her older lover. Adam easily bests the younger man and has to be restrained by Alex from finishing him off.
Whilst the humans argue, Hector re-assembles and sets off in pursuit of his “instinctive” revenge. With Benson’s “brain” he is set to fulfil his prime directive in the bloodiest and most barbaric way… will anyone get off the planetoid alive?!
|Alex is menaced by Hector|
It’s entertaining in an undemanding way but full of the aforementioned holes: neither science fiction in the detailed way of 2001 (Arthur C Clarke was rather more of a scientist than Barry or Amis…) or Alien and not science fantasy like the grown-up version of Star Wars the producers maybe wanted.
|Hector's tiny head|
|The angelic adornment...|
Saturn 3 is available on DVD from all the familiar places… but I may keep my VHS for a very rainy day…
|Lou takes full responsibility...|