Something is wrong with Saturn 3...
My Wednesday posts are becoming a regular spot for movies that I don't whole-heartedly recommend. This is a 'sick relative' of a movie - one I keep checking back to see if it's getting any better. This time around, I enjoyed it in widescreen, for the first time since seeing it in the cinema. It's still pretty bad, but entertainingly so, with the vague promise that it might have been warped, adult sci-fi horror... if only they'd done it right.
Released the year after Alien, Saturn 3 could be seen as a rip-off, with a robot instead of the monster, and a moon of Saturn instead of the spaceship. But John (Jonathan) Barry had written the story years earlier. Barry was more famous as the production designer of such design classics as Star Wars (wow), Superman - The Movie (gosh), and Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (again, wow).
John Barry had also been a second unit director on The Empire Strikes Back (wow). Saturn 3 would have been Barry's chance to direct a movie by himself. He'd presumably been working on ideas for the design of the robot and the sets while preparing the script over the years.
According to news in Cinefantastique magazine (volume 9, issue 1), Barry only got to direct for the first day! There were rumours of problems between him and the cast. Kirk Douglas then directed for two further days, before Stanley Donen (Arabesque, Bedazzled) arrived to complete the film. Such drastic measures hint at problems that ultimately harmed this project so much, it was lucky to appear at all. There are clues throughout, not least the choppy narrative, with repeated fades to black, and the rushed ending. As it stands, the film is only half-formed. A half-interesting story based on solid sci-fi ideas, but mis-handled and poorly finished off.
A base on a frozen moon of Saturn has the ideal conditions for scientists to experiment on solving future Earth's problem of food shortage. Scientist Adam (Kirk Douglas) is assisted by the much younger Alex (the late Farrah Fawcett), living an idyllic existence away from the problems of an over-crowded Earth. Another scientist, Benson (Harvey Keitel), brings an experimental robot from Earth in order to speed up the research. What the inhabitants of Saturn 3 don't know is that he's an imposter, a psychopath who plans to psychically link himself to the huge robot...