Saturn 3

Saturn 3: Big names, complicated story, surprisingly forgotten movie. The beginning is especially strange. Captain James is in a locker room, hurriedly getting ready for his big launch, and runs into Harvey Keitel, who was waiting for him and similarly attired. James jokes about Harvey’s recent classification of “mentally unstable,” saying that being assigned to Saturn 3 would make anybody unstable (keep in mind neither of them have actually gone there yet). Harvey responds to this by tossing James out the airlock. Mentally unstable, indeed. But here’s the weird part: Harvey takes James’s place on the Saturn 3 assignment as captain of the one-man ship. He boards the vessel wearing his opaque helment and no one is the wiser.

He lands on Titan (Saturn’s third moon, hence the name), where Kirk Douglas and Farah Fawcett live on a scientific outpost working on what looks like hydroponic research to help replenish the Earth’s food supply. They are also lovers with a strange backstory that is never explained adequately. Kirk’s been banned from Earth but Farah’s never been there. Not sure how that all ties together but anyway the two of them are lovers and seem fairly happy with their lot, isolated as it is. Then Harvey arrives and brings with him a robot named Hector, which is supposed to help Kirk and Farah speed up their output. However, Harvey trains Hector by interfacing him directly with his brain through a plug in the back of his neck which very obviously was the inspiration for The Matrix. Since Harvey’s unstable, so is the robot, to the point of lusting rather single-mindedly after Farah.

From there it turns more or less into your standard monster movie. The acting is decent (except for Harvey – his monotone sounded like was reading) and the effects are reasonable for the time period, but a lot of the story must be taken on faith and not questioned, because it certainly isn’t going to be explained. Like the entire future history of Earth between now and whenever this movie is supposed to take place. And the backstory of basically all the characters. And the fact that you can kill a man by cutting off his hand. And that a robot in a Harvey hat is supposed to be scary, not funny.

All in all it was an enjoyable romp, ripe for a hearty MST3K treatment, but it might have made a really good book. Movies have a lot of trouble with science fiction because everything must be explained in dialogue. Books do not have this limitation and this story would have benefited greatly from more background and scientific details. That, and in a book you can have a naked man without actually having to see Kirk Douglas’s 64-year-old ass. That would have been an improvement.

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