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Retrospective Film Review: Stanley Donen’s Saturn 3

Sunday 03 August 2014

Scientists Adam (Douglas) and Alex (Fawcett) live on Saturn’s third moon as colleagues and lovers dutifully researching alternative food methodologies for a rapidly overcrowded and under-resourced Earth. Their idyllic existence is shattered with the arrival of Captain Benson (Keitel) – actually not a real captain at all, but a psychopathic murderer who we see dispatch the original Benson and assume his identity.

Neo-Benson brings with him a distinctly un-Robbie like robot – Hector, grandly labeled as a “demi-god” – who appropriates Benson’s psychosis and lust for the lithe Alex. Many of the miniatures and optical special effects haven’t really stood the test of time, and suffer the additional humiliation of belonging to a film released three years after the pioneering Star Wars (which director Barry production designed), and one year after Alien – both of which are clearly aped here. But there’s a claustrophobic and efficiently told story, and while the characterisation is slender, the intrusion into the protagonist’s lives by a malicious force is as potent a home invasion scenario we’ve seen hundreds of times before. Elmer Bernstein provides an eerie electro-acoustic score and cinematographer Billy Williams, who was to win an Oscar for his work on Gandhi two years later, makes the most of the shadowy, foreboding corridors and sci-fi-laboratorial lighting.

Words: Ash Verjee