Saturn 3 feels like a film coming off of the environmental dystopia films of the 1970s – like Silent Running – combined with a bit of horror. However, having a cast smaller than that of Alien – just 3 actors – ultimately ends up working against the film.
The premise of Saturn 3 is that in the future Humanity cannot produce enough food to feed the human population, requiring the production of food from off-world. On Saturn’s 3rd moon, two researchers, Adam (Kirk Douglas) and Alex (Farrah Fawcett) are researching hydroponic methods to increase food production. TO assist, the Earth government is sending an experimental robot – Hector – along, with a tech to help with setup.
Unfortunately, the cheerful, well-adjusted Captain James who was supposed to come out, deliver, program, and calibrate Hector with his own neural patterns is instead murdered and replaced by the much less well-adjusted Captain Benson (Harvey Keitel, inexplicably over-dubbed). Benson arrives, meets Alex and Adam, decides he wants Alex for himself, which means Hector (due to Benson’s own murderous impulses on top of his jealous desires), is going to have problems.
Good news first. I like the design of the Saturn 3 base, managing to feel both large and labyrinthine and claustrophobic at the same time, and in a way that’s distinct from the interiors of the Nostromo. Douglas and Fawcett have great chemistry as well, which is required for this film to work.
Unfortunately, the decision to overdub Keitel ends up making whatever his original performance was into something very wooden. I don’t know how much of this was the voice acting or how much was in the original. Keitel plays Benson with a tremendous degree of bottled-up intensity, but because we’re lacking the vocal performance he intended to go with it, we’re stuck with the cold and robotic overdub.
Not overdubbing Keitel, and a slightly larger cast for more people for the malfunctioning, murderous robot to kill probably would have improved things immensely, as it would add a needed degree of suspense, that the film is otherwise lacking. Since e know that both of our protagonists are going to need to stick around for most of the film’s run time.
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