Saturn 3

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Saturn 3
Saturn three.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Stanley Donen
John Barry
Produced by Stanley Donen
Screenplay by Martin Amis
Story by John Barry
Starring Farrah Fawcett
Kirk Douglas
Harvey Keitel
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Billy Williams
Edited by Richard Marden
Distributed by Associated Film Distribution (US)
ITC Film Distribution (UK)
Release date
  • 15 February 1980 (1980-02-15) (US)
  • 8 May 1980 (1980-05-08) (UK)
Running time
88 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Box office $9 million (US)[1]

Saturn 3 is a 1980 British science fiction horror-thriller film produced and directed by Stanley Donen. It stars Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas and Harvey Keitel. The screenplay was written by Martin Amis, from a story by John Barry. Though a British production (made by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment and shot at Shepperton Studios), the film has an American cast and director.


In the distant future, an overcrowded Earth relies on research conducted by scientists in remote stations across the solar system. One of these, a small experimental hydroponics research station on Saturn's third moon, is run solely by Adam (Douglas) and his colleague and lover Alex (Fawcett). Adam, the younger Alex and their dog Sally enjoy their isolation, far from an overcrowded and troubled Earth. The couple have been on Saturn 3 for three years, but Alex has spent all her life in space.

Alex and Adam's idyll is broken by the arrival of Captain Benson (Keitel), who has been sent to Saturn 3 as part of a project to replace at least one of the moon's scientists with a robot. Benson assembles the robot and names him Hector. One of the first of its kind, a "Demigod Series", Hector relies on "pure brain tissue" extracted from human fetuses and programmed using a direct link to Benson's brain. Benson states that it will render one of the crew "obsolete", most likely Major Adam who tells his partner that he is close to "abort time" according to the government on Earth.

Unknown to both Alex and Adam, Benson is a homicidal sociopath who murdered the captain originally assigned to Saturn 3 and took his place on the mission. Benson had actually failed a crucial test of psychological stability.

As Benson uses the link to his brain to program the robot, Hector acquires Benson's homicidal nature and his lust for Alex. Hector initially kills Sally the dog and then assaults Benson, having learned about Benson being a murderer during the reprogramming process. Adam and Alex manage to disable the robot while it is recharging.

Believing the danger over, Adam accuses Benson of gross incompetence and orders him to dismantle the robot and return to Earth when an eclipse ends. Benson obliges, but Hector reassembles itself by taking control of the base's older robots. Resuscitated, Hector murders Benson while he is dragging Alex to his ship. Hector then blows up Benson's spacecraft before Adam and Alex can escape in it, trapping them all on Saturn 3 together.

Overpowering the humans, Hector installs a brain link at the top of Adam's spine which will give the robot direct access to Adam's brain. Before Hector can make the connection, Adam destroys it, sacrificing himself by detonating explosives hidden on his person.

In the final scene, Alex, now alone, is shown aboard an Earth-bound spacecraft.


John Barry conceived the project as a much more lavish vision of the future. The film's producers, Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment, intended the production to cash in on the sudden vogue for science fiction and horror following the success of Alien. Farrah Fawcett was also hoped to be a major draw for a teenage male audience and much of the film's promotion was based around the revealing space suits she was due to wear in the film. Donen played down the exploitation elements resulting in a film that the producers struggled to market.[citation needed]

Barry was set to make his directorial debut with the film, but he was replaced after shooting started, according to some reports due to a dispute with Kirk Douglas. Stanley Donen, who was already attached to the project as producer, replaced him. Reportedly, Donen was dissatisfied with Harvey Keitel's characteristic Brooklyn accent. Because Keitel refused to take part in post-production looping, Keitel's voice is dubbed over by British actor Roy Dotrice who, for this performance, adopted a mid-Atlantic accent.[2]

Two scenes that had been filmed for the production were edited out, due to Lew Grade objecting to the subject matter. These were a dream sequence that involved both Adam and Alex killing Benson and a scene where Hector ripped apart Benson's dead body on a table in one of the colony's laboratories.[citation needed] Regardless of these cuts, the film was given an MPAA rating of R, for scenes of violence and brief nudity. In the UK, the film was given a more relaxed A certificate by the BBFC for its theatrical release, though subsequent home video releases were given a 15 certificate.[3]

ITC was also producing Raise the Titanic! at the same time. As the other film went over-schedule and over-budget and ultimately failed at the box office, the production of Saturn 3 was cut back.[4]

In screenwriter Martin Amis's novel Money the main character, John Self, is based in part on John Barry (Self's father is named Barry Self as well). The ageing film star "Lorne Guyland", obsessed by his own virility, is based on Douglas.[5] Similarly, the project that John Self attempts to complete is as wracked with disaster as was the production of Saturn 3.

When the film was broadcast on NBC in mid-1984 certain scenes that had been edited from the original print had been restored: Adam offering to take Alex to Earth, Alex voicing her concern to Adam about taking Hector outside of the complex, Adam taking Hector outside in the moonbuggy, Benson asking how Alex's eye was after her accident, Adam leaving Hector near the shuttle probe, Hector re-entering the colony and sabotaging the outer airlock mechanism to prevent Adam from coming back inside, an extended scene of Benson walking down a corridor, Adam trying to re-enter Saturn 3 and blowing the outer airlock door off with an explosive adhesive, an extended scene of Adam in the decontamination chamber, Alex voicing her worry that Hector might have killed Adam, Alex being dragged away by Benson and yelling at him, Adam embracing Alex and watching Hector drag away Benson's dead body, Adam holding a towel to his head after Benson had hit him with a pipe and claiming that "Hector is no humpty-dumpty", both Adam and Alex wondering how Hector managed to reassemble itself, and finally both Adam and Alex sharing a laugh over a humorous incident while hiding in the communications room.[citation needed] Additional music cues were also added to scenes involving the opening credits and Benson's death; in fact, much of Elmer Bernstein's score was removed or reedited.[6]


Lew Grade pre-sold the movie to NBC for $4 million, which helped minimize its losses.[7]

The film holds a 10% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[8]

Home release[edit]

Saturn 3 was released on VHS by CBS/Fox Video, PolyGram, Magnetic Video and Artisan Entertainment.

The film was released on laserdisc by CBS/Fox Video and ITC Home Video.

It was released on DVD by Artisan Entertainment, Geneon Entertainment and Pioneer Entertainment.

On December 3, 2013, it was released on Blu-ray and DVD by Scream Factory.[9]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Nominated: 1981 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture[10]
Nominated: 1981 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor (Kirk Douglas)[10]
Nominated: 1981 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress (Farrah Fawcett)[10]


  1. ^ "Saturn 3 (1980)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  2. ^ Jeff Bond, pg. 6, liner notes, Saturn 3 soundtrack album, Intrada Records.
  3. ^ BBFC (Saturn 3)
  4. ^ Jeff Bond, pg. 4, liner notes, Saturn 3 soundtrack album, Intrada Records.
  5. ^ Interview with Martin Amis
  6. ^ Jeff Bond, liner notes, Saturn 3 soundtrack album, Intrada Records.
  7. ^ Lew Grade, Still Dancing: My Story, William Collins & Sons 1987 p 268
  8. ^ Rotten Tomatoes (Saturn 3)
  9. ^ Shout Factory
  10. ^ a b c Golden Raspberry Awards 1980)

External links[edit]

See also[edit]