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Film / Saturn 3

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Saturn 3 note  is a 1980 science-fiction horror film starring Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett and Harvey Keitel.

It was conceived and partly directed by John Barry, a production designer for A Clockwork Orange and Star Wars: A New Hope. This film takes cues from both. After some sort of dispute (accounts differ), Stanley Donen (of Singin' in the Rain fame) ended up directing most of it.

Saturn 3 contains examples of:

  • An Arm and a Leg: When Benson is trying to forcefully abduct Alex and take her to Earth, Hector goes fully haywire, grabs him by the wrist, and just crushes straight through it.
  • Artificial Gravity: The Space Station at the start has people walking on the ceiling as well as the floor.
  • Artistic License – Physics: An astronaut in a spacesuit is murdered by blowing him out into space. He and his suit *instantly* freeze solid then shatter when hitting some wires (oddly placed in front of the door). Even if he were completely nude, he would not have frozen that fast.
  • Artistic License – Space:
    • Based on the way Saturn moves through the moon's sky, it would have to be orbiting perpendicular to the rings. For some reason, it's necessary to pilot a craft straight through the rings in order to get to the moon.
    • Additionally, the appearance of the moon's surface more closely hews to that of rocky, airless Tethys, rather than the thick, noxious atmosphere of Titan, where Saturn wouldn't even be visible in the sky at any point at all.
  • The Bait: Alex at one point stands in the middle of the lab, in front of a few floor panels of which the supportive grating had been removed. Hector just walks around them.
  • Bloodless Carnage:
    • When Adam pushes Hector into the coolant pit whilst carrying the explosives, a massive blast with several parts of Hector is shown. But nothing belonging to Adam.
    • Averted with the murder of Captain James by Benson, which is shown in full gory detail.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: Brain stem interfaces are placed in all human "instructors" of the Demi-god series of robots, allowing direct connection via radio waves (precursor to bluetooth) to upload instructions/training. Apparently, they are kept in those who wash out of the training program, allowing Benson to take the place of the legitimate operator. As a result Hector, whose brain consists of living tissue, takes on his insanity and his lust for Alex. Later, Hector kills Benson and implants the interface in Adam, not to put anything into his head, but to take something out.
  • Brain Uploading: Hector learns, slowly, but learns quicker when connected to a human brain.
    • Hector implants Benson's interface unit into Adam, so he can "experience" Alex.
  • Cold Open: Benson is shown killing a pilot in order to obtain the Wetware CPU. A throwaway line in the scene indicates it's because Benson failed a psych eval and was booted from the mission, so he murdered and impersonated the replacement.
  • Control Freak: Benson does not take even the slightest inconvenience well, which is one of the first things that rubs off on Hector (as seen by Hector breaking a chess piece after losing a game). When Hector takes over the base, he intends to run it his way.
  • Damsel in Distress: Alex. Constantly harassed by Benson, and later stalked by the Hector the Killer Robot, who possesses Benson's memories and bits of his personality.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: Benson murders his intended last-minute replacement by blowing him out an airlock and quickly taking his place on his ship. Alex and Adam think they're dealing with a guy called "James."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Interestingly, the two characters with the least autonomy early in the film — Hector and Alex — are sometimes bitterly sarcastic toward Benson. Hector is deliberately antagonistic toward Benson during his testing, and after Benson tries to get Alex in bed, she shoots him down and tells him to "enjoy your blues," referencing his "Blue Dreamer" pills but also Benson being left with blue balls.
  • Easily Detachable Robot Parts: Hector, though it's not that easy for humans to attach his parts. But he can do it himself easily.
  • Eat the Dog: When examining Alex's pet dog, Benson mentions he's kept a few dogs himself... for food. Alex promptly tells him to hand the dog over.
  • Enemy Mine: For a brief period, the three humans collaborate to stop Hector, despite the tension building between them.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Benson mentions that monogamy is "penally unsocial" on Earth after casually asking to have sex with Alex and being surprised to learn she's exclusive with Adam.
  • Eye Scream: Hector pulling a spark out of Alex's eye.
  • Fantastic Drug: Blue Dreamers, a recreational pill given to long-haul pilots so they don't go bonkers after extended periods in space.
  • Finger-Twitching Revival: Hector has one after his first defeat, but Alex spots it early enough for the others to pull out its Brain in a Jar.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: The film transports the whole premise of the Frankenstein franchise into space with Hector, who looks and acts like the creature right down to the mad handler and mute pursuit of the Satellite Love Interest.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Adam sacrifices his own life for Alex, since he was linked to the Robot and probably under its influence already. Foreshadowed in his chess game with Hector as he lectures Benson on the merits of self-sacrifice.
  • Impeded Communication: Adam and Alex try to radio their distress to the Mile-Long Ship that has come to check on them. However, their pleas are blocked by the mad robot Hector, who mimics their voices precisely, and tells the ship that all's well. The reply is a cheery "See you in six months," and The Cavalry departs none the wiser.
  • Indy Hat Roll: There's one sequence where Alex and Adam have to run through a corridor full of closing doors that close in sequence, as the trope dictates; however, they don't quite make it and the last door closes in front of them.
  • Interspecies Romance: Not necessarily a romance but dear God...
  • Kick the Dog: Hector, you asshole!
  • Kill and Replace: Captain Benson quickly demonstrates his lack of clear thought or care for others by spacing his commanding officer in order to take his place aboard Saturn 3.
  • Killer Robot: Hector.
  • Lack of Empathy: Captain Benson's coldness and lack of empathy for other people or living things is probably one symptom of his psychosis. Which unfortunately rubs off on Hector.
  • May–December Romance: Alex and Adam are already enjoying this when Benson arrives.
  • Mr. Fanservice: We get several full-body nude shots of Kirk Douglas (from the back). He sure kept a good shape well into his sixties... ok, it's fanservice if you're into that. Otherwise it may be Fan Disservice.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Alex. So much that all the other characters (even the robot) are fighting over her.
  • Mile-Long Ship: Swooping from above and set to bombastic orchestral piece in an almost identical establishing shot as the opening of Star Wars.
  • Mind Hive: Hector, near the end.
    Alex: Stop it! Stop using us.
    Hector: Well, you see my difficulty. I'm you. I'm Adam and the other one. I'm everyone.
  • Minimalist Cast: There are only five speaking actors onscreen, six if you count the Killer Robot. Three of them carry 99% of the film, and one dies as soon as the robot starts going mental.
  • Murder by Inaction: When a gigantic ceiling claw ('cause all laboratories have giant ceiling claws) pins Benson down, Adam considers just letting Hector have him as he's about to close the emergency door on him. He turns out to be a better man than Benson, and goes back to save him.
  • My Brain Is Big: Played with. Hector's organic Brain in a Jar is massive - but it's contained entirely within his torso, while his head is downright tiny.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The ship's locker-room, for whatever reason, has an airlock in its ceiling, complete with razor-sharp wiring crossing in front of it.
  • No, You: This exchange between Benson and a voiceless Hector:
    Benson: Now tell me, absolutely, can you talk or are you malfunctioning?
  • Not Quite Dead: Hector gets dismantled at one point, but manages to reactivate himself later on, and use the lab equipment to put himself back together.
  • Reluctant Retiree: Adam is swiftly approaching his mandatory "abort time".
  • Safely Secluded Science Center: Saturn 3 is a research station on a moon of Saturn (whether Tethys or Mimas is not specified). There, two scientists conduct research on boosting agricultural output. Then, they are joined by Control Freak Benson, and the prototype Killer Robot Hector. A Mile-Long Ship swings by twice a year, Saturn 3's only visitor.
  • Same Language Dub: Benson (played by Harvey Keitel, who has a distinctive "Noo Yawk" accent) is dubbed by Roy Dotrice.
  • Smart People Play Chess: And they know when to sacrifice their queen.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Adam's last words to Hector are that it isn't his fault or Benson's that he's a killer robot. "It's everybody's fault."
  • Taking You with Me: How Adam finally kills Hector.
  • Tear Off Your Face: Once Hector has appropriated Benson's voice there is a Wham Shot of him standing in a corridor wearing his head.
  • Thrown Out the Airlock: Benson takes over Captain James's duty assignment by opening the airlock while James is preparing to board his shuttle.
  • Trapped-with-Monster Plot: With definite overtones of Alien, this film followed a lot of leaders.
  • Unnecessarily Creepy Robot: Hector looks for all the world like a skinned, metallic corpse with tubes for veins and metal plates where its muscles would be. Slowly, more of it is revealed, until we come to its head... or lack of one. All it has on top are two insectile, twitching, glowing eyes on an arm. It doesn't talk — it merely flicks its eyes around to stare at you. When you combine those attributes with its measured tread, eerie electronic "breathing," its deliberately inhuman movements and the fact that it's learning directly from the thoughts of the murderous, psychotic handler who has a stalkercrush on Alex, it invokes the eeriest elements of the Uncanny Valley, essentially recreating Frankenstein's Monster in space. But scarier. What happens near the end of the film isn't pretty either: Hector, his brain having been turned into a duplicate of his handler, has taken on his handler's madness as well, to the point that Hector tries to wear the man's head atop his own.
  • The Voiceless: Hector, at first. He later obtains Benson's voice, then Adam's, and he uses Alex's to send away The Cavalry.
  • Wetware CPU: Hector's three brains, which are stacked in a tube full of bubbling water.