American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Given the fact that written science fiction encourages the greatest possible free play of ideas, why is it that filmed science fiction almost always seems required to be dumb, dumb, dumb? You can count on one hand the recent s-f films that have contained truly challenging ideas: "2001," of course, and then "Silent Running," "Zardoz" (for its story but not its ending), "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and, for certain of its scenes, "Alien." Certain other s-f movies have redeemed themselves by sheer visual energy and high spirits; "Star Wars" is the obvious example.
But how, this late in the game, can we still get movies like "Saturn 3"? Who paid for it? The credits name Lord Lew Grade and Elliott Kastner. They've got a tidy little partnership over in England that's well enough financed to chum out about a dozen international releases a year, some of them as good as "The Muppet Movie," most of them as bad as "Saturn 3."
The level of intelligence of the screenplay of "Saturn 3" is shockingly low - the story is so dumb it would be laughed out of any junior high school class in the country - and yet the movie was financed. Why? Why couldn't Lord Grade and Kastner for once decide that since they'd committed themselves to spend this money anyway, they had nothing to lose in financing a creative and intelligent screenplay? Why do they feel compelled to support the lowest common denominator, of filmmaking?
And, all right, then: How dumb is "Saturn 3"? 1 will give you an example. The movie's about Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett, who are the only two crew members on Saturn 3, a space research station near Saturn. They have a visitor, who is supposed to be a Captain James, but is really the evil Benson (Harvey Keitel) who has killed James and replaced him for reasons of his own. Benson has brought along a robot named Hector. And, toward the end of the movie, Hector is chasing Kirk and Farrah.