evan hunter draft – script review

SATURN 3 – Evan Hunter Draft – Script Review By Greg Moss

May 19th 2020

As mentioned in the main article, according to author Steve Gallagher (hired to pen the novelization) – ‘every script doctor in town had taken an uncredited swing at [reworking the script]’ Since then I’ve learned that screenwriter Frederic Raphael (who wrote Two For The Road for Stanley Donen and later went on to work with Stanley Kubrick on Eyes Wide Shut) – according to Martin Amis – was the person responsible for most of the rewrites on the shooting draft.

And now – another earlier draft has surfaced.

Until recently, I had no idea this draft even existed. Dated June 30th 1978, this draft predates the shooting draft by six months. Written by British screenwriter Evan Hunter – best-known for penning The Birds for Alfred Hitchcock – this script is a fascinating read. With a page count clocking in at a whopping 147 pages, there are more differences than similarities in comparison to the shooting draft. All character names are different for one. Also, Tethys has an atmosphere, the station complex does not appear to be underground and the dog Sally is here a cat named Europa.

Although scientifically inaccurate – I understand why it was decided to give Tethys an atmosphere; as it does much to reinforce the overall Gothic feel of the piece – with driving rain, thunder and lightning etc. Of course this was a full two years prior to the Voyager 1 flyby of Saturn, where it was already suspected that Titan – Saturn’s largest moon – had an actual atmosphere. So it’s unclear why Titan wasn’t chosen as the setting. Ultimately, the question is moot – as the research station was changed to an underground base in the shooting draft anyway.

While the overall structure is pretty much the same – there are some fundamental differences as far as characters are concerned.

The movie’s opening sequence – with the shuttle being prepped while Benson kills the real Captain James and takes his place – is gone. The robot handler (here named Jamie Speiser) no longer a cold-blooded killer. This entire sequence aboard the space station (here referred to as The Mother Ship) is also much shorter – with Jamie’s spacecraft confusingly referred to as a ‘space buggy’.

Interestingly, Jamie’s voice is described as ‘British with a hint of lower class’ – which makes one wonder whether or not Harvey Keitel had been cast for the role at the time this draft was written (considering his voice would be later dubbed by Roy Dotrice during post). Indeed, the character of Jamie as presented here is so different from the character we ended up with – it’s virtually impossible to imagine Keitel in the role. Jamie is far more openly lascivious towards the Farrah Fawcett character in this draft; constantly propositioning her and attempting to steal a kiss. He comes across as less of an out and out psychopath though – and something more of a narcissist – even possessing a certain roguish charm. Perhaps the portrayal of this character is an artefact left over from when Michael Caine was originally sought for the role.

Whilst the age difference between the Kirk Douglas and Farrah Fawcett characters is present in this draft (he being in his mid-fifties and she in her late twenties) – there are substantial differences in terms of the characters themselves (here named Paul Harding and Heather McConnell respectively). Unlike the shooting draft, the character of Heather was born and raised on Earth. She isn’t the space-born innocent she is in the movie – living a sheltered life under the wing of an older man attempting to protect his ingenue from the debauchery of Earth society. Here she and Paul have been ‘coupled’ for seven years – getting together on Earth after she graduated from university (Paul being a professor whom she was infatuated with). Having lived on Tethys for the past two years – the two are eager to return to Earth; seeing the unexpected arrival of the robot less as an intrusion of their idyllic lifestyle – and more as a way of speeding up the process of getting back home. Indeed, it is Heather who convinces Paul (despite his safety concerns) to agree to having a ‘cybernetically programmed organic robot’ helping them out – as it means they will get back to Earth two months earlier than hoped.

Interestingly, there is no mention of Earth being overpopulated and hungry – as it is described in the shooting draft. And no mention of the couple being food research scientists. In this version – Paul and Heather are merely run-of-the-mill geologists; working as part of a solar system-spanning geological survey. While state-sanctioned polygamy appears to be a thing – the free-love aspect of this future society is conspicuously absent. As is the drug-taking. There is no mention of ‘Blue Dreamers’ or ‘Earth Dreams’ or ‘Blanker Pills’ in this draft whatsoever.

Another fascinating difference here is that Jamie reveals the robot’s organic brain was cloned from Jamie’s own brain tissue. Whereas in the shooting draft the brain is described as ‘an unborn’. The change most likely came about after it was decided that Harvey Keitel’s character would be a cold-blooded killer – who murders the robot’s original handler and takes his place.

The scenes of Jamie training the robot (here named Victor) – are more detailed and extensive in this draft. And the Farrah Fawcett character has more to do in these scenes. It makes sense that Heather would have more interaction with Jamie here – as it sets up a major change in her character later on. My only real issue with these scenes is that they do tend to become somewhat repetitive; taking up a good half hour of the script – and could easily be cut back to lessen the run-time.

In this draft it is Victor who witnesses the escalation of Jamie’s attraction to Heather – and not Paul. The fact that Paul appears completely oblivious to Jamie’s advances towards her, leads to the most impact-full game-changing difference between the shooting draft and this particular draft – in that Heather ultimately gives in to Jamie’s unceasing and increasing sexual demands and ends up cheating on Paul. The result of which is that Paul’s character is pushed further into the background (something which I would suggest wouldn’t sit well with Kirk Douglas).

If they ever do become available, it would be fascinating to read the earlier drafts by John Barry and Martin Amis – to see whether or not the Farrah character was meant to succumb to temptation and become unfaithful from the outset. As Farrah said later in an interview, ‘Originally they had a very good script … and it was a lot different from what we ended up shooting.’ Which makes me suspect this was indeed the case. As the character of Heather absolutely has a far more interesting arc in this draft – than the draft which was shot. As to why her character was drastically changed – my guess is it most likely had to do with Kirk Douglas wanting his own character to have more agency. He certainly comes across as a much weaker character in this draft. As John Barry was quoted as saying – ‘It’s very much about real people. It’s a love story, a story about contemporary relationships set two centuries ahead.’ Which again hints to the idea that the original intent was to have the Farrah character ultimately acquiesce to Jamie’s dubious charms.

Another difference is that Paul is far less belligerent towards Victor in this draft. Whereas in the shooting draft (and the final movie – particularly the extended TV cut) – Adam is continually humiliating Hector with snide remarks and put-downs, here Paul isn’t nearly as antagonistic towards the robot. This has the effect of making Victor much less sympathetic and downtrodden and somewhat less of a compelling character.

Stanley Donen has said, ‘There were times when we had a story where no-one was the villain’ which makes me wonder if he was referring to this particular draft. Unlike the shooting draft (and the finished movie) – the robot here doesn’t appear to possess any homicidal tendencies. With his handler (Jamie) not being a psychotic killer in this draft, there is no reason for him to develop this particular psychology. His killing of the couple’s pet cat is more accidental here – as he clumsily attempts to mimic Jamie’s affection for the animal. It would be fair to say that Victor’s behaviour here is wholly motivated by his ‘programmed’ attraction to – and perhaps love of – the Heather character. This makes him no less menacing though.

The demise of the Harvey Keitel character plays out almost the exact opposite of how it does in the shooting draft. Instead of being killed by the robot – as he attempts to abduct Farrah (‘First thing we do is go see Earth’). Here he is killed by Victor – as he attempts to stop the robot from breaking into Heather’s quarters. And the death of the Kirk Douglas character also plays out quite differently in this draft – robbing him of his heroic sacrifice in destroying the robot (in this draft Victor survives pretty much till the end). Paul engages in hand-to-hand combat with the robot in the lab – only to be thrown into the open nutrient tanks in the floor – where he suffers a horrible demise – dissolved by toxic chemicals, as Heather looks on in horror. It is then up to Heather to face-off against Victor alone. The fact that both the ‘bad guy’ and the hero fail in their attempts to save ‘the damsel’ from the monster – is a bold choice to be sure.

(As an aside, while Barry states that the story takes place two hundred years into the future, it’s interesting to note that in the Evan Hunter draft – the year is 2705)

Following the death of Paul (and much like in the shooting draft) – the third act is an extended cat-and-mouse chase sequence throughout the complex. Only here it is Heather outwitting Victor by herself.

Which brings me to the very strange finale –

Heather is enticed out of hiding by Jamie’s voice calling for her. Which is where we have the gruesome reveal of Jamie’s severed head spiked onto Victor’s lens turret. ‘It’s me, Heather. Jamie. I’m not a monster.’ Heather passes out – only to awaken a week later – to find she has been drugged and has had a direct input socket (like Jamie’s) implanted in her forehead. A ghastly reveal if ever there was. Still in a semi-drugged daze, she wanders through the complex to find all the damage has been repaired. And this is where things get ridiculously weird. Hearing her own voice and the voice of Paul calling out to her, she makes her way to the lab – where she finds (and I kid you not) – a couple of artificial heads in a cabinet on the bench; fashioned to resemble her and Paul – imploring her to train them the same way Jamie trained Victor. Backing away – she turns to run – but is barred from leaving by Victor – and a second robot in his own image. Why there are now two robots is never explained. Did Victor build this robot? Did a second robot arrive while she was unconscious for a week? No idea. Anyhow, Heather manages to evade the two robots and get to Jamie’s space buggy and lift off – only to find that – Victor has somehow snuck aboard the craft. He attempts to connect the direct input cable to the socket into her forehead – but she manages to eject him into space before can do so. As Victor tumbles through the void, Heather sets course for the mother ship. A truly bizarre end to the screenplay for sure.

Whilst there are major differences, there are also some scenes which play out virtually the same as the shooting draft. These include the scene of Victor extracting the splinter from Heather’s eye and later – Paul overloading Victor, as the robot attempts to recharge himself and Victor remote controlling the lab robots to re-assemble himself.

These similarities aside, it does appear the shooting draft was a page one rewrite; incorporating several major beats in the story already present – but also creating a brand new dynamic between the characters. As to which draft is better? That’s a really tough call. The two drafts both have their merits. If the Evan Hunter draft were to incorporate the idea that Heather was a space-born and that Paul was protecting her from the hedonistic evils of Earth society. This would only be a good thing. So too, if this draft were to ramp up Paul’s belligerence towards Victor – and thus make the robot more sympathetic. This would also be a welcome addition. And if the patently ludicrous and nonsensical ending were changed – so that Heather ultimately destroyed Victor and got her trip to Earth (as in the final film). This would also be a major improvement.