25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The other Bunuel,
This review is from: Robinson Crusoe (50th Anniversary Edition) (DVD)
I'm not sure why this DVD has received lackluster reviews, but I suspect it's due to disappointment from fans of Bunuel's more surreal masterpieces at the two ends of his career (his collaborations with Dali c. 1930, and the last 9 or 10 films of his old age). Still, people shouldn't dismiss Robinson Crusoe. It has much in common stylistically with other movies of his Mexican period, notably Los Olvidados (1950) and Nazarin (1959) but especially his adaptation of Wuthering Heights made just before Robinson Crusoe. There's a directness and simplicity to these films that is deceiving -- and, like I said, disappointing to fans of Bunuel's more flamboyant stuff. I wouldn't call Robinson Crusoe a masterpiece along the lines of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie or Belle de Jour, but it's interesting and entertaining. (For several interesting reviews, check out the ones on IMDb. On this page, I think "Laughing Gravy" and M. Lucas have hit the nail on the head.)
If you're not a Bunuel fan, then the movie stands on its own pretty well -- mainly because of its surprising faithfulness to Defoe's novel. Huge chunks of Defoe's prose are preserved intact as narration, which I never found annoying. This DVD would make a wonderful teaching aid for high school English classes. (In fact, Bunuel would probably have found it amusing that one of his films can be found in the Family Entertainment section of many video stores.) And O'Herlihy, who has to carry the movie single-handedly for about half the running time, is quite good. His Oscar nomination was well-deserved.
As others have said, VCI's presentation is very nice. There are several minor instances of "ghosting" (mild blurriness caused by the transfer to DVD). Considering that the original negative no longer exists and that Pathe Color was a cheap alternative to Technicolor, I'd say they've done as good a job on the restoration as they could. The long audio interview with the late Dan O'Herlihy is a solid extra.
In summation, I'd say that, if you're interested in this title, it's worth a purchase, especially at it's reasonable listing price. (Even if you end up hating it, you can always donate your copy to a school.) O'Herlihy's performance and the script's faithfulness to the source make this movie respectable entertainment; the presence of Bunuel as director adds an extra layer for viewers searching for "more." And VCI serves everything up with class.