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Robinson Crusoe (50th Anniversary Edition)

4.2 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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(Sep 14, 2004)
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50th Anniversary Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Daniel Defoe's British sailor is shipwrecked for 28 years with cannibals, and his man Friday. Directed by Luis Bunuel.

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The most surreal aspect of this adaptation of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe is how faithful Surrealist director Luis Bunuel is to the original book! Which is not to say it's sluggish or literary--Bunuel recreates the story with lush scenery and vivid images, as if he himself were discovering the tropical island along with the Englishman shipwrecked in 1659. Crusoe (Daniel O'Herlihy, later to appear in RoboCop) spends 28 years building a home and struggling to maintain his sanity; only a friendship formed with a former cannibal whom he dubs Friday (Jaime Fernandez) breaks his isolation. Bunuel (Un Chien Andalou, Belle De Jour, That Obscure Object of Desire) hews scrupulously to even the most colonial aspects of the original material. Crusoe's original expedition set out to trade slaves, and when Crusoe first meets Friday, he introduces himself as "Master" and comments, "How pleasant it was once more to have a servant." But moments of puckish humor--such as a theological debate in which Friday questions the emotional stability of God--reveal that Bunuel was hardly blind to these issues. Bunuel's sharp eye results in a straightforward but superb version of the classic adventure story. The dvd has a small handful of extras, including an extensive audio interview with O'Herlihy (who was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance), in which he reminisces about Orson Welles and reveals that though the movie is in English, Bunuel never spoke it and O'Herlihy had to learn Spanish so he could take direction. --Bret Fetzer

Special Features

None.

Product Details

  • Actors: Dan O'Herlihy, Jaime Fernández, Felipe de Alba, Chel López, José Chávez
  • Directors: Luis Buñuel
  • Writers: Luis Buñuel, Daniel Defoe, Hugo Butler
  • Producers: Henry F. Ehrlich, Óscar Dancigers
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Full Screen, NTSC
  • Language: English, Spanish
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    NR
    Not Rated
  • Studio: VCI Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: September 14, 2004
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002F6BJC
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #88,786 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Robinson Crusoe (50th Anniversary Edition)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) is celebrated today as "the father of cinematic Surrealism" for creating subversive classics from the beginning of his career, L' Âge d'or (1930), until the end, That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). What a shock to discover, then, that his only English-language film, the once all-but-lost Robinson Crusoe (1954), is a straightforward adventure tale with all of the fun and social comment of the timeless Daniel Defoe novel but with nary a sliced eyeball to be found.

I'm certain ya'll know the story, and the film is faithful: Rob is shipwrecked on a tropical island, saves what he can from the ship before it goes down, and spends most of the rest of the 17th century dodging wild animals, cannibals, and pirates before hooking up with his man Friday.

In the early sequences, we see that Crusoe is all but helpless, not even able to build a fire with no servants to help him. Over the years, he not only perseveres, but triumphs over his environment, building a quite satisfactory fortress of solitude. The loneliness gets to him, though, particularly once his dog dies - "I learned to master everything on my island - except myself!" he ruminates. In a masterful scene, he dreams of his father, who chides him for going off to sea; in another, he feeds some small ants to some big ones, which means something, but don't ask me what. Once he rescues Friday from the cannibals, he gains - not a friend, but a servant, and when his suspicions of Friday get the best of him, Crusoe clamps him in leg irons he rescued from the wreck (he was on a slaving mission, although why he'd want to carry heavy chains from the sinking ship is anybody's guess).
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Format: 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).
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Format: DVD
VCI Entertainment presents "ROBINSON CRUSOE" (1952) (90 mins/Color) --- (Dolby digitally remastered) --- Robinson Crusoe (1952) is a film by director Luis Buñuel --- The film is based on the novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe --- It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor (Dan O'Herlihy) --- I'm told that Dan O'Herlihy, an admirer of Luis Bunuel, was responsible for getting Bunuel hired for this American film even though the producers had no idea who Bunuel was --- O'Herlihy gives a passionate performance in this interesting and lush production, and the story had long appealed to Bunuel --- This film is far more involving than one has any right to expect --- As it works on both the literal and symbolic levels, and can be viewed as a straightforward adventure story, an exploration of loneliness and culture clash, or both.

Special footnote, Robinson Crusoe is a novel by Daniel Defoe, first published in 1719 and sometimes regarded as the first novel in English --- The book is a fictional autobiography of the title character, an English castaway who spends 28 years on a remote tropical island, encountering natives, captives, and mutineers before being rescued --- This device, presenting an account of supposedly factual events, is known as a "false document" and gives a realistic frame story.
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