Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Special Edition, Criterion Collection
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Special effects wunderkind and genre master Byron Haskin (The War of the Worlds, The Outer Limits) won a place in the hearts of fantasy film lovers everywhere with this gorgeously designed journey into the unknown. Robinson Crusoe on Mars tells the story of U.S. astronaut Commander “Kit” Draper (Paul Mantee), who must fight for survival when his spaceship crash-lands on the barren waste of Mars, a pet monkey his only companion. But is he actually alone? Shot in vast Techniscope and blazing color, this is an imaginative and beloved marvel of classic science fiction.
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This movie is so much better than the "reality" movies made about Mars. They are good, too. But they remove all the wonder and replace it with "OK, we have to survive, grow potatoes." And since the latest movies are ONLY about survival there is NO exploration or what might or might not be around the corner.
RCoM not only is about survival but about exploration and what will we find?
Paul Mantee & Adam West would later face off in the classic 1960s Batman episode "Catwoman goes to College" - and Paul would get the beat down in "Batman Displays His Knowledge". Movie starts slowly but the cinematography is beautiful, especially on the Criterion Collection blu-ray. You would hardly guess this is California... you might think it's Mars! The special music video from Victor Lundin is a real treat.
While I had heard of the movie it was only recently I had the chance to see it. Made in 1964 this is pretty good science-fiction for a movie 50 years old at the time of this writing. Yes by todays standards the special effects are outdated and could be considered cheesy but if you look past all that and just allow yourself to get involved in the characters and the story you will find as I did this is really a pretty good little movie. What really makes the movie work is the acting. Paul Mantee and later on Victor Lundin when he appears in the story gives strong performances. A good bulk of the movie is just Mantee trying to figure out how to survive in a hostile environment. With no one to talk to but the woolly monkey and a tape recorder to keep a record of his time on the planet Mantee gives a believable performance of a man trying to brave the elements. The one problem he can't get past is the loneliness. After all a monkey can only provide so much friendship. Enter Lundin as "Friday". Draper saves his life after a group of aliens in spaceships attack and try to eliminate "Friday's" people. Once they can get past the communication barrier a true friendship developes.
If you like the sci-fi movies from the '50s and '60s then this is one you have to add to your video collection. I definitely consider "Robinson Crusoe On Mars" one of the better movies sci-fi movies from that era. Right up there with "Forbidden Planet" and "War Of The Worlds", which by chance was directed by Byron Haskin who also directed "Robinson Crusoe On Mars"! Just like the book this movie is a classic.