Robinson Crusoe on Mars (The Criterion Collection)
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An astronaut lands on the red planet, loses a partner and makes an escaped slave his man Friday.
Although it is a thoughtful and surprisingly nonexploitative movie, the title Robinson Crusoe on Mars might conjure up unholy echoes of cross-pollinated genre movies such as Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter or Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Well, don't worry. This 1964 space epic is in fact an adaptation of the classic Daniel Defoe novel, and it plays fair by logic and science. After his spaceship crash-lands on Mars, astronaut Paul Mantee must figure out how to survive on the hostile planet (shot mostly in Death Valley), aided only by a monkey from his ship. Director Byron (The War of the Worlds) Haskin's sober approach brings a refreshing emphasis to issues of survival--how many space travel movies have you seen where the traveler tests the air of a distant planet and discovers that, by George, he can breathe just fine? Not this one. Mantee's desperate methods of tracking his air flow and experimenting with methods of breathing are painstakingly explored, and seem like exactly the kind of problems a real planetary voyager would encounter. The second half of the picture cleverly blends Defoe's plot with sci-fi conventions, and the movie never does "dumb down."
The Criterion Collection's DVD of Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a handsome treatment of a minor classic. A commentary track stitches together comments from a variety of participants, including Mantee, Haskin (in a 1979 interview), and original screenwriter Ib Melchior (disagreements between Haskin and Melchoir are included). A featurette, Destination--Mars gives some of the "science fact" behind the movie, and excerpts from Melchoir's original treatment show suggest changes made. And a "music video" puts movie clips alongside a song written and performed by co-star Victor Lundin, a number he developed for his appearances at sci-fi conventions. --Robert Horton
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Top customer reviews
The plot, color and audio were excellent on this DVD. The special effects were superb by Byron Haskin ( The War of the Worlds, Outer Limits) The acting was great. Adam West ( star of Batman TV series) even has a role in the beginning of the movie. Included with the DVD is a nice pamphlet describing the movie, some history of the 1964 movie and more. The reader will enjoy this.
Two men in a spacecraft to Mars are forced to fire retro rockets to avoid a Meteor. This puts them into an erratic plunge to Mars and both are forced to eject in their own escape pods. The controls of the spacecraft were a little outdated.
Both escape pods crash and the Commander in charge of the mission ( Adam West) is killed. The second officer "Kit" Draper(Paul Mantee) and a monkey named Mona survive. Then comes survival off the land and air?
First getting enough air. He takes his visor off now and then to talk into a mike. We know today Mars has only 1% Earth atmosphere mostly CO2...death would be real quick. Also he would be eventually blinded as there is massive amounts of UV radiation getting through the thin atmosphere. Kit finds yellow rocks that when burned give off oxygen. Can't live at night on Mars at night in a cave with fire from yellow rocks as it gets well below -100F.
Next finding water. Mona the monkey finds both water and plant "sausage" bulbs to eat. Today we know water can not exist as a liquid on the Mars surface due to low atmospheric pressure. Macro life on Mars very improbable because of conditions. Maybe extinct or living microorganisms under the regolith or deep in lava tubes.
All this said just relax and enjoy the movie. Just wanted the reader to know Mars is much, much more hostile than depicted on the DVD. .
So our Robinson Crusoe has licked all the basic needs of survival except loneliness. Kit starts hallucinating his Commander is alive. Not!
Kit sees weird, fast moving spacecraft in the Martian sky at night. Mining craft from another world. They start blasting all over the place. Kit is outside of the cave with his oxygen bottle and no spacesuit (would be quick death). As he is hiding a humanoid stands near him. It is an escaped slave the ships are trying to blast and kill with their rays.
They hurry back to the cave. Now Kit has companionship. I won't ruin the movie for you. Just say great survival scenes, educating his man Friday and visa versa. Both repeatedly save each others life. There are great scenes of both of them and Mona traveling the underground canals of Mars to escape the "enemy" and reach the polar ice cap. The ending is superb.
If the reader does not constantly try to analyse the "faults" of the survival he/she will enjoy this wonderful movie. I loved it even though I knew it could never happen like it was shown.
5 stars to add to your Science Fiction DVD library. My only fault of the DVD was the cost. I could not get one on the cheap and had to pay near full price. I guess that's to be expected with supply and demand as this was a great movie on DVD. INMO one of the best Science Fiction /Mars/fantasy movies ever made.
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.
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