Robinson Crusoe on Mars
|Robinson Crusoe on Mars|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Byron Haskin|
|Produced by||Aubrey Schenck|
|Written by||John C. Higgins
|Based on||Robinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
Barney the Wooly Monkey
|Music by||Nathan Van Cleave|
|Cinematography||Winton C. Hoch|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Running time||110 minutes|
Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a 1964 Paramount Pictures Techniscope science fiction film retelling of the classic novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. It was directed by Byron Haskin, produced by Aubrey Schenck, and starred Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam West. Its first DVD release was on September 18, 2007 as a special edition from the Criterion Collection, having been previously released by Criterion on Laserdisc.
Commander Christopher 'Kit' Draper (Paul Mantee) and Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West) reach the Red Planet in the small spaceship Mars Gravity Probe 1. They are forced to use up their remaining fuel in order to avoid an imminent collision with a planetoid in low Martian orbit; they descend in their one-man lifeboat pods and become the first humans on Mars.
Draper eventually finds a cave for shelter. He then figures out how to obtain the rest of what he needs to survive: he burns some coal-like rocks for warmth and accidentally discovers that heating them releases trapped oxygen. This allows him to refill his low air tanks and move around in the thin Martian atmosphere. On one of his excursions, he finds McReady's dead body. He soon finds Mona, their flight-test monkey, and returns with her to the cave. Draper then constructs a crude sand alarm clock to awaken him for periodic doses of oxygen.
Later, he notices that Mona keeps disappearing and is uninterested in their dwindling supply of food and water. He gives her a salty cracker but no water; when Mona gets very thirsty, he lets her out and follows her to an underground spring in a cave with edible plant "sausages" growing in the water.
As the days grow into months, Draper slowly begins to crack from the prolonged isolation. He watches helplessly as his spaceship, an inaccessible "supermarket", periodically crosses overhead. Without fuel, the ship cannot respond to his radioed order to land.
While walking about, Draper comes on a rock standing in an odd position. Curious, he digs in the ground around it, exposing a skeletal hand wearing a black bracelet. He uncovers the rest of the humanoid skeleton and determines that the alien was murdered; the skull shows heavy charring. Frightened, Draper signals his spaceship to self-destruct on its next overhead pass to hide his presence on Mars.
Just in time, too, as Draper sees a spaceship descend and land just over the horizon. At first, he believes it to be a rescue ship from Earth. The following morning, he heads towards the landing site, only to see an alien spacecraft in the sky. He approaches cautiously and sees slave labor being used for mining. One of the slaves (Victor Lundin) escapes, running into Draper. The alien ship blasts the area as the two flee. The stranger is wearing black bracelets like the one Draper found. That night, the aliens bombard the mine area and then depart. When he and the stranger investigate, they find the bodies of the other slaves.
Draper names his new acquaintance "Friday," after the character in Robinson Crusoe, and begins teaching him English. In return, Friday provides him with "air pills" that provide oxygen; they gradually grow to trust and then like each other.
After a while, the alien spacecraft returns, tracking Friday by his bracelets. Draper begins sawing away at the tough material with wire. When the aliens blast the castaways' hiding place, Draper, Friday and Mona flee north through the underground Martian canals. They eventually surface near the polar icecap. Exhausted, freezing, and nearly out of the air pills, they build a snow shelter. Draper finally succeeds in cutting off Friday's bracelets shortly before the planetoid crashes into the Martian ice cap; the resulting explosion and firestorm melts the ice and snow.
Later, Draper detects an approaching spaceship. He fears it is the aliens, but is relieved when the radio picks up an English-speaking voice. A lander transports Draper, Friday, and Mona up to the ship. The film credits roll as Mars recedes in the distance.
- Paul Mantee as Commander Christopher Draper
- Victor Lundin as Friday
- Adam West as Colonel Dan McReady.
- Barney the Woolly Monkey, as Mona
Two songs were inspired by and named after the movie. One was sung by Johnny Cymbal, the other by Victor Lundin. Lundin wrote the song "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" to perform during his science fiction convention appearances. He recorded it for his 2000 album Little Owl. A music video for Lundin's song was created by the Criterion Collection in 2007 for the DVD release of the film.
- "Music Video" (supplementary material made for DVD release). Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Criterion Collection DVD, 2007.
- Robinson Crusoe on Mars at the Internet Movie Database
- Robinson Crusoe on Mars at allmovie
- Robinson Crusoe on Mars at Rotten Tomatoes
- Robinson Crusoe on Mars, at the Criterion Collection
- Robinson Crusoe on Mars, by John Gosling
- "Patriotism, Politics, and Propaganda", essay, at Bright Lights Film Journal, by Walter Rankin
- Robinson Crusoe on Mars restoration review, by Robert Blevins, at Newsvine