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 independently produced Techniscope science fiction film retelling of the classic novel Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. It was distributed by Paramount Pictures, directed by Byron Haskin, produced by Aubrey Schenck, and starred Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, and Adam West. The film was shot on location, much of it at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley, California.
Commander Christopher 'Kit' Draper (Paul Mantee) and Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West) reach the Red Planet in their spaceship, Mars Gravity Probe 1. They are forced to use up their remaining fuel in order to avoid an imminent collision with an orbiting meteor; 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 air tanks and move around in the thin Martian atmosphere. On one of his excursions, he finds McReady's crashed pod and 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 orbits overhead; without fuel, the ship cannot respond to his radioed order to land.
While walking about, Draper comes upon 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. To hide his presence on Mars, Draper signals his spaceship to self-destruct on its next overhead pass.
Just in time, too, as Draper sees a spaceship descend and land just over the horizon. Believing it might 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 their area as the two escape. Draper notices the stranger is wearing black bracelets just like the one he found. The aliens bombard the mine area that night 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 shares his "air pills", which 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 a meteor crashes into the 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. Draper and Friday watch a descending rescue capsule. Mars recedes in the distance as the film credits roll.
- 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 film. 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.
The Criterion Collection is a video company known for its painstaking restorations of films. Robinson Crusoe on Mars' DVD release was on September 18, 2007 as a special edition, having been previously released by them on Laserdisc.
A high definition video transfer, created on a Spirit 4K Datacine, from a 35 mm film print, was struck from the film's original negative. Thousands of pieces of dirt, debris, and scratches were removed using the MTI Digital Restoration System. For optimal image quality, Criterion also encoded the dual-layer DVD-9 at the highest possible bit rate. The film's original Monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24 bit, and audio restoration tools were used to eliminate clicks, pops, hisses, and crackles.
Criterion added a number of bonus features on the releases of the film. There is a 'stills' gallery from both the film itself, as well as behind-the-scenes shots. There is also the original theatrical trailer and an audio interview with director Byron Haskin recorded in 1979. A music video for Victor Lundin's song "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" was created in 2007 specifically for the film's DVD release. A full color booklet is also included with various facts about the film.
- "Music Video" (supplementary material made for DVD release). Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Criterion Collection DVD, 2007.
- Parish, James Robert and Pitts, Michael R. Pitts. The Great Science Fiction Pictures. 1977. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-8108-1029-8.
- Strick, Philip. Science Fiction Movies. Octopus Books Limited. 1976. ISBN 0-7064-0470-X.
- Warren, Bill. Keep Watching the Skies: American Science Fiction Films of the Fifties, 21st Century Edition. 2009. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0-89950-032-3 (this edition actually covers films made up through 1964).
- 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