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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Criterion A Day #3 - Robinson Crusoe on Mars

The Criterion Collection, a continuing series of important classic and contemporary films...

Pop Culture Beast presents a Criterion-a-Day, reviewing Criterion titles daily (until we run out).

Robinson Crusoe On Mars
Spine # 404
Written by: Ib Melchior and John Higgins
Directed by: Byron Haskin
Starring: Paul Mantee,Victor Lundin and Adam West

From the box:

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.  When his spaceship crash-lands on the barren waste of Mars, U.S. astronaut Commander "Kit" Draper (Paul Mantee) must fight for survival, a pet monkey his only companion.  But is he alone?  Shot in vast techniscope and blazing color, Robinson Crusoe on Mars is an imaginative and beloved marvel of classic science fiction.

Ah 60s sci-fi.  So pretty.  Such is the case with Robinson Crusoe on Mars.  A fun little gem that Criterion has given a gorgeous transfer to.

For the most part its one guy and his monkey adapting to living on Mars and trying to find a way to get home.  Along the way, he comes across a resident of mars, remarkably human, and forges a friendship.

It's not all that heavy on story but the imagery is what really stands out here.  The shots are beautiful and the color scheme is quite nice. 

Paul Mantee is our stranded astronaut and carries this film on his shoulders.  For the first big chunk of the film it's only him and a monkey and that kind of focus sometimes will be touch on an actor.  He handles it quite well, even when he does get another person with him, they don't speak the same language so still the focus is all on Mr. Mantee.  He does an admirable job.

It is 60s sci-fi so it is a little dated but that doesn't take away from the enjoyment.  It's a pretty fun flick that does have some creepy moments thrown in for good measure.   I was a bit shocked at some of the imagery as well.  Might have made the ladies of the time blush a little bit I think.

Criterion has delivered a release packed with features including a commentary that seems like it includes half the crew:  screenwriter Ib Melchior, actors Paul Mantee and Victor Ludin, production designer Al Nozaki, Oscar Winning special effects designer and Robinson Crusoe on Mars historian Robert Shotak and excerpts from a 1979 audio interview with director Byron Haskin.  We also get Destination Mars, a video featurette by fimmaker and space historian Michael Lennick detailing the science and dreams behind the film, a music video for Ludin's song "Robinson Crusoe on Mars," Stills, theatrical trailer, plus booklet that features an essay from Lennick as well as Melchior's "Brief Yargorian Vocabualry" (a glossary of original alien dialect) and a list of facts about Mars, both from his original screenplay.

It's a pretty packed set and all entertaining features in themselves.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a great flick to watch especially for fans of the old school Star Trek.  It's a bit campy but has a really good lead actor who sells the role.  That and the gorgeous colors and shots make this a film well worth picking up.

Criterion Collection #404
Pop Culture Beast Rating

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