"Robinson Crusoe on Mars" DVD Movie Review

1/17/2011 Posted by Admin

"Robinson Crusoe on Mars"

DVD Movie Review

By our guest blogger, Jeremy Wilkinson

The 1964 film “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” does not have the eponymous protagonist being abducted by aliens from his island (although, that would have been funny for at least five minutes). Rather, this is a science fiction update of the classic with a new protagonist (here played by Paul Mantee) and a new setting.

Christopher ‘Kit’ Draper’s (Mantee) spaceship must take evasive action to avoid a planetoid hurtling toward them. He is caught in Mars’ gravitational pull while trying to avoid being hit and does not have enough fuel to pull away. So, he jettisons from his ship, landing on the hostile surface of Mars, and, along with a monkey named Mona, must find a way to survive a world he knows little about.

Aside from the transplantation to the red planet, this adaptation is fairly true to the spirit of the original book, flaws and all. It occasionally drags as Draper goes about his day and some of the special effects shots are reused one too many times later in the movie, including effect that have not aged well. The spacecraft looks unimpressive, the red skies of Mars are unnaturally saturated, and the pastel coloring for certain geological features are garish. Still, there are some great sets to be seen; especially considering it’s been 40 years since the film’s debut. The rocks without the pastel colors are a sight to see. Draper’s cave is a fun little set piece, with splashes of color breaking up the drab greys. It’s really the long shots with Draper and Mona isolated from all other life that punctuate the difficulties they have to face. Granted, even those that are done well are still clearly fake to those used to modern CG. However, it’s endearing rather than repulsive.

Mantee deserves a lot of credit for his role in this. For the most part, it’s either just himself or Mona in the scene, yet he’s able to play the part convincingly even without someone else to bounce off of. Particularly tense are scenes where he struggles to get more oxygen in the thin atmosphere and his battle with isolation. Like Crusoe before him, Draper uses everything in the environment that can help him and shows genuine adaptability and resourcefulness, even when he accidentally stumbles upon a revelation.

“Robinson Crusoe on Mars” could have been a far bigger schlock-fest than it was. With a title like that, this reviewer expected it to be incredibly silly. It dashes these expectations by coming off like a great story from the pulp era--one cannot ignore some level of goofiness, but it supersedes mediocrity and can actually be taken seriously rather than being ‘just another sci-fi movie.’

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