Robinson Crusoe on Mars – Criterion
A futuristic retelling of Daniel Defoe’s classic story, Robinson Crusoe on Mars has gained a beloved cult reputation ever since its debut in the years leading up to the space race. As a mingling of speculative science-fiction with an extraordinary visual design, it proved to have a significant influence on fantasy film-making on both the big and small screen.
It was genius when director Byron Haskin (‘Outer Limits’, ‘War of the Worlds’) suggested Death Valley as the shooting location for ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’. Producer Aubrey Schenck considered back-lot shooting, but thankfully for science-fiction fans, he went along with Haskin’s suggestion.
This film has reached cult status over the years, and still holds up well today. Shot in 1964, ‘Robinson Crusoe on Mars’ used camera filters and the Death Valley locations to supreme advantage.
There were no photographs available of the Martian surface at that time, and yet the similarities between the outdoor shots and current images from the Mars rovers are eerie.
‘Crusoe’ stars Paul Mantee and Adam West, along with the smartest chimp on film, ‘Mona’. West appears mainly in a cameo role. Victor Ludlum is ‘Friday’. Mantee and West play two astronauts on an exploration mission orbiting the Red Planet. After an encounter with a meteorite, they are forced to abandon the main craft in separate vehicles. West crashes and is killed. Mantee and ‘Mona’ survive. The storyline then follows the classic tale by Daniel Defoe.
Criterion, a video company known for its painstaking restorations of other films, has done one whale of a job on the ‘Crusoe’ restoration. They took an already classic film and made it twice as good as the original.
(Condensed from Criterion’s information page)
High definition video transfer, created on a Spirit 4K Datacine, from a 35mm struck from the 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 original mono soundtrack was remastered at 24 bit, and audio restoration tools were used to eliminate clicks, pops, hisses, and crackles.
Notes From The Staff of Adventure Books of Seattle
Criterion went all-out on this one, adding in a generous number of bonus features. There is a ‘stills’ gallery from both the film itself, and some behind-the-scenes shots. There is also the original theatrical trailer, and an audio interview with director Haskin that was recorded in 1979. A booklet is included with facts about the film, and many more features on the DVD itself.
The restored version is being released on September 18, 2007. If you are a sci-fi fan, it’s a good choice for your collection. Filmed in good old Techniscope.
Review Source: Criterion Video was nice enough to send us an advance copy. When we finished viewing the film, all we could say was ‘geez…these guys are good.’
Recommendation: If you’re a Mars fan, or you just like the film, find a way to put your hands on a copy. You can find it on a simple search at Amazon, or by going to Criterion Video.
Much of this review information was collected from Amazon and the Criterion website