A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away science fiction movies looked very, very different than they do today. In 1964, thirteen years before George Lucas brought the adventures of Luke Skywalker to the screen, the genre wasn’t high on Hollywood’s agenda. It was difficult to create alien vistas and special effects hadn’t yet come of (space) age – that would’t happen until 1968 when the one-two punch of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Planet of the Apes would blow cinematic minds.
Robinson Crusoe On Mars is a wonderful retro sci-fi effort that takes Daniel Defoe’s 1719 novel and transplants the action to Mars. Paul Mantee is Kit Draper, an astronaut orbiting Mars, who becomes stranded on the red planet when an accident occurs in space. Lost and alone, he must use his wits to survive on the alien planet, before meeting his own Man Friday (Victor Lundin), an escaped alien space-slave. The duo strike-up an unlikely friendship as Draper attempts to figure-out how to get home.
In the 1960s, space was the new frontier and there was a huge fascination with tales set far away from the safety of our own planet. Robinson Crusoe On Mars might be pulp science fiction, but it’s played incredibly straight. The Techniscope visuals and the bright sound-stage sets are reminiscent of Star Trek, while there’s more than a touch of that other seminal ‘60s television sci-fi series, Lost In Space.
The release of Ridley Scott’s similarly themed The Martian once again brings this all-but forgotten film to the fore. The special effects in Bryan Haskin’s film might be a little bit dated and it feels a little long at nearly two hours but there are many moments to enjoy here. There’s also an appearance by Adam West, who would become a pop culture sensation two years later when he exploded onto screens as Batman.
Robinson Crusoe On Mars should be enjoyed for the simple pleasure that it delivers. It’s an interesting film that shows the distant world of science fiction before George Lucas…before the dark times…before the Empire.
This Eureka Video release gets a luscious high-def transfer that makes the visuals pop. It also comes with an info-filled commentary Robert Skotak, a trailer and a 28 page booklet by Paul McAuley.