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Although it is a thoughtful and surprisingly nonexploitative movie, the titleRobinson Crusoe on Marsmight conjure up unholy echoes of cross-pollinated genre movies such asJesse James Meets Frankenstein's DaughterorSanta Claus Conquers the Martians. Well, don't worry. This 1964 space epic is in fact an adaptation of the classic Daniel Defoe novel, and it plays fair by logic and science. After his spaceship crash-lands on Mars, astronaut Paul Mantee must figure out how to survive on the hostile planet (shot mostly in Death Valley), aided only by a monkey from his ship. Director Byron (The War of the Worlds) Haskin's sober approach brings a refreshing emphasis to issues of survival--how many space travel movies have you seen where the traveler tests the air of a distant planet and discovers that, by George, he can breathe just fine? Not this one. Mantee's desperate methods of tracking his air flow and experimenting with methods of breathing are painstakingly explored, and seem like exactly the kind of problems a real planetary voyager would encounter. The second half of the picture cleverly blends Defoe's plot with sci-fi conventions, and the movie never does "dumb down."

The Criterion Collection's DVD of Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a handsome treatment of a minor classic. A commentary track stitches together comments from a variety of participants, including Mantee, Haskin (in a 1979 interview), and original screenwriter Ib Melchior (disagreements between Haskin and Melchoir are included). A featurette, Destination--Mars gives some of the "science fact" behind the movie, and excerpts from Melchoir's original treatment show suggest changes made. And a "music video" puts movie clips alongside a song written and performed by co-star Victor Lundin, a number he developed for his appearances at sci-fi conventions. --Robert Horton

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CastAdam West, Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, Barney (IV)
DirectorByron Haskin
Genre:  Classics
DVD Release Date:  September 18, 2007
Runtime:  110 minutes
Studio:  Criterion Collection
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review by . April 01
This is no joke: as a huge fan of science fiction films, I’d heard plenty about ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS throughout the years.  The simple truth of the matter is that I’d just never gotten around to watching it.  It hadn’t popped up on my TV guide in years; and although it showed as a title available at my corner video store the flick never seemed to be in.  Perhaps others were doing as I had intended – finally scored a copy and were taking it all in – …
review by . May 02, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
What I like so much about Robinson Crusoe on Mars is its no nonsense approach. Even though it takes place on Mars it is very much about human problems, about the need for self-sufficiency and the equally compelling need for companionship. The astronaut spends most of the first half of the film just trying to work out the problem of how to live on Mars -- and it holds my attention throughout. Once he has solved that problem, his real problem is how to live alone. He needs a companion, someone to …
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Robinson Crusoe on Mars - Criterion Collection
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