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Robinson Crusoe on Mars(1964)
An entertaining interpretation of the classic Defoe story, using an astronaut and his monkey, US astronaut Commander “Kit” Draper must fight for survival when his spaceship crash-lands on the barren waste of Mars, with a pet monkey his only companion. But is he actually alone?
For more about Robinson Crusoe on Mars and the Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray release, see Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on January 7, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Paul Mantee, Vic Lundin, Adam West (I)
Director: Byron Haskin
» See full cast & crew
Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, January 7, 2011
Byron Haskin's "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" (1964) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion. The supplemental features on the disc include an exclusive audio commentary with screenwriter Ib Melchior, actors Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, production designer Al Nozaki, and Oscar-winning special effects designer and Robinson Crusoe on Mars historian Robert Skotak; short documentary feature by filmmaker and space historian Michael Lennick; collection of sketches; music video; and the film's original theatrical trailer. The disc also arrives with a 12-page illustrated booklet. In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-A "locked".
Commander Christopher 'Kit' Draper (Paul Mantee, A Man Called Dagger) and Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West, The Specialist) are orbiting Mars and collecting valuable data in their spaceship. A malfunction, however, forces them to eject - and though both land on the surface, only Draper and his pet monkey, Mona, survive.
Draper immediately finds shelter in a small cave. While burning a few rocks to keep warm, he accidentally discovers how to generate enough oxygen to refill his almost empty tank.
Draper's next challenge is finding water - which Mona solves when she leads him to a large underground aquifer. There, he also discovers an edible plant of some sort.
With the basic supplies needed for his survival secured, Draper begins exploring the area. Not too far away from his cave he stumbles upon the remains of an unknown creature, which he quickly determines was murdered. Puzzled and concerned about his safety, he attempts to dispatch a signal to his spaceship - still orbiting around Mars - to active a self-destruct mechanism.
A spaceship lands on Mars. Draper approaches it and sees a group of slaves working on a giant minefield. One of them (Victor Lundin, Promises! Promises!) escapes and meets him. Moments before the spaceship leaves, the minefield is destroyed and the rest of the slaves exterminated.
Back in the cave Draper names his new friend Friday and then proceeds to teach him how to speak his language. He also attempts to take off the big black bracelets Friday has on his wrists, both of which are sophisticated tracking devices allowing the aliens from the spaceship to monitor their slaves.
When Friday learns enough words to be able to communicate with Draper, he tells him about his home planet and the type of life he has been living. He also shows Draper his "air pills", which can produce oxygen directly into one's lungs.
Eventually, the aliens return and destroy the cave. Draper and Friday are forced to go deep underground and enter a massive system of dangerous canals. They manage to pass through them and reach the polar icecap just before a giant meteor hits the surface. With the icebergs starting to melt and only a few "air-pills" left, Draper and Friday realize that they have very little time left to live.
Loosely based on Daniel Defoe's novel, Byron Haskin's Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a charming little film that entertains various fascinating speculations about the Red Planet and its resources. Though many of them now feel dated, in 1964, when the film was made, they were approached with a great dose of justified interest. For many years NASA's scientists for instance pondered the same questions Draper does in the film.
Considering that at the time when the film was made there was very little unclassified footage available to give its creators a good idea what the conditions on the surface of the Red Planet might be, the detailed visuals and various theories introduced in it are indeed very impressive.
The film's only weakness stems from Haskin's decision to end it with a finale in which conventional themes about freedom, friendship and appreciation are hastily lumped together.
Note: From 1937 to 1945, Byron Haskin was head of the special effects department at Warner Bros., where he supervised such films as Michael Curtiz's Gold Is Where You Find It (1938), Dodge City (1939), Essex and Elizabeth (1939) and The Sea Hawk 1940), as well as Anatole Litvak's City for Conquest (1940) and Raoul Walsh's Desperate Journey (1942). He is, however, best known for directing the classic The War of the Worlds (1953).
Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.37:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Byron Haskin's Robinson Crusoe on Mars arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"This high-definition digital transfer was created on a Spirit 4K Datacine from 35mm 2-perforation A/B interpositive struck from the original negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI's DRS system and Pixel Farm's PFClean system, while Digital Vision's DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.
Telecine supervisor: Maria Palazzola.
Telecine colorist: Gregg Garvin/Modern Videofilm, Los Angeles."
Criterion's Blu-ray release of Robinson Crusoe on Mars represents a dramatic upgrade in quality over previous release of the film - fine object detail is very good, clarity substantially improved, and contrast levels (especially during the final third of the film) a lot more consistent than I expected them to be. Stability is also improved; on Criterion's SDVD release of Robinson Crusoe on Mars there is quite a bit of background shimmer, and around the edges the image is not as tight as it is here. The macroblocking issues have also been eliminated, thus those of you with digital projectors should be pleased by the new depth and fluidity the image conveys. This being said, there are still a few scenes that look somewhat soft and a couple of minor discolorations that pop up here and there, but these are obviously inherited limitations. Lastly, I did not see any large damage marks, warps, debris, cuts, or stains to report in this review. (Note: This is a Region-A "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-A or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 1.0. For the record, Criterion have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they appear inside the image frame.
The following text appears inside the booklet provided with this Blu-ray disc:
"The monaural soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from a 35mm magnetic full-coat three-track master. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using Audio Cube's integrated workstation."
The English LPCM 1.0 track has a surprisingly strong dynamic amplitude - during the spaceship attacks the bass is actually quite strong, while a few of the mine explosions nave a pretty strong edge. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow. There are no balance issues with Van Cleave's music score either.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Byron Haskin's Robinson Crusoe on Mars is the perfect film to see late at night - its retro look and moody score are indeed very calming. I enjoyed it quite a bit. As expected, Criterion's presentation of the film is very strong. The supplemental features included on the disc are also informative. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Criterion Blu-ray in January 2011: Brooks, Fuller, Haskin, Melville - October 15, 2010
After a quiet December, Criterion will kick off the New Year with renewed energy, as five very varied titles have been announced for Blu-ray release in January. On January 11, The Army of Shadows (L'armée des ombres; Jean-Pierre Melville, 1969) and Robinson Crusoe ...
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