Robinson Crusoe on Mars: Blu-ray

Sunday, 22 November 2015 00:00 Written by 

Robinson Crusoe on Mars - Out now in a Dual Format Blu-ray and DVD set“Robinson Crusoe on Mars” is a sci-fi spin on the classic novel by Daniel Defoe. After their spacecraft narrowly evades a collision with a meteor, Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West – Batman) and Commander Christopher Draper (Paul Mantee – Cagney & Lacey) are forced to eject down to the surface of Mars. Their escape pods are separated by miles of unforgiving terrain, and supplies of air, water and food are dwindling rapidly.

The film, made in 1964, follows Draper’s search for resources, shelter and his colleague, who he soon learns has perished in a crash landing. Draper is not left entirely alone however, because Mona, their pet woolly monkey also gets down safe and sound. Every time the survivor thinks he has overcome all the challenges the red planet can throw at him, a new and even more deadly peril arrives, be it environmental or otherworldly.

I fondly remember watching this movie as part of BBC2’s terrific sci-fi season in the 1980s, along with the likes of “Invaders from Mars” and “Forbidden Planet”. “Crusoe” cheekily echoes a key element from another of those films: “The War of the Worlds” from 1953, but to say more would spoil the surprise!

Although some of the locations and sets feature drab and desolate rock, like many of the film’s peers there is some wonderfully Technicolor scenery as well. This includes the cave that Draper lives and sleeps in, featuring bright, crystalline columns similar to the structures in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. This being Mars, wherever our hero goes, the horizon is fringed in red.

As Draper overcomes each challenge, plenty of humour balances out the jeopardy. Mona is used to good effect to give amusing reaction shots and ‘her’ (the monkey playing Mona is actually a male monkey in some disguised pants!) refusal to obey orders gives the pilot some headaches. He also raises some smiles on his own, for example when playing his homemade bagpipes whilst hiking across Mars’ rugged landscape.

Mantee is very charismatic as the lead, portraying Draper a man who nearly always remains upbeat and embraces the trials he is faced with in a spirited manner.

The movie’s special effects are quite impressive, including the abandoned spaceship Mars Gravity Probe 1 orbiting overhead, flaming meteors thundering out of the sky and some of the background matt paintings are stunningly detailed, meshing brilliantly with the foreground action.

The film’s poster makes bold claims that it is ‘scientifically authentic’, but it does not take a genius to work out that when oxygen is at a premium, permanently undoing your spacesuit’s cuffs probably is not a good idea! Any science faux pas do not really harm the narrative because most of the theories and principles on display appear to be credible and more importantly, they all feel part of the same universe.

It may be decades since I last saw “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”, but the film has lost none of its charm and vibrancy. This new HD release is timed very well to more or less coincide with Ridley Scott’s “The Martian”, and fans of movies such as “I am Legend” will enjoy the survival angle, albeit shown here in a more family-friendly, buoyant manner.

Special features include:

  • 1080p high-definition transfer in the film's original aspect ratio
  • Exclusive new audio commentary with special effects designer and “Robinson Crusoe on Mars” film historian Robert Skotak, hosted by Michael Felsher of Red Shirt Pictures
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
  • 28-page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by author Paul McAuley, and rare archival imagery

Although the film stock quality varies, in general this new HD presentation is superb, seemingly capturing every grain of sand and every nook and cranny of the Martian landscape.

“Robinson Crusoe on Mars” (1964) is out now on dual-format DVD and Blu-ray (two discs), courtesy of Eureka Entertainment Ltd. The main feature has a running time of 110 minutes approx, carries a 'PG' certificate and retails for £17.95, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Sunday, 22 November 2015 13:29

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