Byron Haskin's colourful 1964 SF adventure gets a dual format UK release from Eureka this month. It's a film that the BBC used to show fairly regularly in its SF movie seasons (in pan and scan of course), so it's a pleasure to be able to watch it in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.
Commander Christopher 'Kit' Draper (Paul Mantee) ends up marooned on Mars when his exploratory rocket ship develops a fault. Co-pilot Adam West isn't so lucky as his BatPowers desert him and he ends up squashed. Bizarrely, the monkey they have brought along with them survives, and becomes Draper's sole companion as he explores his strange new world.
Draper discovers water, food, and solves his oxygen problem, going slightly mad in the process as he imagines he will be on Mars forever. Eventually he gains a humanoid companion (Victor Lundin) whom he names Friday. Friday is an escapee from a chain gang, and his masters must be jolly annoyed he's gone because they frequently return in their zippy little spaceships to blast to bits the region in which they think he is hiding. Eventually the pair make it to the south pole of the planet, where their adventure comes to an end.
The poster for ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS claims it is 'scientifically authentic' but the Mars of Haskin's film is a far more pleasant place than the real thing. Draper can wander around with his mask off, take baths, and gets to go on long walks against some trippy and beautifully painted backdrops, all of which look stunning on Eureka's Blu-ray transfer.
It's very much a film of its time, sandwiched between the colourful wonder of George Pal's THE TIME MACHINE (1960) and the harsher, more abrasive SF that was soon to come, like Franklin Schaffner's PLANET OF THE APES (1967). I wouldn't be at all surprised if both Andy Weir (who wrote the source novel) and Ridley Scott (who directed the film) had ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS at the back of their minds during the creation of THE MARTIAN.
Eureka's region 2 / B release has presumably been timed to coincide with THE MARTIAN's release, and why not? The transfer is gorgeous and the story quaint and charming. New viewers will watch it with a wry grin that anyone could ever have found any of this believable and fans will be delighted with the quality of the print. Extras are limited to a commentary track by film historian Robert Skotak, but it's an excellent extra that's packed with information and compliments Eureka's fine presentation very nicely indeed.
Eureka are releasing Byron Haskin's ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS ON Region 2 DVD and Region B Blu-ray as a dual format edition on 23rd November 2015