Title frame from the trailer for Robinson Crusoe on Mars (dir. Byron Haskin, 1964).
A monkey and Paul Mantee.
Victor Lundin and Paul Mantee.
Best thought of as a pretext for the engaging display of a series of vivid matte shots with bits of live-action motion thrown in here and there as seasoning. It's almost exhilarating to witness what look like the extreme lengths the filmmakers went to in order to ensure that the special effects not look convincing. Haskin even recycles the spaceship design from his War of the Worlds: these alien crafts "dart around" by means of a rapid succession of still cartoon shots. I fumble to articulate a schema according to which such minimalistic spectacularity is an extension of the movie's general ideological blandness, the way the whole thing might as well have been a Soviet production.
Beyond that, the monkey is a nice touch (though it has surprisingly little personality), and there is a charm to the perpetually clean-crewcutness of Mantee as the Crusoe figure, matched by the Friday figure Lundin's perfectly neat pageboy do. It seems hair never grows on Mars. Adam West makes a brief appearance, two years before becoming TV's Batman.
Oh, and how many other movies can you think of that are "based on" a novel (Defoe is even given partial writing credit), but the novel in question is mentioned explicitly by one of the characters? There seems to be some violation of fictive logic there.
Labels: Byron Haskin