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Directed by Byron Haskin
USA 1964

Special-effects wunderkind and genre master Byron Haskin (The War of the Worlds, The Outer Limits) won a place in the hearts of fantasy-film lovers everywhere with this gorgeously designed journey into the unknown. When his spaceship crash-lands on the barren wastelands of Mars, U.S. astronaut Commander "Kit" Draper (Paul Mantee) must fight for survival, with a pet monkey seemingly his only companion. But is he alone? Shot in vast Techniscope and blazing Technicolor, Robinson Crusoe on Mars is an imaginative and beloved techni-marvel of classic science fiction.

***

Don't let the dreadful title put you off - this is an interesting curiosity, a relatively straight science fiction adaptation of the Defoe novel, with special effects that don't stand up to today's standards, but some remarkably accurate observations about Mars. An astronaut (Mantee) is stranded on the Red Planet with just his monkey Mona and has to survive (finding oxygen in the rocks, water at the poles, etc). Along comes an alien (Lundin, good performance, lousy monster suit) who is given the name Friday and together they work out a living relationship. It's become something of a cult classic, but deserves a wider audience.

Excerpt from Channel Four located HERE

***

Intelligently imaginative sci-fi version of the Defoe classic, in which an astronaut and his monkey are stranded on Mars, and later joined by the humanoid slave of an alien race. Haskin and producer George Pal provide the same excellent camerawork and special effects that marked their earlier The War of the Worlds and Naked Jungle (the hostility of the Martian landscape is spectacularly evoked in California's Death Valley); but here, harnessed to a surprisingly faithful rendition of Defoe's conception, the result is an economical, subtle study both of Crusoe's will to survive, and of the hesitant growing friendship between the astronaut and his futuristic Friday. Most remarkably, Haskin avoids sentimentality even when dealing with the monkey, such is the assured sensitivity of the film.

Excerpt from TimeOut Film guide located HERE

Posters

Theatrical Release: June 1964

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Comparison

 Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray

Criterion - Region 1 - NTSC LEFT vs. Criterion - Region 'A' - Blu-ray RIGHT

DVD Box Cover

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 404 - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine # 404 - Region A - Blu-ray
Runtime 1:49:44  1:49:55.630
Video 2.35:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 6.99 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 37,576,571,815 bytes

Feature: 32,415,178,752 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Bitrate: Blu-ray

Audio English (Dolby Digital 1.0)  LPCM Audio English 1152 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 1152 kbps / 24-bit
Dolby Digital Audio English 192 kbps 1.0 / 48 kHz / 192 kbps 
Subtitles English, None English, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary featuring screenwriter Ib Melchior, actors Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, production designer Al Nozaki, Oscar-winning special effects designer and Robinson Crusoe on Mars historian Robert Skotak, and excerpts from a 1979 audio interview with director Byron Haskin
• Destination: Mars, a new video featurette by Michael Lennick detailing the science behind Robinson Crusoe on Mars
• Excerpts from Melchior's original screenplay
• New music video for Victor Lundin's song "Robinson Crusoe on Mars"
• Stills gallery of behind-the-scenes photos, production designs, and promotional material
• Theatrical trailer
• Liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by filmmaker and space historian Michael Lennick, Melchior's "Brief Yargorian Dictionary" of original alien dialect, and a list of facts about Mars from his original screenplay

DVD Release Date: September 18th, 2007

Transparent Keep Case
Chapters: 24

Release Information:
Studio: Criterion Collection

1080P Dual-layered Blu-ray

Disc Size: 37,576,571,815 bytes

Feature: 32,415,178,752 bytes

Video Bitrate: 35.00 Mbps

Codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video

Edition Details:

• Audio commentary featuring screenwriter Ib Melchior, actors Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, production designer Al Nozaki, Oscar-winning special effects designer and Robinson Crusoe on Mars historian Robert Skotak, and excerpts from a 1979 audio interview with director Byron Haskin
• Destination: Mars, a new video featurette by Michael Lennick detailing the science behind Robinson Crusoe on Mars
• Excerpts from Melchior's original screenplay
• New music video for Victor Lundin's song "Robinson Crusoe on Mars"
• Stills gallery of behind-the-scenes photos, production designs, and promotional material
• Theatrical trailer
• Liner notes booklet featuring a new essay by filmmaker and space historian Michael Lennick, Melchior's "Brief Yargorian Dictionary" of original alien dialect, and a list of facts about Mars from his original screenplay

Blu-ray Release Date: January 11th, 2011

Transparent
Blu-ray Case
Chapters: 23

 

Comments:

NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were ripped directly from the Blu-ray disc.

ADDITION: Criterion Region 'A' Blu-ray December 10': Firstly, I LOVED revisiting Robinson Crusoe on Mars in 1080P. This is not in the same genre mold as the exploitive 'Drive-in style' creature features of It Came from Beneath the Sea, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers or 20 Million Miles to Earth that came before it in the 50's (and are also now on Blu-ray). This was the next generation of science-fiction film with more realism and well thought-out technicals although still carrying heavy nostalgia in that particular vein and the effects seem slightly more transparent in the higher resolution - but not disturbingly so. Actually the image quality, with a very high bitrate, looks even better than I was anticipating. The effects and visuals looks quite video-like on the flatter DVD but certainly jump to a new life on the Blu-ray transfer. Colors are more vibrant, detail rises and there is even a smidgeon of depth. Grain and film textures are also apparent and contrast is at Criterion's usual high standards. These factors really enhance the appearance bringing it much closer to how it may have appeared theatrically - over 45 years ago. I doubt it will ever look much better for your home theater consumption.

Audio remains faithfully 1.0 channel mono but gets the lossless treatment and produces a slightly cleaner/crisper track with some perceived depth. It's not a big boost but there is some superiority - notable in a few scenes. There are optional English subtitles and, predictably, my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.

Extras appear duplicated (see descriptions below) in my brief checking although absent are the script excerpts from Ib Melchior’s original via computer accessibility in Adobe Acrobat Reader format that was put on the DVD root (at least I couldn't find it on the Blu-ray). The commentary, booklet and other supplements are all retained.

I really enjoy older films like this coming to Blu-ray. The improved resolution and lossless sound establish the sci-fi adventure aura so much better than the DVD. I felt much more like I was watching this in a theatrical setting in the early 60's. This is such a cool film - one I was thoroughly entertained by - certain in the knowledge that I will repeat the pleasure of the experience again and again. This Blu-ray is strongly recommended!

***

ON THE DVD: The Criterion image quality is predictably very good. Strong indeed with subtle but true-appearing colors, excellent contrast and healthy detail considering the age of the film. There are some very infrequent and minor speckles but that can be the only complaint on this impressive scope film transferred on a dual-layered disc - anamorphic and progressive.  It has steady mono audio (no pops or drop outs) and the feature sports optional English subtitles.

The DVD offers an optional commentary (same one as originally on the Criterion LaserDisc) with screenwriter Ib Melchior, actors Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, production designer Al Nozaki, Oscar-winning special effects designer and Robinson Crusoe on Mars historian Robert Skotak, and excerpts from a 1979 audio interview with director Byron Haskin. Participants are frank and enjoyable - many pertinent details of production are explored and expressed - certainly worth a listen. There is a 19 minute 4:3 featurette called “Destination: Mars” discussing the technical faux-pas of the film. Actor Victor Lundin composed a song for sci-fi conventions (included on his 2000 album called Little Owl) - it has been turned into a kind of MusicVideo with clips from the film (runs almost 4 minutes). There is a stills gallery with sketches, storyboards, etc.  A 4-minute theatrical trailer is anamorphically presented which offers an optional commentary track. There are some script excerpts from Ib Melchior’s original for computer accessibility in Adobe Acrobat Reader format. Finally a 14-page liner notes booklet offers a new essay by filmmaker and space historian Michael Lennick, Melchior's "Brief Yargorian Dictionary" of original alien dialect, and a list of facts about Mars from his original screenplay.

My copy arrived quite late and I was extra-anxious to re-watch this film as per my penchant for the genre. It's been decades since I've seen it. It definitely has a viable edge over many similar entrees from the same time period - thoughtful and imaginative with a heavy emphasis on the, often inventive, camerawork. A true gem of the past and after my thorough enjoyment during my viewing, I feel compelled to endorse with a strong recommendation.    

Gary W. Tooze

 


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DVD Box Cover

Distribution Criterion Collection - Spine # 404 - Region 1 - NTSC Criterion Collection - Spine # 404 - Region A - Blu-ray




 

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