Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Robinson Crusoe On Mars (1964)

A showcase for then-stellar special effects, this silly, yet ambitious sci-fi film depicts a shipwrecked astronaut attempting to survive alone on the red planet. The most interesting moments are in the first 15 minutes, as we discover that (future Mayor) Adam West, one of the two astronauts headed for Mars, is not, in fact, the protagonist of the film. Other than that, any integrity the film has is fairly middled away as soon as they reach Mars, which is not only distinctly un-red, but has a shocking amount of treadable terrain, drinkable water, breathable air (with the aid of magical space rocks, of course), and, inevitably, an indigenous, humanoid civilization. Oh yeah, and there's a cute space monkey to keep our lead occupied until he finds his companion, a subservient Martian miner who is the last of his kind, yet harbors no ill will towards this space man who spends every waking moment trying to inundate him with Earth (read: American) culture, i.e. English, God, etc. There are alien attacks, but no actual, physical aliens; they send their death rays from the safety of their War of the Worlds-looking spacecrafts. The lead puts up a strong figure until the weight of the excesses of the narrative make any attempt at seriousness futile. However, the film does have a great many set pieces and special effects, which, for the most part, are on par or superior than any sci-fi coming out at that time. A lava flow, in particular, is surprisingly well-rendered for a production that, clearly, didn't have the first flipping clue about the REAL Mars. But the whole thing is ludicrous, cynically derivative, and uninvolving, and fails to provide anything in the way of provocative sci-fi due to its reliance on made-up characteristics of Mars and a lack of any strong story elements beyond its source material.

Skip It, save for hardcore fans of corny '60s sci-fi or practical/optical effects, which, admittedly, are pretty impressive here (save for fake snow that looks more ready to be sprinkled on Corn Flakes than a Martian terrain).

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