Robinson Crusoe on Mars Blu-ray Review
Rightly hailed as a classic
Movies reviewSRP: £12.99
This film is Scientifically Authentic ... It is only one step ahead of present reality!You know what you’re going to get with a title such as this huh? Byron Haskin (of seminal 1953 hit, War of the Worlds) directs this science fiction retelling of Daniel Defoe’s classic tale of survival and loneliness by replacing the desert island for the barren landscape (or not so much) of Mars. With a charismatic lead in Paul Mantee who manages to portray a desperate crash survivor struggling with breathable air, low rations and no company (save a monkey) with such heartfelt agony you cannot help but be pulled along for the ride. State of the art special effects bring the Red Planet to life by substituting Zabriskie Point in Death Valley with a Martian sky and keen lighting and there you have it.While alien craft, explosions and edible ‘poi sausages’ as well as the recording equipment lend an air of realism, even if the film’s predictions turn out to be scientific fantasy. But it is with the central core of desperation that the film moves forward; its deliberate pace (so far from today’s quick cut mayhem) allows a grace and empathy with the story and its character so as to be engrossing. Robinson Crusoe on Mars failed miserably at the Box-office upon its initial release, it is little wonder that it is now regarded as a classic of the genre, defying as it did expectation and showing warts and all the dangers (man had yet to set foot on the Moon) of exploration outside of our own planet.
Picture QualityThe disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.35:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to B.
Sourced from the same re-master prepared by Criterion for their 2011 Blu-ray release, although using technically improved compression the Eureka disc exhibits the same glorious attention to detail and lush colouring. Skin texture, monkey fur, desert landscapes, sand grains; all hold a tremendous amount or detail with strong defiant edges, this goes for the interior sets or the location shoots.
Colour is wonderfully reproduced with the primaries being strong and vibrant, particularly towards the hotter hues; the red of the Martian sky for example, though greens and blues are just as well represented their prominence in the picture is somewhat limited by the landscape.
Sourced from the same re-master prepared by Criterion although using improved compression
Brightness and contrast are set well and give strong blacks that add some decent depth to the frame; the black of space is near absolute while shadow detail is somewhat limited there were no signs of crush. The odd fluctuation here and there, as well as at the edges of the frame, are seen but thats to be expected of a film of this vintage and age and certainly doesn’t detract.
Digitally there are no compression issues or edge enhancement, though some very, very slight banding was evident. The original print is in excellent condition and has cleaned up extremely well, barring the contrast variations and the expected drop in quality when older films stick was used (such as volcanic explosions etc.) to simulate Martian landscapes. The model work is exemplary, I particularly loved the destruction wrought by the alien beams. In all a terrific looking picture.
Sound QualityRobinson Crusoe on Mars has just the one track to choose from: English LPCM 2.0 mono. Another clean and bright sound track that exhibits no hiss, crackle or distortion even when at reference. This well layered mix gives priority to the dialogue which is very natural sounding and is always audible. Van Cleave’s evocative and emotional score is also well layered into the mix and pays homage to sci-fi classics while leading the action forward as well. Effects are limited, but the alien lasers are typically strong and the resultant destruction brings some decent bass. Bass itself is somewhat limited, but the score and effects do benefit from the sub in what is a well layered, but functional track.
ExtrasAudio Commentary – With (Academy Award winning) visual effects artist Robert Skotak and moderated by Michael Felsher (of Red Shirt Pictures). After initial introductions and a career summery of Skotak, this rather dry commentary spends a lot of time talking about screenwriter Ib Melchior and his contributions to the film industry as well as picking up on the film itself, its conception, effects and its place in history.
28-Page Booklet – Containing images and new writings on the film by author Paul McAuley.
Blu-ray VerdictRobinson Crusoe on Mars is a science fiction retelling of the classic book by Daniel Defoe, which while receiving somewhat lacklustre reviews upon its initial release in 1965 has gone on to achieve cult greatness in its portrayal of a lone survivor and his battle against the elements and loneliness on the Red Planet. Directing was Byron Haskin whose seminal 1953 hit, War of the Worlds clearly inspired the craft seen in this feature, but with an altogether different tone. With state of the art effects and a charismatic lead in Paul Mantee, the film follows the book very closely in its depiction of a deserted with-no-hope-of-rescue crash survivor making his way in a world where the very air is not enough to keep you alive.
The desperation is tangible and kudos must go to the makers for sticking to this motive while all other films of the era where about the warring factions or alien invasions. Rightly hailed as a classic, Robinson Crusoe on Mars has a great deal to offer in terms of pace, performance and effects and is a mile away from today’s wham, bam, thank you ma’am type of entertainment. It must also be seen as a clear influence on Ridley Scott's most recent film The Martian, which also told the story of a lone survivor on the Red Planet.
state of the art effects and a charismatic lead
As a Blu-ray set the package from Eureka is pretty decent, the picture is stunning, with plenty of detail, nice colouring, excellent black levels and a very clean print; while the sound is functional, but clear, clean and precise, well layered and sounding very natural. The extras don’t amount to much, though the exclusive audio commentary, whilst being slightly dry, does contain plenty of information about the film and its history.
You can buy Robinson Crusoe on Mars on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £12.99
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