Robinson Crusoe on Mars is silly. It’s inconsistent and silly. The film survives a weak first act–the narrative trick of opening with one character (played, poorly, by Adam West) and then transferring to another (Paul Mantee) is fine, only Mantee doesn’t get any good material for quite a while. Mars, which–as the title suggests–is about a man alone on Mars–often requires its characters to act like complete morons.
Could the film get away with it if characters were exhibiting real panic? Sure. But they don’t. Mantee gets a dream sequence at one point in the early second act; the movie could have gotten real interesting at that point, but doesn’t. It does, however, get better. Mantee, all by himself, gets a lot better.
And director Haskin shows some creativity with the pacing through these sequences. Mars surprises, something Ib Melchior and John C. Higgins’s script otherwise seems hesitant to attempt. Instead, the script usually plays for the most obvious. Unfortunately, Haskin doesn’t have any problem with it–especially in the third act, which goes on forever and never does anything.
There’s a lot with Mantee’s monkey sidekick. Then Mantee upgrades to a humanoid–Victor Lundin as an escaped alien slave–and the monkey disappears. Only the script’s so bad regarding Mantee and Lundin’s relationship and character development, Mars worked a lot better with the monkey.
The ending flops too.
Rather good editing from Terry O. Morse helps things and Van Cleave’s music’s nice.
Otherwise, Mars’s rough.
Directed by Byron Haskin; screenplay by Ib Melchior and John C. Higgins, based on a novel by Daniel Defoe; director of photography, Winton C. Hoch; edited by Terry O. Morse; music by Van Cleave; produced by Aubrey Schenck; released by Paramount Pictures.
Starring Paul Mantee (Cmdr. Christopher Draper), Victor Lundin (Friday) and Adam West (Col. Dan McReady).
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