More noise than signal

Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Republished from the show notes of my other site, Fuds on Film.

When speaking of the more fanciful era of films exploring the then more mysterious Mars, Robinson Crusoe on Mars presents us with a representative sample and also a rare instance of the elevator pitch surviving to become the title of the finished film.

The core attraction for me in this film was a screenshot of Adam West and a monkey, so it’s a bit of a downer to find out that the pre-Batman TV Show West wasn’t a big enough star to make it past the first ten minutes, as his Col. Dan McReady doesn’t survive a crash landing after their vessel takes emergency manoeuvres to avoid a rogue comet and makes an unintended trip to the surface.

All is not lost, as Paul Mantee’s Cmdr. Christopher ‘Kit’ Draper survives the crash, along with ship’s monkey Mona. Don’t ask. Like all good shipwreck survival stories, they must overcome the odds and find at least the first few levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. So, while recording infrequent logs describing his activities, he goes about trying to find sources of food and water, then starts exploring the surroundings, making a startling discovery that he is not alone on the Red Planet.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars raises far more questions than it answers, or even addresses in any form at all. Why is there a breathable atmosphere on Mars? Why do the the rocks produce oxygen when heated? What’s the deal with these randomly roaming fireballs? Why is there water on Mars? Why is there a race of human slaves on Mars? Who’s enslaving them? Why, when it seems very much like they have more advanced spacecraft, don’t they care that much about humans invading their territory? Why is there a plant on Mars that grows pepperoni sausages? Why are the pepperoni sausages safe if eaten raw but powerful hallucinogens when cooked? Why did they bring a monkey to Mars?

Now, as the film doesn’t seem to spend any time at all considering these questions, I don’t suppose it’s worth our time doing so either. This film very much takes advantage of the question marks over what conditions on Mars were at the time, which is perhaps its greatest failing for modern audiences. If we can politely put these concerns to the side for one minute, perhaps we can see the rationale for putting this in the Criterion Collection…

Nope, this is a boring pile of twaddle that’s aged poorly, and the content has been revisited to better effect in more recent films. Avoid, unless you’ve a thing for the kitsch 60’s adventure sci-fi that’s heavier on the fi than the sci.