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.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars tells the story of US astronaut Commander “Kit” Draper who must fight for survival when his spaceship, Elinor M, crash-lands on the barren waste of Mars.
The story begins with the Elinor M orbiting Mars on the first official probe to test the planet’s gravity. Aboard are Draper (Paul Mantee), Colonel Dan McReady (Batman‘s Adam West) and Mona, a space-suited monkey for medical research.
McReady and Draper suddenly realise that their craft is on a collision course with a giant meteor. In a split-second evasive action, the spacecraft swings too far off course and is dragged inexorably down by the gravitational pull of Mars.
McReady and Draper separately abandon ship with McReady taking charge of Mona.
Despite its retro rockets, Draper’s ejection capsule crashes on landing, wrecking the craft and leaving food and water for only a few days.
Exhausted, Draper falls asleep only to wake up suffocating for lack of air. Without oxygen, he can sleep only an hour.
Draper sets out to find McReady but in his search only locates Mona. With no more than a few hours oxygen, Draper seems doomed.
Lightheaded, he passes out but is miraculously saved when little yellow rocks, burning and giving off bursts of gas, revive him. This gas is pure oxygen and Draper devises a method to feed the oxygen into his regular tank.
Several weeks later, a spacecraft appears over Mars and then lands.
Draper, sure he is being rescued, runs to the ship only to discover that it is not from the USA or even from Earth. Watching the ship, Draper suddenly sees a figure detach himself (a slave escaping the custody of the alien slavers’ craft) and run in his direction. The two face each other warily.
Gradually, Draper allays the fears of the newcomer (Victor Lundin) and they settle down for the night.
With the arrival of the newcomer – who Draper jokingly dubs “Friday” – his worst problem, loneliness, has gone. Slowly, over the months, Draper teaches Friday English, and they set out together to explore the Martian terrain and evade the alien slavers.
Finally, the two men are rescued by an Earth ship as the film closes.
Shot in vast Techniscope and blazing colour on location in Death Valley in the Mojave Desert, this is an imaginative and beloved marvel of classic science fiction.
Commander Christopher “Kit” Draper
Colonel Dan McReady