New on Blu: ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and more
This week's Blu-ray releases run the gamut of classiness in terms of 2010 films making their way to home video. Not only is PIRANHA 3D nipping its way into your living room, THE SOCIAL NETWORK, one of 2010's most praised films, is available to own. We take a look at a Criterion title for you, a Blu-ray upgrade of the sci-fi classic ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS.
The 1964 sci-fi film ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS begins with two men, Col. Dan McReady (Adam West) and Cmdr. 'Kit' Draper (Paul Mantee), and a monkey named Mona in a spaceship orbiting Mars. They are in the final leg of a exploratory mission when they become stuck in Mars' gravitational pull after narrowly avoiding a collision with an asteroid. They have no choice but to use separate escape pods to land on Mars' surface. After landing, Kit must fight the harsh alien environment and learn to survive. Eventually, he finds McReady's pod and rejoins with Mona. Together they make the best of their situation by putting good NASA training to use before discovering they might not be alone.
That ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS is fairly dull through a majority of its runtime (especially on repeated viewings) makes it no less fascinating as a timepiece of science-fiction filmmaking. As a film which was marketed as scientifically accurate, it can now be viewed as a somewhat humorous portrayal of a planet that we have long since learned is rather different than the one on which Paul Mantee and his buddy monkey learned to live. Still, if you think of it as some unnamed alien planet, it is quite interesting to see the classic Robin Crusoe story updated for the space age. The photography and sound design are both top notch, lending an air of credibility. Also - who doesn't love a movie with a monkey in a starring role?
Criterion is re-releasing ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS on Blu-ray and the disc retains the special features from the DVD. There is a packed commentary, listed as "Audio commentary featuring screenwriter Ib Melchior, actors Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, production designer Al Nozaki, Oscar-winning special effects designer and Robinson Crusoe on Mars historian Robert Skotak, and excerpts from a 1979 audio interview with director Byron Haskin." The commentary is rich with details regarding the evolution of the film and the ideas contained within. Even though there are multiple sources for the commentary, great attention was paid to making it a seamless experience and, as such, it is a rewarding track. Next we have Destination: Mars, a 20-minute piece created by filmmaker and space historian Michael Lennick which discusses the science behind the film (there's actually some stuff they got right). It is a short but information packed featurette. Next up is a video for actor Victor Lundin's song "Robinson Crusoe on Mars" (re-recorded in 2000) composed of scenes from the film. Finally, the theatrical trailer is included as is a collection of pre-production sketches from the original script when the film was intended as more of a '50s style pulp flick. It is a solid package for an interesting (historically if nothing else) film.
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