Ain't It Cool News (
Movie News

A Movie A Day: Quint visits ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS (1964)! This film is scientifically authentic!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day. [For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]

I love monkeys. Everybody loves monkeys, but nothing triggers a Harry-like childish glee in me more than monkeys in movies. I don’t know if I can explain it… I do have a picture of me at age 3 or 4 sitting with a chimp in a diaper and there’s the same look on my face in that picture that I assume is on my face when I see any simian in a film to this day.

So you can imagine my excitement in getting to ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS. Not only was it the first sci-fi film on the schedule, not only was it the first Criterion release on the schedule, but the cover is a painting of a monkey in a space suit! Yeah, the movie is cheesy. And on the surface it seems to defy all notions of science and is full of huge plot holes, but as the movie progressed I noticed that what I thought were huge jumps in logic (like being able to breath on Mars, even for a little bit) was actually starting to be explained. It might be scientifically bullshit (despite the big proclamation on the poster), but at least they give us some explanation and reveal it in an interesting way.

In the film you have two astronauts in orbit around Mars. Well, three if you count Mona, the monkey who looks so incredibly pissed off to be put in a spacesuit.

They are forced off course to avoid a meteor and get caught in the atmosphere and have to bail out. We follow Paul Mantee’s Kit Draper as he tries to survive, with his air tanks running out, limited food and water and a sudden external threat in the form of Alien ships. The other astronaut is, interestingly, played by Adam West (pictured above) two years before he played Batman on TVs across America. West doesn’t have much to do, it very much is Mantee’s show, but you get the impression he’s kind of a badass in the little bit we get to know him before the forced ejection. He also has a great moment during a nightmare sequence that is genuinely creepy.

The real treat of this film is the sci-fi imagery, the Martian landscapes given to us using awesome matte paintings… they don’t look in the least bit real, but the style more than makes up for that. A lot of the props feel like they were taken directly off of the Star Trek set, but again… even though they’re not at all realistic, there’s a charm to the uniformity of the style. When we first see the space ships (alien miners using slave laborers) you can tell right away that Byron Haskin is reusing his WAR OF THE WORLD ships. Same design completely. But I’ll look at that as a cool nod to his previous work. Haskin started in special effects, so that would help explain why the visuals were done so well here. Criterion doesn’t disappoint with its beautiful transfer, the Technicolor popping off the screen. I’ve never been the biggest sci-fi nerd in the world, so I might not be the best to look at this and proclaim it the most super awesomest thing ever, but I found it to be a fascinating watch and an interesting take on the Robinson Crusoe story. The schedule for the next 7 days: Wednesday, June 18th: CITY FOR CONQUEST (1940) Thursday, June 19th: SAN QUENTIN (1937) Friday, June 20th: 42nd STREET (1933) Saturday, June 21st: DAMES (1934) Sunday, June 22nd: GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935 (1935) Monday, June 23rd: MURDER, MY SWEET (1944) Tuesday, June 24th: BORN TO KILL (1947) Tomorrow we follow director Byron Haskins over to 1940s gangster flick CITY FOR CONQUEST starring James Cagney and Ann Sheridan. Haskins didn’t direct CITY FOR CONQUEST, but was part of the special effects department on the film. The next couple promise to get us back to darker territory, then we lighten up a bit for some Busby Berkeley musicals before dipping back down into noir. See you on the next one!


Previous Movies: June 2nd: Harper
June 3rd: The Drowning Pool
June 4th: Papillon
June 5th: Gun Crazy
June 6th: Never So Few
June 7th: A Hole In The Head
June 8th: Some Came Running
June 9th: Rio Bravo
June 10th: Point Blank
June 11th: Pocket Money
June 12th: Cool Hand Luke
June 13th: The Asphalt Jungle
June 14th: Clash By Night
June 15th: Scarlet Street
June 16th: Killer Bait (aka Too Late For Tears)

Readers Talkback
comments powered by Disqus
    + Expand All
  • June 17, 2008, 10:32 p.m. CST


    by theskypatrol

    Mr. Eko, go to hell.

  • June 17, 2008, 10:35 p.m. CST

    I'll see anything with a monkey.

    by Funketeer

  • June 17, 2008, 10:36 p.m. CST

    Water Ice on Mars

    by zinc_chameleon

    Turns out to be way more common that anyone would have thought even a decade ago. The general consensus is that there are plenty on resources on Mars to support a high-tech lifestyle. If I remember,the space-ships were direct steals from 'War of the Worlds'.

  • June 17, 2008, 10:37 p.m. CST


    by Quint

    Great line in the movie, but it struck me that the poster's proclamation makes a funnier subhead... you were one of the lucky ones to see the original subhead, though!

  • June 17, 2008, 10:37 p.m. CST

    Not first. heh

    by jae683

  • June 17, 2008, 11:15 p.m. CST

    Is that the monkey that assisted Shia Lebooof in Peru?

    by g-ride9000

    fuck yeah helper monkey!

  • June 17, 2008, 11:26 p.m. CST

    Very, very good film!

    by kirttrik

    Thanks for reminding me about it. I remember watching it on Monster Theater on Sundays when I was a kid. A hell of a lot better than Red Planet, of course that's with my childhood sentimentality kicking in.

  • June 17, 2008, 11:42 p.m. CST

    great job Quint

    by damagedinc

    This column rules. Also...what's the deal with the Tom Cruise 25 years thing? If it's legit, it's one of the most bizarre examples of self-congratulation i've ever seen.

  • June 17, 2008, 11:50 p.m. CST

    Adam West did the Batuzi with all the young girls in his trailer

    by Groothewarrior

    a whole lotta hippie chicks slid down the Bat pole into the cave!

  • June 18, 2008, 12:11 a.m. CST

    Adam West is Macready!

    by Prossor

    same name as Kurt Russell's character in The Thing. AUSUM

  • June 18, 2008, 12:18 a.m. CST

    Journal Day One:

    by Angry Bald Guy

    Ate tube cheese.

  • June 18, 2008, 12:30 a.m. CST


    by Uncle Stan

    I last saw this when I was a kid and I remember a scene where the protagonist is watching a recording of a square scientist giving survival tips. Thanks to this film, I have never resorted to drinking my own urine.

  • June 18, 2008, 12:39 a.m. CST

    Paul Mantee

    by LeviDTinker

    was my acting coach when i first moved to Los Angeles 6 years ago,learned a lot from him great actor and a great instructor.

  • June 18, 2008, 1:13 a.m. CST

    AICN! Get on it!

    by half vader

    The HD Benjamin Button trailer is out! It's the life story of Orville Redenbacher (injoke)!

  • June 18, 2008, 1:27 a.m. CST

    Good childhood memories of this one....

    by Aloy

    ...although not quite an all time fav. Just curious as to what the link was between this and the other films?

  • June 18, 2008, 2:18 a.m. CST

    Funilly enough watched this just a couple of weeks ago

    by judge dredds fresh undies

    It was a little painful to sit through but it was compelling enough for me to want to watch it till the end. And yes Mona does not look at all happy in many segments of the film especially at the begining. I'm pretty sure that monkey would be treated differently were the film made today! The Mr Eko line made me chuckle, worth watching just for that bit if you're a lost fan. I agree the matte paintings are ace, they reminded me of the Lucas arts game 'The Dig' Oh and Friday looks fucking ridiculous in this film, he also made me laugh a lot.

  • June 18, 2008, 2:28 a.m. CST

    Not a big fan of monkey movies

    by Napoleon Park

    oh, Cheetah in the Weissmueller[sp?] Tarzan's was great.<p>True story. My dad had HBo ofr over a decade, Showtime on and off, Cinemax briefly. A year os so after he died, one night i stayed up all night, was tired and burned out but not sleepy the next morning, had the Tv on. The Jason Alexander movie "Dunston Checks In" came on and so I watched it. it was relatively enjoyable in my exhausted and lowered discretion state. however, once it was over I realized "Oh my ghod, I just watched a monkey movie" and immediately made the phone call to cancel my HBO. That's why I've never seen SexAndTheCity or The Sopranos or any of their other post-Larry Sanders/Arliss originals.

  • June 18, 2008, 3 a.m. CST


    by tomdolan04

    Dont we get posters for films like THAT anymore!!! So cool!

  • June 18, 2008, 3:31 a.m. CST


    by Mr_X

    ya gotta love em. bonus points for adam west though!

  • June 18, 2008, 3:32 a.m. CST

    Gold Diggers of 33

    by Fortunesfool

    is better. Very funny screenplay 'Why, I bet you're as light as a heifer, I mean, feather!' and great dance numbers. For what it's worth.

  • June 18, 2008, 4:35 a.m. CST

    Makes me wanna watch Enemy Mine again.

    by Knuckleduster

    For some strange reason.

  • June 18, 2008, 5:23 a.m. CST

    Where is Criterion's SANTA CLAUS VS. THE MARTIANS?

    by Det. John Kimble

    Well? We're WAITING!

  • June 18, 2008, 6:53 a.m. CST

    Met "Friday" at a con

    by Dazzler69

    Wow was he weird for an old guy. He made up a song for the movie that made him sound goofy.

  • June 18, 2008, 6:54 a.m. CST

    Saw it twice at the theater (Spoiler)

    by BDT

    I think I was about 8. I loved it. I remember very clearly the strange "tubers" he found for food. Later he found a hand with a ring on it frozen in the snow, presumably his shipmate. It haunted me in nightmares ala "Deliverance" for months...maybe I was just too young for such imagery. But I really liked the movie way back then. Your review made me nostalgic.

  • June 18, 2008, 7:06 a.m. CST


    by br1947


  • June 18, 2008, 7:22 a.m. CST

    I think they show it on the German SciFi Channel...

    by DerLanghaarige

    ...every few weeks. I will watch it when it's on next time ;)

  • June 18, 2008, 7:37 a.m. CST

    This movie...

    by Series7

    LOOKS FUCKING AWESOME! I saw it on the list and was like? Seeing those posters now I must rent.

  • June 18, 2008, 7:41 a.m. CST

    And wholly shit

    by Series7

    Its on Criterion.

  • June 18, 2008, 8:20 a.m. CST

    Such a great movie.

    by KazamaSmokers

    One of my favorites as a kid. Has a lot of heart. The bagpipe scene is wonderful.

  • June 18, 2008, 8:54 a.m. CST

    Saw this at a drive-in in the mid '60s

    by skimn

    Must have been a re-release, because the newspaper ad featured a mention of Adam "Batman" West. Love the pageboy haircut on "Friday".<p> Could you say this was rethought out as Emeny Mine?

  • June 18, 2008, 9:07 a.m. CST

    One of my favorite movies as a kid.

    by Ingeld

    I think it suffers mostly from a cheesy title.

  • June 18, 2008, 9:11 a.m. CST

    One of the classic Sci-Fi movies...

    by Philvis

    Glad to see you are expanding your knowledge of great classic movies Quint. This is definitely one of my favorite "classic" sci-fi movies. The story is enveloping and it is done in a manner that it could take place anywhere. It's easy to forget it is taking place on Mars because it could be a struggle at any remote place.

  • June 18, 2008, 9:46 a.m. CST

    QUINT - Have you seen Enemy Mine?

    by Ninja Nerd

    As I said yesterday in the TB, I saw RCOM when it came out and several times since on TV. I believe one of the major networks...NBC comes to mind...ran this in primetime around 1970. I thought it was pretty good. Many years later, I read a story by Barry Longyear in Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. It was Enemy Mine, which became the movie. I was struck by the similar situations, with the interesting juxtaposition of the "alien slavers" being humans in the latter movie. If you haven't seen EM, you might check it out and see what I mean. Lastly, I'm loving this series you're doing. I've seen many of these and it's cool to see your take on them. Great work, dude!

  • June 18, 2008, 9:50 a.m. CST

    Monkey movie done right

    by bobjustbob

    Loved this movie as a kid. I've probably seen it dozens of times. Must see again!

  • June 18, 2008, 10:22 a.m. CST

    I love this movie

    by theheavy

    Another movie my dad introduced me to

  • June 18, 2008, 10:28 a.m. CST

    Very cool....Enemy Mine and TBer's as old as me!

    by Ninja Nerd

    Man, sometimes I think I'm the oldest person on AICN. Seeing the "I saw this as a kid" comments makes me feel a lot better! Plus, several of you got the Enemy Mine vibe as I did. This is why I keep coming out here, I guess. Every now and then, a cool TB without children spewing mindless crapola. Everyone...especially Quint, take a bow; you've made my day!

  • June 18, 2008, 11:46 a.m. CST

    Retro Science Fiction...gotta love it.

    by Blue_Demon

    This movie is cool as hell. I love matte paintings. I don't care if they don't look realistic. There's just something about them that makes me feel good. Also, they had great looking spacesuits back in the day, eh? This suit and the ones used on several of the old "Outer Limits" episodes are my favorites.<p>Now that a couple of talkbackers have mentioned it, this movie does remind me of "Enemy Mine." All I remember about that one was the annoying way Louis Gosset Jr. spoke.

  • June 18, 2008, 12:58 p.m. CST

    TNT used to show this maybe once a month

    by FluffyUnbound

    Before it turned into the All Law and Order All the Time Network. I'm surprised you haven't seen it because of its unbelievable late night TV ubiquity. There was a time there in the early 90's when TNT would show Star Trek: TNG reruns and crazy old sci-fi like this quite a bit late at night. Good times for insomniacs.

  • June 18, 2008, 1 p.m. CST

    Similar, but not identical

    by The StarWolf

    They used the 'body' of the 50s WAR OF THE WORLDS machines, minus the top-mounted, goose-necked death ray, and with the addition of an underside, crystaline ray weapon. So, similar, yes, but hardly identical.

  • June 18, 2008, 1 p.m. CST

    Picture how often TNT shows Gladiator

    by FluffyUnbound

    and you have an idea how often they used to show this movie. I think Ted Turner likes monkeys too.

  • June 18, 2008, 1:08 p.m. CST


    by Darth Macchio

    ¡El mono del peligro al rescate!!! <p><p><p>I actually got bit by a monkey once. How many of you can say that and not also be lying? Hah! I thought so!

  • June 18, 2008, 3:17 p.m. CST

    this is a great series of articles!

    by filmfanatic1

    good move on this A MOVIE A DAY SERIES! no stupid snarks, just everybody's take on an off-the-wall flick. Keep it going or pass it along!

  • June 18, 2008, 4:33 p.m. CST

    Yeah... that weird plant he ate

    by Quint

    I forgot... I was going to mention it in the article, but was anybody else kinda grossed out when he finds that seaweed-like plant and pops open the pods and finds little martian cocktail weenies inside?

  • June 18, 2008, 4:33 p.m. CST

    I first heard about this movie

    by Bloo

    because of a book on the old Batman TV series. It was one of those books that were popular in the mid 90s that give you a brief history of the show and then a synopsis of every episode, triva, etc.<P>I'm not sure if it was mentioned in the history of how Adam West got cast or if someone involved in this movie made an apperance in Batman (beyond West of course), but I remember hearing about it and desperatly wanting to see it<P>I saw it later on I believe TNT (as I too remember Star Trek:TNG followed by goofy Sci-Fi) but might have been Sci-Fi channel or even like WGN or WPIX (for some reason my little town in Kansas carried these channels out of NYC and Chiago BEFORE they were "superstations", had local news and everything) in fact I do think it was probably on WPIX that I saw this, anyways, fun movie<P>as an aside, I've been wondering about a good DVD release of Santa Claus vs. the Martians

  • June 18, 2008, 7:05 p.m. CST

    by cantankerous

    "was anybody else kinda grossed out when he finds that seaweed-like plant and pops open the pods and finds little martian cocktail weenies inside?" The weren't cocktail weenies, they were Martian testicles. That aside, it's a most excellent flick.

  • June 18, 2008, 8:09 p.m. CST

    Good to see I'm not the only old fart around here.

    by morGoth

    I saw this when it was in theaters too. Pretty cool as I recall and some of my buds always argued over which was better...this or 'Atragon.' Thank'ee kindly for the memories Quint and I guess I'll have to check this out again.

  • June 18, 2008, 9:17 p.m. CST

    This movie is like The Ghost & Mr. Chicken for me

    by Big Dan

    no matter what time of night they come on I have to stay up and watch them to the end.

  • June 18, 2008, 11:16 p.m. CST


    by shran

    You saw this in a theater? First run? I remember this when I was a kid in the '70's on the old Creature Feature shows. Always has been one of my favorites. There was just something very lonely and desperate, like Castaway without the beard and weight loss and substitute a volleyball for the monkey. Or Enemy Mine and substitute Louis Gossett Jr. for the volleyball. And keep the space slave miners. And have the volleyball get pregnant and give birth to a little turtle without a shell. OK, I'll shut up.

  • June 19, 2008, 12:04 a.m. CST

    In The Movie Poster That Guy Playing FRIDAY Looks Like...

    by Red Dawn Don

    In The Movie Poster That Guy Playing FRIDAY Looks Like...the dad (actor MICHEAL GROSS) from FAMILY TIES. I saw RCOM years ago when I had cable-TV. It was okay. I prefer the silly DICK VAN DYKE movie LT. ROBIN CRUSOE USN (1966). Most likely, because it has the asian lovely NANCY KWAN playing His-Girl-WEDNESDAY. Almost forgot, QUINT wrote: "A lot of the props feel like they were taken directly off of the Star Trek set" Since RCOM came out well before STAR TREK, I think that it should be stated the other way around.

  • June 19, 2008, 12:14 a.m. CST

    It is authentic

    by jackofhearts29

    Scientifically authentic... so authentic, 24 monkeys were killed while making this film.

  • June 19, 2008, 7:02 a.m. CST

    I'm looking for the Army of the Twelve Monkeys!

    by Maniaq

    Monkey? MONKEY?? I'm a gorilla ya CLOWN!!

  • June 19, 2008, 7:32 a.m. CST

    Ok, I admit it

    by GodMars

    I love this movie. I have for like 20 years.

  • June 19, 2008, 7:45 a.m. CST

    Amazon Women on the Moon!!!

    by Prometeo

    Hey, they had a monkey in a space suit too... As we approach to The Planet of the Apes era, it's obvious we'll see monkeys in more and more roles. Hey! You even got one on the Oval Office! XD

  • June 19, 2008, 8:37 a.m. CST

    Gayest Sci-Fi Movie Poster, Ever!

    by Kid Z

    ...That last one, anyway.

  • June 19, 2008, 8:42 a.m. CST

    What about...

    by Kid Z

    ..."Angry Red Planet"? That bat-spider thing always scared the shit out of me!

  • June 19, 2008, 4:11 p.m. CST

    Planet of the Vampries is another good one

    by Prossor

    if you go there you're screwed.

  • June 21, 2008, 10:29 a.m. CST


    by proper

    I first saw this on BBC2 in 1982 with my dad and at school the next day we talked about it with the teacher who remarked on the burning of rocks for oxygen.I felt superior to her as although she appreciated this film she couldn't understand Tron =>.I waited over 25 years for it to turn up again(they showed it on Sky about a month ago) and now it turns up here,weird ;>...Watching it again was a good experience,Zombie nightmare Adam West!!!!!!.Good stuff,kool posts too,nice 1 everybody.......

  • July 5, 2008, 11 p.m. CST