Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Beg to Differ

It may be a little hard to read, but in lower left corner of the poster for Robinson Crusoe on Mars there's an official-looking seal thingy with the following quote:
"This film is SCIENTIFICALLY AUTHENTIC..." I truly do beg to differ, because even in 1964 when this ridiculous Sci-Fi version of the DeFoe novel was made, they knew Mars was not on fire!

Starring manly Paul Mantee as Cmdr Christopher 'Kit' Draper and future Batman Adam West as Col. Dan MacReady as his co-pilot on a Two Men and a Monkey space mission gone awry, resulting in a crash landing on the Red Planet. With MacReady no longer ready for anything, Draper and the monkey must try to survive the hostel planet.

Remember how I said Mars wasn't on fire? (I'll prove it, if you want me to) Well, this "SCIENTIFICALLY AUTHENTIC" movie says Draper lands on "the fire-swamp that is Mars!" (I always wondered where Goldman got that name), and thus its atmosphere must contain oxygen, so the monkey and the space cowboy can at least breathe. They even find water and primitive seaweed to eat. Then it gets even less Scientifically Authentic when the ships from War of the Worlds show up and laser blast their own damned planet to mine some rare element. Of course, one of the aliens' humanoid slaves escapes and Draper names him Friday, just to see if they could get DeFoe to spin in his grave a little faster.

Now, I read a few really positive reviews of this movie on various sites and blogs, but I was dubious, because even as a kid I thought it was cheap-looking, so I went back and watched parts of it again on YouTube. I'm sorry to say that my memories of this Byron Haskin film are all correct. Haskin did lots of TV for Disney and would later make The Power, an interesting thriller about telekinesis, ESP and mind-control. He was also an FX man on Pal's War of the Worlds. The matte paintingss are quite beautifully rendered, until they stick real people (or worse - 2D rocketship landings) in front of them, and you realize how fake they actually are.

The actors are game enough (like the bird many of us will be eating in four days) and they all manage to get through the thing without sniggering at the complete inanity of what they're doing. They were contract players and they earned their checks, went home at night and envied really big stars. At least Mona the Woolly Monkey had no idea she was making such a bad movie. Or did she? After the trailer, we'll talk about the DRS* (Drumstick Rating System).

Pee-yew! "Scientifically Authentic" my Aunt Fannie's ass! Three out of Five Drumsticks.*

*For the next four days, leading up to the Big Bad Movie Spectacular, I'll be rating the movies I discuss sort-of in reverse of my usual star system. I am, despite what one might think, a breast man. I don't like (nor have I ever liked) thighs or drumsticks. In fact, you might say I really hate drumsticks. So, the DRS works like this: The more Drumsticks, the worse the movie. In other words, One Drumstick is: "Eh - that wasn't so awful" and Five Drumsticks is "Oh dear God in Heaven, who fed that old dog beans?!" Got it?

And if you haven't already, don't forget to check out my new weekly blog Prospero's Zombie Zone.

More, anon.

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