Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scientifically Authentic

I do love Sci-Fi. Not so much the SFX laden crap so often spewed forth today, but the imagination filled, concept driven, low budget restricted product of the 1950's-60's. Sure, everyone knows about The Day the Earth Stood Still, Forbidden Planet, The Fly and War of the Worlds, but what about the lesser known classics of a similar ilk?

One of my favourite films in the genre and one that I consider to be somewhat under appreciated is Robinson Crusoe on Mars. I discovered this particular gem during the occasional Sundays spent indoors during my childhood, watching afternoon matinees in an attempt to escape from the energy sapping sting of the typical Aussie summer.

From the discomfort of a non air conditioned Northern NSW home, it was very easy to imagine and empathise with the characters on my TV and the hardships they faced in their efforts to stay alive for my viewing pleasure. Yes, this is less sci-fi and more a part of my truly favourite genre: Men escaping from shit (more on that later).

Starring Barney the Monkey as "Mona" (don't ask and I won't either), Paul Mantee and Adam West in his pre-Batman days, Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a low budget attempt to present a rough estimation of what life on our red neighbour might be like for a marooned astronaut monkey and his pet human. In fairness to the film, it was made 5 years prior to the Apollo moon landing (alleged, for all you tinfoil hat wearers) and very little at the time of production was known about the planet. Temperature, vegetation, oxygen content of the atmosphere and the availability of water were all matters for conjecture that made for an entertaining but terribly inaccurate piece of cinema. But damn, do I ever love inaccurate cinema!

The story sticks closely to the original Crusoe tale: man finds island, man hates island because island rejects him, island takes pity and falls for man, man secretly falls for some escaped Tongan dude, island feeling scorned releases both men) only that I can't quite recall the part where alien spaceships mined for minerals on the island that the original Crusoe called home. Perhaps Defoe only put that in the uncut version of his novel along with the deleted sex scenes.

Whilst not a great film, or anywhere close to accurate (breathing on Mars with only occasional aid of oxygen filled rocks) and is rather slowly paced, I still enjoy this movie as a quasi-adult, just like I did when I was 7. It's escapist fun and is not the sort of entertainment to be offered to anyone who lacks in imagination or humour. If you're the type of sick weirdo to point out the glaring inaccuracies to your friends when watching this type of film just DON'T! There is no need for that - just read the disclaimer from the original lobby card and inhale deeply. "This film is SCIENTIFICALLY AUTHENTIC is only one step of present reality." Compelling stuff, right?

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