sunday-matineeI still haven’t seen Ridley Scott’s The Martian yet, a month of watching and writing about old horror movies tends to put you behind recent movies. But I will soon, meanwhile today’s Sunday Matinee is about another astronaut who was also stranded on Mars, the 1964 independent sci-fi film Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

The movie is essentially a sci-fi retelling of Robinson Crusoe. Astronauts Paul Mantee and Adam West are going to be the first men on Mars. On reaching Mars, they are forced to use up their fuel to avoid a meteor. They both take escape pods down to Mars leaving their ship orbiting the planet but Mantee lands alone and has to scrounge to survive.

Robinson Crusoe on MarsHe finds a cave for shelter and then needs to figure out how to get oxygen, food and water. He discovers that burning some of the rocks actually releases oxygen so he can breath. He then discovers the other escape pod and West’s dead body. But the flight test monkey survived. The monkey comes in handy because it later discovers a source of water underground.

The movie gets a little silly when aliens show up to mine Mars using humanoid slaves. One of the slaves escapes and starts hanging out with Mantee. Then the alien ships start looking for the slave.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars was directed by Byron Haskin, who had directed War of the Worlds for George Pal. The movie had positive reviews when it was released but it bombed at the box office. It has since gained a cult following and the Criterion Collection has released the movie on both DVD and more recently on Blu-ray. It may not be as scientifically accurate as the trailers claim but it’s still a pretty ambitious low budget sci-fi movie and more importantly it’s pretty entertaining to watch.