Cast & Crew
Felipe De Alba
Robinson Crusoe, the third son of a good family, has left England and gone to sea, against his father's wishes. In 1659, Crusoe is working on the Ariel , a ship bound from Brazil to Africa to buy slaves for Brazilian plantations, when the ship is severely damaged during a storm off the Brazilian coast. The only human survivor of the shipwreck, Crusoe manages to swim to an island, where he spends the first night sleeping in a tree. The next day, while exploring the island, he discovers that what remains of the ship is stranded on rocks just off the island. Crusoe is able to swim out to the wreck and recover many supplies, including drinking water, guns, rope, bread, tinder and flint, as well as the ship's cat. He builds a raft and transports all these to the island, just hours before the wreck shifts off the rocks and sinks. That night he is joined by a dog, Rex, who has also survived the wreck. During the following weeks, Crusoe builds a ready to light beacon to alert passing ships and constructs a compound against wild beasts and savages. The compound incorporates a cave in which he stores his supplies. In his eleventh month on the island, Crusoe develops a fever and becomes delirious, imagining that his father has come there to reproach him. The fever passes, however, and one day, in a chest he recovered from the wreck, he finds a Bible which provides much solace. He also finds some wheat seeds with which he is able to start a wheat crop and eventually makes bread. There are many species of birds and animals on the island, including goats from which he obtains milk. He adopts a parrot, and the cat produces a litter of kittens, but Crusoe can never establish who fathered them. On one of his journeys, he sees a distant island and attempts to reach it by building a canoe. However, the canoe cannot withstand the ocean, becomes swamped and he has to return. On the fifth anniversary of his landing on the island, Crusoe gets drunk and imagines that his former shipmates are with him, but ultimately realizes that he is still desperately alone. More years pass and Rex dies, leaving him more alone than ever. He goes to a valley with an echo and recites passages from "The Lord's Prayer" in order to hear the sound of another human voice. By his eighteenth year of solitude, he has become quite eccentric and one day, while walking on the beach on the other side of the island, comes upon a footprint in the sand. When he sees a group of cannibals in the distance, he becomes alarmed and races back to fortify his compound. He fashions a homemade bomb, but decides that he will leave the cannibals to God's justice, unless they attack him. Later, the cannibals return with two prisoners, one of whom escapes and is pursued. Crusoe rescues the man, takes him to his compound and names him "Friday" after the day of the week on which he was found. However, Crusoe is still very wary of his cannibal companion and despite Friday's amiability, resorts to placing him in ankle shackles each night. Despite their language difficulties, Friday manages to convey to Crusoe that his people could help him. When he realizes that he is wrong to keep a man in chains, Crusoe gives Friday his freedom, begs his forgiveness and asks him to be his friend. Friday decides to stay. As time passes, Crusoe reads to Friday from the Bible and they become involved in theological discussions. After twenty-eight years on the island, Crusoe, with Friday's help, begins another canoe. Their work is interrupted by the return of more cannibals, who later come under fire from sailors who have come ashore for water. The cannibals take two sailors prisoner, but Crusoe and Friday are able to free them. One, Captain Oberzo, explains that he is the victim of a mutiny engineered by his mate, who intended to abandon him and his bosun on the island. When Crusoe learns that the captain's ship is nearby, he offers to help Oberzo to defeat the small group of mutineers in exchange for passage to England. With the promise of gold coins, Friday lures the mutineers to the compound where Crusoe captures them all. Later, Crusoe decides that the prisoners will remain on the island, but with instructions on how to survive and with an advantage Crusoe never had, companionship. Crusoe and Friday board the small boat which will take them to the ship and as the boat pulls away, Crusoe looks back and "hears" Rex barking. Crusoe had been on the island for twenty-eight years, two months and nineteen days.
Felipe De Alba
Henry F. Ehrlich
Jesús González G.
Philip Ansel Roll
Alberto E. Valenzuela
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954) - The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
"I didn't like the novel but I did like the character of Crusoe," Bunuel noted later in an interview. And he must have appreciated the opportunity. None of his previous films had had a shooting schedule more than 28 days. For Adventures of Robinson Crusoe he had a luxurious three months to shoot his very first color film, for which they left the studio and went to Manzanillo, then a small Pacific seaport near Acapulco with a lush jungle interior. It was shot simultaneously in English (another first for Bunuel) and Spanish with an acclaimed young actor in the lead: Daniel O'Herlihy.
O'Herlihy first made his name as a star of Dublin's Gate Theater (where Orson Welles also had his first stage success) and made the leap to the big screen in Carol Reed's Odd Man Out (1947) and Orson Welles' Macbeth (1948). Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, shot in 1952, was his first film lead and the first half of the film is essentially a one-man show. O'Herlihy doesn't just carry the entire story with a largely wordless performance (his narration, which plays as if read from a journal, provides the audience's need for dialogue) but presents the evolution of a man stripped of civilization and human companionship, from hope of rescue to resignation to his isolation. As in the novel, the film spans 28 years on the island and (according to the film's own publicity notes) O'Herlihy had a wardrobe of eleven beards to mark his evolution.
Apart from a fever-dream where his father's disapproval delivers an I-told-you-so monologue to the hallucinating Crusoe, O'Herlihy is the sole human actor on screen until the arrival of Friday (Jaime Fernández) late in the film. He talks to animals rescued from the ship for companionship and, at one point, screams into a vast valley simply to hear his own voice echoed back as he shouts the 23rd Psalm. When he "celebrates" his fifth year of solo survival by getting roaring drunk, he hears the voices of revelry as if his cave had become a tavern, but Bunuel keeps the camera fixed on his face, not even allowing us the illusion of company. The slow return to the reality of his isolation is devastating.
Bunuel's Adventures of Robinson Crusoe was only the second recorded screen adaptation of Daniel Defoe's novel (the first was a silent film starring Douglas Fairbanks). Perhaps it was the challenge of making a film from a novel where the hero is alone for over half the story that intrigued the director. Indeed, many later adaptations focus on the latter part of the novel, after Crusoe is joined by his Man Friday, the native he rescues from cannibals. Bunuel's adaptation is remarkably faithful to the novel and yet imbued with his own sensibility, directorial grace notes and evocative asides that elevate a sturdy adaptation of a classic adventure drama into a work of personal expression. Bunuel once related that he saw his father in a hallucination the night of his father's death, an image that he gives to Crusoe as a fever-dream nightmare. Where the novel is deeply founded in faith and religion as Crusoe turns to the Bible for comfort and strength, Bunuel subtly and wittily undercuts the religious message. "I wanted to show man's solitude, man's anguish in human society," he explained later. While Crusoe honors the Sabbath and tries to teach the Bible to Friday, the words come back hollow (as in the echoes of the valley) and he stumbles in a theological debate with the "savage" Friday, whose common sense questions go unanswered.
The central story of Bunuel's film is Crusoe's evolution as a human being. Bunuel doesn't hammer the point home, but the irony is not lost that Crusoe is shipwrecked while on a trip to buy slaves for South American plantation labor. When he rescues Friday from the cannibals, his desire for companionship and partnership is increasingly overshadowed by his European attitude of racial and cultural superiority to the black-skinned native. "Friends," he insists, but the word comes only after he has established himself as "Master." He uses power and fear to establish his dominance and ultimately imprisons Friday in the very chains he brought for slaves. His epiphany, a breakthrough of moral and human value over social power, is the film's great turning point. Even while the script maintains Crusoe's dominance, like feudal lord and loyal subject, Bunuel's imagery offers scenes of partnership and equality as they stand side-by-side in their endeavors.
When Adventures of Robinson Crusoe was released in the U.S. in 1954, O'Herlihy personally promoted his breakthrough role as best he could. In an interview with horror film historian David del Valle, he explained how he put up his own money for a Los Angeles run for the film and offered free admission to members of the Screen Actors Guild (who at the time were responsible for nominating the performance categories in the Academy Awards). According to O'Herlihy, the L.A. run lost money because its audience was largely members of the Screen Actor's Guild, but it paid off handsomely with O'Herlihy's first and only Oscar® nomination for Best Actor. He lost to Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront but he was in stellar company, a veritable unknown in Hollywood competing with Humphrey Bogart, Bing Crosby, James Mason and Brando for the big prize.
Producer: Oscar Dancigers
Director: Luis Bunuel
Screenplay: Philip Ansell Roll, Luis Bunuel (screenplay); Daniel Defoe (novel)
Cinematography: Alex Phillips
Music: Anthony Collins
Film Editing: Carlos Savage, Alberto E. Valenzuela
Cast: Daniel O'Herlihy (Robinson Crusoe), Jaime Fernandez (Friday), Felipe de Alba (Captain Oberzo), Chel Lopez (Bosun), Jose Chavez (Pirate), Emilio Garibay (Leaders of the Mutiny).
by Sean Axmaker
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954) - The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
Luis Bunuel's Robinson Crusoe
At first glance, you'd never guess that master surrealist Luis Bunuel was the director responsible for this lush, engrossing adaptation of the oft-filmed Daniel Defoe novel. His only film shot in English features a strong performance from O'Herlihy (who earned an Academy Award® nomination for his work) and, apart from an early hallucination sequence in which a fevered Crusoe is visited by his dead father, is devoid of the quirky flourishes one might expect from the man behind such films as Belle de Jour and The Exterminating Angel.
However, Robinson Crusoe makes much more sense when one considers that this was filmed during Bunuel's most productive period in the mid-1950s where he turned out several projects each year, mostly shot in Mexico. Most of the films from this phase of his career are spiritually-concerned melodramas like El, Wuthering Heights, and El Bruto, with Robinson Crusoe standing as the most prestigious and glossy attempt to address traditional, literary-based narratives from an alternative viewpoint. Furthermore, the man-as-god and man-against-nature elements foreshadow his short-form 1965 masterpiece, Simon of the Desert, which would make an excellent companion piece. Neither God nor the devil makes a direct appearance in Robinson Cruesoe, but this is hardly an existential piece; just as Crusoe salvages a Bible early in the film, he himself creates his own "new" Bible in the form of his onscreen narration which sometimes comes across as heavy-handed but across offers some nice, Bunuel-worthy bits of irony ("Now it can truly be said I worked for my bread"). Of course, biographers have also been tempted to read parallels between Crusoe and the director himself, who had been banished from Spain and was trying to find a new home going from one country to another, seeking shelter on some very large islands indeed. Fortunately casual viewers need not concern themselves with such weighty issues; as adaptation and as rip-roaring adventure, the film succeeds admirably and compares favorably with the far higher-budgeted Disney fare of the same period like Treasure Island and Swiss Family Robinson. Here's a Bunuel film even a complete literalist can enjoy.
Released by United Artists in 1954 (two years after its completion), Robinson Crusoe vanished from the public eye shortly thereafter and remained unavailable for decades. It's difficult to contest any aspects of VCI's "fully restored" DVD since filmgoers should be thankful that any elements survived at all. By and large the transfer is satisfying and features solid colors, though detail is often soft and blacks tend to fade out in some scenes more than others. Damage is evident here and there, though a great deal of reconstruction was undertaken based on a featurette included on the DVD. Though not up to the standard one would expect from a classic title from the majors (especially Warner's Technicolor restorations), Bunuel fanatics should be pleased to see the film looking as good as it does here, and commendations all around for finally reviving this important but rarely-screened piece of film history.
For more information about Robinson Crusoe, visit VCI Entertainment. To order Robinson Crusoe, go to TCM Shopping.
by Nathaniel Thompson
Luis Bunuel's Robinson Crusoe
Luis Bu?uel's first all-English film; the script was also written in English.
Philip Ansel Roll, the credited co-writer of the film's screenplay, was a pseudonym for blacklisted screenwriter Hugo Butler. This film was produced in Mexico in English and Spanish versions, both of which were viewed. The film's title in Spanish-speaking countries was Robinson Crusoe.
There are differences between the credits of the English and Spanish versions: The Spanish version credits Daniel Defoe's novel as the source material, while the English version does not mention Defoe; in the Spanish version, the music is credited to Luis Hernández Bretón "based upon original themes by Anthony Collins," while the English version gives sole music credit to Collins; and actor José Chávez [Trowe] is billed above Emilio Garibay and Chel López. Additionally, in the Spanish version, Jesús González Gancy is credited with music recording while Javier Mateos and Galdino Samperio are credited with dialogue recording and re-recording, respectively. Modern Mexican sources add producer Óscar Dancigers' company, "Ultramar Films," to the credits.
According to a October 28, 1953 Variety news item, associate producer and attorney Henry F. Ehrlich raised partial funding for the production by organizing a group of North American investors which included a fellow attorney, an ad agency head, an industrialist, a concert manager, a distillery executive, a publicist and an import-export business excecutive. A New York Times article of September 14, 1952 reported that the final cost of both versions would be $350,000 and that if the film had been a Hollywood production it would have cost $1,000,000.
In advertising for the film's U.S. release, Henry Ehrlich shared Producer credit with Dancigers, while Dancigers had sole credit in Mexican advertising. The Mexican release took place a year after the U.S. release and after the film had been well received in the rest of the world. Daniel O'Herlihy was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Actor category. In the Spanish version of the film, O'Herlihy's dialogue was dubbed by Mexican actor Claudio Brook.
Among the numerous screen adaptations of Defoe's novel are Robinson Crusoe (1916) starring Robert Patton Gibbs (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20), Mr. Robinson Crusoe (1932) starring Douglas Fairbanks and directed by Edward Sutherland (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1931-40), Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) starring Paul Mantee and directed by Byron Haskin (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1961-70), Man Friday (1975) starring Peter O'Toole and directed by Jack Gold and Crusoe (1988) starring Aidan Quinn and directed by Caleb Deschanel.
Released in United States December 17, 1990
Released in United States Summer July 1954
Shown at Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA December 17, 1990.
Began shooting July 14, 1952.
Film was shot simultaneously in an English and a Spanish version.
Spanish and English versions available.
Released in United States Summer July 1954
Released in United States December 17, 1990 (Shown at Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley, CA December 17, 1990.)