Gravity is a recent science fiction thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It was a financial smash and runaway critical success, garnering rave reviews across the board and seven Academy Awards. Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a 1964 sci-fi adventure starring Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin, relocating the action of the Daniel Defoe classic to the planet Mars.
Now I don't like to make unfair comparisons. After all, Gravity is a slick, big-budget movie with state-of-the-art special effects and two award-winning lead actors, and Robinson Crusoe on Mars is an 1960s movie with a cheesy title. What I mean to say is... Robinson Crusoe on Mars is way better.
Like, it's not even close.
Do you want inspirational schmaltz or a pet monkey? It's up to you.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars, however, really does take the cake, and it's one of my favorite sci-fi movies ever. The atmosphere, the sense of isolation, the compelling search for oxygen and drinking water, the wonderfully realized Martian environments, Paul Mantee's solid performance, and the capable direction of Byron Haskin all add up to the perfect late-night viewing experience. It's a bonafide classic of the genre.
"So," you may be thinking, "two good science fiction movies exist. What's the big deal?"
Well, dear inquisitive reader, allow me to inform you. Upon revisiting these two films recently, I couldn't help but draw a few rather odd parallels between them. For example...
4. They're Both Space Survival Stories
|This image sums up multiple nightmares I've had.|
Mind you, the broad similarity in story isn't all that strange or difficult to grasp (I believe the kids these days call it a "sub-genre" or something), but let's look deeper...
3. Scientific Accuracy
During the promotion for Gravity, much was made of the film's scientific accuracy: space is correctly depicted as silent, attention to detail was paid to the zero-gravity physics, and the sets and props in the movie garnered praise from real astronauts. The science wasn't perfect, of course, but it was treated much more seriously than in the average Hollywood blockbuster.
The following poster should illustrate how Robinson Crusoe on Mars was marketed:
That little "Scientifically Authentic" seal (which doesn't appear to be endorsed by anyone, thereby defeating the purpose of a seal of authenticity) was present on just about every poster, and it's plastered all over the trailer too. However, Mariner 4 wouldn't be launched until after the movie's release, so much less was known about Mars when the film was made. Therefore, its admirable mission for accuracy is understandably dated at times.
2. Orbiting Space Junk of Doom!
|"I hope this experience hasn't put you off flying. Statistically speaking, it's still the safest way to tra- OH, CRAP!"|
|The Space Race is over, and we STILL blame the Russians for everything.|
In other words, what goes around comes around, and, in this case, the "what" is terrifying star gubbins.
1. Dead Batman Hallucinations
And here's where things get a little bit weird...
In Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Paul Mantee's character Kit Draper also lost a crew-member during his ordeal. This ill-fated astronaut McReady was played by none other than Adam West, before his rise to fame as Batman in the 1960s television series.
His second most famous role is that of Adam West.
It's also a very, very, very odd coincidence, because this means the Dark Knight rose from the dead to haunt the main characters in both Robinson Crusoe on Mars AND Gravity (Clooney, of course, donned the cape and cowl in the famously disastrous 1997 Batman and Robin).
|That's the face of a man who wishes he was floating aimlessly in outer space.|
Even if it's just a weird happenstance, the similarity is still incredibly fun to puzzle over, and it's enough to make me wonder if Robinson Crusoe on Mars had some direct influence on Gravity. Either way, they're both quite good films, and I really hope we get to see more gritty space adventures like them in theaters soon (it sure beats the torrential onslaught of remakes and sequels we've been enduring lately). And, if you've seen Gravity but never checked out or heard of Robinson Crusoe on Mars, hopefully I've piqued your interest. Please do see it. You won't be disappointed!