A fierce ocean storm wrecks Robinson Crusoe's ship and leaves him stranded by himself on an uncharted island. Left to fend for himself, Crusoe seeks out a tentative survival on the island, until he meets Friday, a tribesman whom he saves from being sacrificed. Initially, Crusoe is thrilled to finally have a friend, but he has to defend himself against the tribe who uses the island to sacrifice tribesman to their gods. During time their relationship changes from master-slave to a mutual respected friendship despite their difference in culture and religion.
Dan O'Herlihy ... Robinson Crusoe (as Daniel O'Herlihy)
Jaime Fernández ... Friday
Felipe de Alba ... Captain Oberzo
Chel López ... Bosun
José Chávez ... Pirate
Emilio Garibay ... Leaders of the Mutiny
XVid / MP3
Of the many great films Luis Bunuel was involved with, ROBINSON CRUSOE is perhaps his most neglected, but in my view, it is one of his very best movies.
For viewers who might be most familiar with Luis Bunuel's work in surreal films such as The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, his approach here might be surprising. It's a mostly straightforward retelling of the Defoe story, although with a few dream-like touches.
Bunuel was in exile from Spain and facing McCarthyism in the U.S. when he made this film (his first in English and his first in color), making the Crusoe metaphor a very personal one. So it's his personal reinterpretation, and has lots to offer regarding man's relationship with God, and his views on morality.
Defoe's story of an emissary of white, Christian civilisation suddenly alone in the universe and having to fend for himself, is a wonderful metaphor from which to explore the human condition and spirit, thrust into a world in which, if there is a God, he is seemingly powerless to help or intervene.
As Crusoe returns to his roots, he becomes more and more at one with Nature and his own nature, until the yearned for contact with a fellow human being, provokes fear and terror when it appears likely to happen. But, although his own fear means that his initial treatment of Friday is harsh and cruel, the enslavement of a fellow human being enables Crusoe to see how depraving and corrupting such vile practices are, and eventually he and Friday become friends and comrades, but only when Crusoe realises he must give Friday total and unconditional freedom.
The film contains some of Bunuel's most potent cinema: the feverish dream sequence where Crusoe's father chides him for his adventurous, and, therefore, "wayward" spirit; the scene where he is so desperate to hear another human voice he goes to the Valley of the Echo and shouts a Psalm, and then walks in despair into the sea until his torch is extinguished by the waves; and the final scene where, leaving the island at last with Friday, he looks back for the last time, and hears the ghostly echo of his faithful, but long since dead dog, Rex, barking...
Shot in Pathécolor, some of the scenes are beautiful, whilst others could be improved upon, but the sheer drama and intellectual engagement it provides overcome such minor technical faults, and the whole is wonderfully enhanced by a first-rate score by Anthony Collins and Luis Breton. Dan O'Herlihy as Crusoe carries the entire film, and was quite rightly nominated as "Best Actor" for this role at the 1954 Academy Awards. It is perhaps Bunuel at his most laid-back and subtle, but, believe me, watched in the right frame of mind, (which means forgetting all your preconceptions about the well-known story), it packs as much punch as any of his films. A rare and beautiful gem that is well worth searching out.
# Luis Buñuel's first all-English film; the script was also written in English.