Search - Luis Bunuel's Robinson Crusoe (1952) on DVD

Luis Bunuel's Robinson Crusoe (1952)
Luis Bunuel's Robinson Crusoe
Actors: Dan O'Herlihy, Jaime Fernández, Felipe de Alba, Chel López, José Chávez
Director: Luis Buńuel
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
NR     2004     1hr 30min

VCI is very proud to present this adventure classic from acclaimed director Luis Buñuel, one of the most acclaimed directors in the history of film, in a new special edition. Virtually unseen in any medium for decades ...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Dan O'Herlihy, Jaime Fernández, Felipe de Alba, Chel López, José Chávez
Director: Luis Buńuel
Creators: Alex Phillips, Luis Buńuel, Alberto Valenzuela, Carlos Savage, Henry F. Ehrlich, Óscar Dancigers, Daniel Defoe, Hugo Butler
Genres: Action & Adventure, Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Classics, Indie & Art House, Drama
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 09/14/2004
Original Release Date: 08/05/1954
Theatrical Release Date: 08/05/1954
Release Year: 2004
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 11
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, Spanish

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Movie Reviews

Surprisingly Faithful Adaptation, highly recommended
Laughing Gravy | Sacramento, CA United States | 10/18/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) is celebrated today as "the father of cinematic Surrealism" for creating subversive classics from the beginning of his career, L' Âge d'or (1930), until the end, That Obscure Object of Desire (1977). What a shock to discover, then, that his only English-language film, the once all-but-lost Robinson Crusoe (1954), is a straightforward adventure tale with all of the fun and social comment of the timeless Daniel Defoe novel but with nary a sliced eyeball to be found.

I'm certain ya'll know the story, and the film is faithful: Rob is shipwrecked on a tropical island, saves what he can from the ship before it goes down, and spends most of the rest of the 17th century dodging wild animals, cannibals, and pirates before hooking up with his man Friday.

In the early sequences, we see that Crusoe is all but helpless, not even able to build a fire with no servants to help him. Over the years, he not only perseveres, but triumphs over his environment, building a quite satisfactory fortress of solitude. The loneliness gets to him, though, particularly once his dog dies - "I learned to master everything on my island - except myself!" he ruminates. In a masterful scene, he dreams of his father, who chides him for going off to sea; in another, he feeds some small ants to some big ones, which means something, but don't ask me what. Once he rescues Friday from the cannibals, he gains - not a friend, but a servant, and when his suspicions of Friday get the best of him, Crusoe clamps him in leg irons he rescued from the wreck (he was on a slaving mission, although why he'd want to carry heavy chains from the sinking ship is anybody's guess). Eventually, he comes to recognize Friday as an equal, albeit a lesser one, which leads to a delightful argument about God and the devil between Crusoe and Friday, and if Hitchcock made Psycho just so he could film the shower scene, I can see Buñuel (product of a strict religious upbringing) making Crusoe just for this scene.

A major feather in the proverbial cap for VCI Entertainment, Robinson Crusoe is treated to a brilliant restoration and even includes a few worthwhile extras: the trailer, a poster gallery, an audio interview with Crusoe star Dan O'Herlihy (an Oscar nominee in the role; he lost to Brando in On The Waterfront), and an insert copy of the pressbook. There's also a "before and after" restoration featurette, so you can appreciate how much work went into the digitally remastered edition. Highly recommended.
The other Bunuel
Tryavna | North Carolina | 05/07/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I'm not sure why this DVD has received lackluster reviews, but I suspect it's due to disappointment from fans of Bunuel's more surreal masterpieces at the two ends of his career (his collaborations with Dali c. 1930, and the last 9 or 10 films of his old age). Still, people shouldn't dismiss Robinson Crusoe. It has much in common stylistically with other movies of his Mexican period, notably Los Olvidados (1950) and Nazarin (1959) but especially his adaptation of Wuthering Heights made just before Robinson Crusoe. There's a directness and simplicity to these films that is deceiving -- and, like I said, disappointing to fans of Bunuel's more flamboyant stuff. I wouldn't call Robinson Crusoe a masterpiece along the lines of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie or Belle de Jour, but it's interesting and entertaining. (For several interesting reviews, check out the ones on IMDb. On this page, I think "Laughing Gravy" and M. Lucas have hit the nail on the head.)

If you're not a Bunuel fan, then the movie stands on its own pretty well -- mainly because of its surprising faithfulness to Defoe's novel. Huge chunks of Defoe's prose are preserved intact as narration, which I never found annoying. This DVD would make a wonderful teaching aid for high school English classes. (In fact, Bunuel would probably have found it amusing that one of his films can be found in the Family Entertainment section of many video stores.) And O'Herlihy, who has to carry the movie single-handedly for about half the running time, is quite good. His Oscar nomination was well-deserved.

As others have said, VCI's presentation is very nice. There are several minor instances of "ghosting" (mild blurriness caused by the transfer to DVD). Considering that the original negative no longer exists and that Pathe Color was a cheap alternative to Technicolor, I'd say they've done as good a job on the restoration as they could. The long audio interview with the late Dan O'Herlihy is a solid extra.

In summation, I'd say that, if you're interested in this title, it's worth a purchase, especially at it's reasonable listing price. (Even if you end up hating it, you can always donate your copy to a school.) O'Herlihy's performance and the script's faithfulness to the source make this movie respectable entertainment; the presence of Bunuel as director adds an extra layer for viewers searching for "more." And VCI serves everything up with class."
A hidden traesure !
Hiram Gomez Pardo | Valencia, Venezuela | 08/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Dan O'Herlihy was nominated as best actor for this glorious performance as Robinson Crusoe in this exceptional approach given for the master Luis Buñuel .
This second period of Buñuel stage we will watch the transition from the surrealistic mood to the cruel irony and awful realism in all the filmography . The mexican atmosphere was a tremendous support to Luis for developing two of his most artistic triumphs as Nazarin and the timeless gem Viridiana. The following films are too of this period: Los Olvidados , El Bruto and El .
You must to keep in mind this period meant to Buñuel a deep ideas exchange with famous thinkers and writers as Octavio Paz and Carlos Fuentes .
In Robinson , we enjoy the disventures of this character in a lone island trying to get the return ticket . But meanwhile in his long long stage he meets to a native and the relationship will be the pretext to Buñuel to load with ironic situations and acid black humor a lot of issues .
Try to get this admirable work . One of the most unknown works of this brilliant and unique spanish director ."
Forget my trip to Hawaii, THIS island seems more luxurious!
A. Gyurisin | Wet, Wild, Wonderful Virginia | 08/14/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)

"Adapting a book to a film is a difficult task. Not only must you get the characters right, but a director, or screenwriter, must drive deep within the mindset of the author. There are inside, as well as outside elements that must be considered. What was going through the character's mind? What was the time period like? What level of realism can we bring to the silver screen while still packing the theater seats? All of these are challenges that everyone associated with the film must grasp before committing to a project - which is why it is so rare to discover someone claiming the film was better than the book. It just is rare to discover the two in a blissful marriage. That is why there was hesitation with Bunuel's 1952 adaptation of Daniel Defoe's literary classic. Knowing what was going to be coming in the future, "That Obscure Object of Desire" or "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" or even "The Milky Way", one could safely wager your entire salary on this early film. I wanted amateur, I wanted independent, I wanted to see where Bunuel found his inspiration - but alas, none could be found with this bomb of an adaptation. Perhaps it was the blacklisted screenwriter Hugo Butler, or Bunuel's lack of excitement, but not even Dan O'Herlihy, in his man grown voice, could save this disastrous film.

Let's begin with some background. We are all familiar with the truth that Bunuel's was in exile from Spain, living in an unfamiliar world, facing the tough face of McCarthyism around every angle. So, why not make a film about a man, in essence, dealing with similar feelings. It is not uncommon for directors to take projects that they feel a connection towards, so Bunuel grabbed at the opportunity. Coupled with the fact that Bunuel had both the honor of making his first film in English as well as color, "Robinson Crusoe" should have been a staple in modern cinema. It could have ranked up there next to any of Godard's work - but it didn't. It garnished one Oscar nominee (for best actor), and then couldn't even find distribution for DVD until recently. Why such difficulty for such a pioneering film for Bunuel? This isn't a fantastic film. This is poorly directed, jokingly acted, and horribly misleading to anyone enjoying the works of Defoe. O'Herlihy is impossible as Crusoe, never giving us anything to believe or trust. As the island slowly becomes a luxury destination instead of a place of abandonment, as our hopes of seeing any decent cinema from this pathetic epic disappears as well. Bunuel did happen to place a couple of great scenes in this film, but they are scattered few and far between. Needless to say, in the cannon of Bunuel films, "Robinson Crusoe" ranks near the bottom.

Our story itself is the main root of the issues. From the beginning crash, the cheapish cinematography demonstrating the power of the sea (possibly made by school children), all the way to the "grand" finale, one never feels that sense of danger - or chaos. Taking this film away from the story, meeting Crusoe for the first time, Bunuel gives us nothing. There are no scenes in which Crusoe has to learn, where he has to survive - in the first twenty minutes he is found sleeping in a tree then immediately building a well fortified hut around a cave - within forty minute he has bread and some random length of time has passed. Butler's adaptation fails because there is no sense of danger - I never felt worried that Crusoe was going to survive - because he never went without. Sure, there were scenes of sickness and hunger - but they were just never that impending. Perhaps it was the close tight shots that plagued the opening of this film, or the bland colors - but the initial puzzle pieces never fit.

Since our story suffered, it seemed inevitable that our characters would as well. Never looking weak, never getting skinny, never finding anything except his deepened voice - Crusoe seemed more concerned about not being a man than staying alive (i.e. see the excessive beard growth). How could a man trying to survive in the wilderness, scream out to the mountains? More focus on Crusoe, his life, his personality, would have strengthened these dampening scenes. That said, Bunuel did attempt on a couple of occasions to spruce up what he could to the lackluster story. The scene in which Crusoe gets drunk (as there is an endless supply of booze on the island) and thinks that he sees his friends is phenomenal. It was brilliant to have the camera as tight as it was, hearing the ghostly voices speak to him, then, just as the cup falls - it all ends - and we are thrust back into the truth of the island. Wow. It was just as breathtaking again - but there aren't many of these gems in which Bunuel can demonstrate his talent. Instead, it felt like he worked for Disney on this project. Even the introduction of Friday seemed cheapened by the fact that within ten minutes he was speaking English or being shackled. I realize that it was the time, but if I were trapped on an island for that many years, would I make the only other living person a slave? Keeping his close as to not lose that sense of friendship is one thing; racism is a whole new bag.

As we approached the unexciting ending, I couldn't help but question Bunuel's motive for this film. The similarities between his life and that of Crusoe's are good, but why couldn't Bunuel put his own touch onto this story. It needed something to stimulate the audience, but outside of O'Herlihy's voice - very little could have kept my eyes open. Also, the transfer on this particular DVD is horrible. Popping sounds on the left of me, missing frames to the left. It was a feeble attempt to bring this film to the masses, and obviously not a favorite among others or this would have seen the royal treatment.

Overall, "The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" is a very disappointing film. The acting is laughable, the story feels like a kiddy ride at Disney (coupled with all the food that you can eat), and the cinematography is amateurish. This is not a Bunuel film to place on the mantelpiece and discuss over a bottle of wine. This failed on many levels and embarrassed the late Defoe immensely. For a story that has been done time and time again (you can even see it weekly on "Lost"), there was just a lacking element of danger, chaos, and survival. As mentioned before, there was no built sensation that Crusoe was never going to make it (whether you knew the story or not), it just seemed like this island has all the luxuries he wanted. I cannot suggest or recommend this film to Bunuel viewers - it just seems like the black sheep in his film repertoire.

Grade: * ½ out of ***** (one star for that drunk scene with friends - it gave me hope)