Friday, February 13, 2015


This adaptation of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe changes the sex of the main character (and of his companion Friday) and adds a romantic interest, but retains several details of the original story—which I admit here that I've never read. In 1659, a hurricane hits a ship traveling to Brazil and two survivors are washed up on an isolated island: Robin, the cabin boy who is actually a girl in disguise (Amanda Blake, Miss Kitty from the TV classic Gunsmoke), and an old salt named Sykes. When Sykes assaults Robin, she fights back and he winds up falling off a cliff. In a few months time, after she has built herself a treehouse for shelter, she discovers a cannibal tribe on the island and interrupts a ritual which involves splitting two women in half as sacrifices. Robin manages to save one of them and takes her back to the treehouse, naming her Friday; together, they manage to thrive until, after a huge storm hits, another sailor is washed up on shore. At first, Robin is wary of Jonathan (George Nader) and refuses his help, but soon realizes that the three of them working together is not such a bad thing. She even starts to fall for him, but a major bone of contention remains: he wants to patch up a small 2-person canoe and go out to find help nearer to the shipping lanes, but Robin won't leave Friday behind. When Jonathan sneaks away in the canoe by himself, Robin feels betrayed. Soon, Jonathan returns but so does the cannibal tribe.

This definitely counts as a novelty. In addition to the gender switch, there's the somewhat schizophrenic style: some of it looks like Gilligan's Island, having been filmed on soundstages, but some of it was shot, if not on location in the South Pacific, at least outside on an actual beach. Most sequences end with an very abrupt blackout; I thought at first it was a film splice problem but it happened throughout the movie. The color palate is quite bright which makes it fairly pleasing to the eye. Given the small number of characters, we don't get to know Robin very much at all, and Blake's performance is rather two-note: either suspicious/fearful or arrogant/aloof. Nader is OK but again his character is completely flat. The fact that these two get involved is much more about lust than love; I imagine that after they're rescued, they'll realize they are both boring people with nothing in common. There's a strange scene of Friday (Rosalind Hayes) stroking Robin's arm and hair while she sleeps, but nothing comes of it. An odd little film. [Warner Archive Instant]

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