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November 19, 2011

Free Stuff

Below the fold is an excellent old movie on YouTube TV HD, Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Click on full screen. The director, Byron Haskin, was the same guy who directed War of the Worlds and several other things, like Captain Sindbad, my all-time favorite Sindbad (note, spelled with two d's), and From the Earth to the Moon. He also worked on Star Trek, The Menagerie and a couple of other Trek things, I think. He started out in art direction and special effects and cinematography.

Robinson Crusoe on Mars rates a 92% at Rotten Tomatoes. Not bad for a cheapy sci-fi thing from the 60's. You can tell he knew how to get a lot of bang for the buck. Look at what he was able to do with the sets and special effects. For example, near the end, there is "ice" melting very quickly. I have no idea how he did that. I don't even think animal fat melts like that. The snow appears real in every scene but one where they had to bury a monkey. Maybe the other snow was real. I can't really tell. There is an ash fall that is well done. He even went to the trouble of piling the snow and ash in drifts in a very realistic, windblown way in corners and in sheltered areas. All of the spaceship and gadget tech looks great. All the exposed rock and mineral formations are plausible and a little odd--exactly what you'd expect on another world. Nice touch on the way the alien ships flit around in a freaky, unnatural (alien) way.

For the time period and the money? Awesome. The special effects work doesn't make the movie, though; it just enhances it. It doesn't get in the way. It helps in the suspension of disbelief. All that, plus a good story and passable acting makes for a great adventure movie.

I tend to focus on money at times: Could they have done it cheaper, or could they have done it better for the same amount of money? And did that [whatever expensive thing] actually make the movie better? I do the same thing with buildings and architecture. "They could have done the same thing for a lot less money" is the acid-test, kiss of death judgment. Even worse: "I could have done that better for less money."

In that regard, btw, Moon (2009) still blows me away. They made that movie for five million.

And talk of money reminds me of an excellent A&E documentary, Halloween: The Inside Story. It's great because it tells you a lot about making movies in a short time, and because John Carpenter is a very interesting man. You can tell he's a no-bullshit, very practical person. For example, his chief concern regarding the Halloween sequels is whether he gets a check. He also appears to be a man of few words, laconic. Just enough speech to get the job done. He doesn't appear deal in lofty ideas about art; he's more of a three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust kind of director. In Halloween, he found ways of using the money available to him in the most efficient way possible. And talk about getting bang for the buck. The movie cost about $300 thousand. It made something like a hundred million.

Really, it's one of the best documentaries I can recall ever having seen. It's tight, well put together, and loaded with information. It's embedded below too.

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Robinson Crusoe on Mars

Halloween: The Inside Story

Open thread. That's free too.

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posted by rdbrewer at 06:02 PM

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