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Movies: “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”

June 17, 1964 - Opening today is “Robinson Crusoe on Mars,” a science fiction film directed by Byron Haskin that stars Paul Mantee, Adam West, and Victor Lundin. It is a futuristic retelling of the classic 1719 novel “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe.

In the story, an astronaut (Mantee), stranded on Mars with only Mona the Monkey as a companion, must figure out how to find oxygen, water, and food on the lifeless planet.

According to producer Aubrey Schenk, the original script featured a variety of monsters and alien beings, which were dropped in the name of plausibility, the medium-sized budget, and because those ideas detracted from the premise of an astronaut being stranded and alone on Mars.

Instead of Mona the Monkey, the original screenplay featured a Martian creature that would have been a costumed armadillo, but a monkey was deemed more believable and easier to train. According to Mantee, because Barney the monkey was a male playing Mona, a female, he had to wear a fur-covered diaper.

Paul Mantee was chosen out of approximately 70 actors (including Vic Lundin) based on his being an experienced unknown and because he resembled Alan Shepard, the first American in space. The film was originally to be titled “Gravity Probe One: Mars,” but Paramount’s sales manager thought that title sounded too much like a documentary.

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