Science fiction has been a staple of cinematic storytelling since Georges Méliès’s A Trip to the Moon in 1902. It has also inspired some of the medium’s greatest music. With this release, Film Score Monthly makes available a pioneering but lesser-known classic in the space opera genre that is worthy to stand beside more iconic titles from the post-Star Wars era.
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964) was the brainchild of Ib Melchoir (Angry Red Planet), who conceived it as the first in a series of literary classics updated to the 20th century and set in outer space. It was directed by Byron Haskin (Conquest of Space) and featured stunning Martian vistas designed by art directors Arthur Lonegan, Hal Pereira and Al Nozaki (The War of the Worlds). It starred Paul Mantee as a marooned astronaut and Victor Lundin as the humanoid escaped slave who becomes his man “Friday.” Adam West of Batman fame also appeared in the film as Mantee’s co-pilot.
The extraordinary musical score for Robinson Crusoe on Mars was composed by Nathan Van Cleave, who first launched himself into science fiction with his score for Haskin’s Conquest of Space (1955). Throughout his career he exhibited a special proclivity for enhancing both the fantasy and the humanity of outer-space drama.
For most of its length, Robinson Crusoe on Mars is a one-man show in which the music serves as an additional character to keep the story lively and moving forward. Van Cleave’s score benefits immensely from his well-developed sense of tonal color. It is exceptionally well-orchestrated—mostly by Fred Steiner. The modest orchestra of 24 players (including two electronic organs) is used to create a vast array of fascinating timbres that manage to capture all the colors and moods of the harsh Martian terrain as well as the hopes and frustrations of the stranded hero.
This premiere release of the complete score to Robinson Crusoe on Mars is newly remixed from the original 35mm three-track scoring masters preserved in recent years on 2” analog tape by Paramount Pictures. The 20-page booklet features notes on both film and score by genre specialist Randall Larson; it is lavishly illustrated by designer Joe Sikoryak with posters, pre-production graphics and copious film stills.
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Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Original Music by Van Cleave, Conducted by Irvin Talbot