Thursday, July 24, 2014

Parker Stevenson Talks About The Hardy Boys, Probe, and His Passion for Photography

Stevenson as teen detective Frank Hardy.
Parker Stevenson can still make ladies swoon. I recently attended the 2014 Western Film Fair, where the star of the The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977-79) was one of the guests. As I rode up the elevator with a mother and daughter, the former was staring off into space. The daughter looked at me, smiled, and said: "Mom is still gooey from meeting Parker Stevenson." As agreeable in real life as he is on the screen, Mr. Stevenson sat down for an interview with yours truly.

Café: How did you go from Princeton University to acting?

Stevenson signing autographs at
the Western Film Fair.
Parker Stevenson: I needed a job (laughs). I graduated from the architecture program at Princeton, but decided I didn't want to keep doing architecture and I really didn't know what to do. I'd been acting since I was 14, doing movies, television, and commercials. Just as I was graduating, I got offered The Hardy Boys, so I made the switch and really committed to acting at that point.

Café: How did you get the role of Frank Hardy?

PS: I got it because the producers has seen me in a couple of the movies I'd done. In fact, I had done one with Pamela Sue Martin a couple of years before (1974's Our Time) and she ended up being Nancy Drew. So, I think that was the connection for them.

Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy.
Café: How did you and Shaun Cassidy get along on the show?

PS: Great. He's really an easygoing guy and his sense of humor is like mine. That's probably why we got cast together, because we just liked each other. Part of what the show was about was two brothers who actually get along and get into trouble together. I'm still in touch with Shaun. He's still a good friend.

Café: Had you read any of The Hardy Boys books or seen the serial from The Micky Mouse Club?

PS:  I hadn't seen the serial. I was familiar with bits and pieces of the books, but I hadn't read them. I was really late getting started on my reading, which now I'm crazy about. But in those years, I wasn't much of a reader. I discovered the books really doing the show.

On Baywatch (of course!).
Café: How did you get cast on Baywatch?

PS: I did a movie called Lifeguard with Sam Elliott and the producers thought I might be okay playing a lifeguard (laughs). Really.

Café:  You've appeared in a number of popular series like Melrose Place and Falcon Crest in addition to The Hardy Boys and Baywatch. Out of all your TV series, which one is your favorite and why? 

With Ashley Crow on Probe.
PS:  My favorite was Probe (1988), which I did for ABC. It ran a year. I loved the show. It was Isaac Asimov's Probe, so it had really trippy interesting stories. It was up against The Cosby Show or something, so it struggled in the ratings. It was the closest to me in terms of how I think and what I'm like in real life.

Café:  I recently came across your photography website parkerstevensonshadowworks.com. How did you become interested in photography?

PS:  I was one of those kids that had a Brownie camera and was always shooting. I'd take pictures of my friends or just doing goofy things in the backyard. By the time I was 14, I was shooting weddings for people, which was really not a good idea (laughs). They liked my pictures. I delivered and was responsible. Then, I hit a point where I didn't want to shoot people anymore. I felt too intimidated. Even if you just walk up and shoot someone, you feel like you're imposing and invading. My photography shifted to architecture, landscapes, and still lifes until about 15 years ago when some friends asked me to shoot them. I shifted all the way back to people again. Portraits are what I shoot the most now.


Parker snapped a selfie of the two of us;
he's the one on the right!
Café:  You recently appeared in an episode of Longmire, so what's the secret to Parker Stevenson's lengthy career?

PS:  I asked Burt Reynolds a similar question years ago. The question was: "Burt, you've been the #1 box office star for ten years now and you have this sort of Cary Grant ease about you. How have you managed to maintain that?" He said: "There are a lot of guys that are better looking or more talented than you or I, but they didn't hang in there." I took that to heart. I always wanted a career where I could keep working and trying new things and working with new people. I wanted a Jimmy Stewart career, not a huge, hot, short career. So, Burt's advice that you've got to hang in there is the answer.

Café:  Do you have any upcoming films, TV roles, or convention appearances that you want to share with our readers?

PS:  I'm doing a play in L.A. in later July called Chasing Smoke, which hopefully will have a long run. I love the script and it's close to my heart. Hopefully, I'll be back on Longmire. It looks like I might be. And I will be at another convention, the Hollywood Show, in Chicago on August 15-17. 

Café:  Thanks so much, Mr. Stevenson.

PS:  It was my pleasure.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Movie-TV Connection Quiz (July 2014 Edition)

What could Bruce & Bogie share in common?
In this third edition of the connection game, you will once again be given be a pair of films, TV series, performers, or any combination thereof. Your task is to find the common connection between the pair. It could be anything--two stars who acted in the same movie, two movies that share a common theme, a film that inspired a TV series, etc. As always, don't answer all the questions so others can play, too. There is a single best answer for each question.

1. Come and Get It and King Kong (1976).

2. Otto Preminger and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

3. The films Operation: Kid Brother and Diamonds Are Forever.

4. The film The Green Slime and the TV series Wagon Train.

5. Peter Lorre and Doris Day.

6. Bruce Lee and Humphrey Bogart.

7. The TV series The Fugitive and Dr. Kildare.

8. The TV series Mission: Impossible and the movie Muscle Beach Party.

9. The TV series The Green Hornet and The Dukes of Hazzard.

10. The TV series The Patty Duke Show and the film A Stolen Life (1946).

11. The film Mad Love (1935) and the TV series The Addams Family.

12. The TV series Have Gun--Will Travel and the film The Thomas Crown Affair (1968).

13. Elizabeth Montgomery and Katherine Ross.

14. The film The Graduate and the TV series Get Smart.

15. Vincent Price and Claude Rains.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Western Film Fair Brings Classic Stars and Fans Together

Hawthorne Hotel and Conference Center.
Last week, I joined over 500 Western movie buffs as they assembled in Winston-Salem, NC for the 37th annual Western Film Fair. One of the oldest fan conventions in the U.S., this year's event featured guest stars such as Piper Laurie (The Hustler, Carrie), Jon Provost (Timmy on Lassie), Johnny Crawford (The Rifleman), Parker Stevenson (The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries), and Joyce DeWitt (Three's Company). All the celebrities had a Western connection, ranging from Piper Laurie's co-starring role in 1955's Smoke Signal to Parker Stevenson's guest appearance on the contemporary Western TV series Longmire.

The format was the standard one for film fan conventions, consisting of: panel discussions and autograph sessions with the stars; movie screenings; and a room full of vendors selling DVDs, movie posters, comic books, etc. My goal was to interview some of the celebrities for this blog, though--having never attended a fan festival--I didn't know if my plans were realistic.

The wonderful Piper Laurie.
On my first afternoon, I approached Piper Laurie at the autograph table and asked if I could interview her. I spent the next 45 minutes sitting next to her, asking detailed questions about her career, her co-stars (e.g., Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis), and personal life as she stopped periodically to autograph photographs. The charming Ms. Laurie discussed life as a Universal contract player in the 1950s, her three Oscar-nominated performances, and acting on the stage and in live television drama. If my Western Film Fair experience had ended right there, I would have deemed it an unqualified success.

Parker Stevenson--on the right--and me.
Still, that same afternoon, I scored interviews with Jon Provost and Parker Stevenson. Both actors were incredibly gracious and gave delightful interviews. Stevenson even insisted on taking a selfie of the two of us, warning me not to crop myself out of the picture. The only disappointment of the day was a minor one. I spent a half-hour sitting next to Johnny Crawford--but a constant stream of fans prevented an interview.

Most of the stars signed the Western Film Fair program for free. However, they charged $20 to $30 for an autographed photo and $10 to autograph an item provided by a fan. One gentleman had Piper Laurie sign a mint-condition, one-sheet poster of her horror film Ruby, which undoubtedly increased the value of that collectible significantly. By the way, Ms. Laurie posted a sign stating that all the proceeds from her autographs would be donated to the Wounded Warriors Project. Such a classy lady!

Johnny Crawford.
I was amazed by the patience exhibited by the stars, who would listen intently as gushing fans described favorite TV episodes or other stars they had met. Some of these encounters lasted for five to ten minutes (even when other people were waiting in line). None of the celebrities charged to pose for a photograph with one of their fans. I know these stars appear at fan conventions to make money, but, frankly, I was impressed at the way they treated their fans.

Jim Rosin with one of his books.
On the second day, I interviewed Jim Rosin, an actor and writer who penned several episodes of Quincy M.E. (and played an alien in the popular cult film The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai). Rosin has also written several books on classic TV series such as Wagon Train, Route 66, and The Naked City. That's no surprise as he was a great storyteller, sharing anecdotes about working with Jack Klugman, interviewing George Maharis, etc. Rosin also served as the moderator for the panel discussions with the stars.

After screening the Western Smoke Signal, I stayed for the panel discussion with Piper Laurie. Jim Rosin spent the first half-hour asking questions about her career, from her start in Hollywood at age 18 to a recent appearance in the stage musical A Little Night Music. Ms. Laurie then spent another thirty minutes fielding questions from the audience of about 60 people. Of her Smoke Signal co-star Dana Andrews, Piper Laurie said she idolized him as a teen ("My girlfriend and I would go to see films he did with Linda Darnell six times"). Yet, when she first met him at his Burbank home, he was "out cold" from intoxication in the backseat of his car. He struggled with alcoholism throughout the making of Smoke Signal. Ms. Laurie ended, though, by adding: "Mr. Andrews became sober, rehabilitated himself completely, became president of the Screen Actors Guild, and became a useful member of society and a star of Broadway after all this."

Tommy Hildreth, one of the organizers.
That evening, after the panel discussion, I watched The Mississippi Gambler starring Tyrone Power and Piper Laurie (she won the role over Linda Christian, who was then Mrs. Power). The film, which also featured Julie Adams, was shown on 16mm. I learned later that the print belonged to Tommy Hildreth, one of the Western Film Fair organizers. When I asked him to name some of his all-time favorite guests at the event, he deferred initially. But when I pressed for an answer, he admitted that Julie Adams and Piper Laurie were probably his favorites, adding that he had been a fan of both actresses since the 1950s.

The Purple Monster!
During the convention's three days, over 70 digital and 16mm films were screened in multiple rooms, from ten o'clock in the morning until after midnight. While most of them were "B" Westerns featuring cowboy stars such as Hoot Gibson, there were also TV series episodes and serials. The latter included one of my childhood favorites, The Purple Monster Strikes, about an evil Martian decked out in a very cool--if impractical--costume.

Bob "Fuzzy" Brooks.
A primary attraction for many of the Western Film Fair attendees was the vendor room. Collectors scoured the vendor tables carefully, looking for desired items at good prices. Of course, you could also purchase non-collectibles such as Fuzzy's Bunkhouse Brew Coffee, which was being sold by Bob (Fuzzy) Brooks. Heck, Fuzzy has a Facebook page (Westerns Trails Stars of the Silver Screen) with almost 6,000 "likes." He has been a staple at the Western Film Fair for the last four years. Decked out in full Western gear, he certainly attracts attention. In fact, he recounted an amusing story about going to an Atlanta restaurant in his fuzzy outfit and being mistaken for Stinky Pete from Toy Story.

A WFF attendee.
I missed the awards banquet, the convention's culminating event, on Saturday evening. I'm sure it was a delightful affair--combining live music, the presentation of the Ernest Tubbs Award, and attendance by many of the stars. Yet, for all the celebrities and the movies, Hildreth made an insightful observation when asked about the enduring appeal of the Western Film Fair: "I think a lot of people would come even without the guest stars. They look forward to getting together year after year with their friends and talking about the Westerns they love."

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Build-Your-Own Blogathon Starts August 4th!

For the final 2014 blogathon hosted by the Café, we wanted to do something different. So, this blogathon was "built" by the participating bloggers over the last month. During a span of 20 days, 20 bloggers will write about 20 classic movies. Each movie will somehow be connected to the next--but the connections will vary. The films may be connected by be an actor, director, theme, location, etc. Each participant selected the blogger that follows them--well, except for The Blonde at the Film (who holds the distinction of closing out the blogathon). The schedule is below...and it's a very diverse list of films!

Posting date in August
Film
Blog
Connection
4
Jubal

5
The Bad and the Beautiful
connected to Jubal by composer David Raksin
6
Lust for Life
connected to The Bad and the Beautiful by Kirk Douglas
7
Designing Woman
connected to Lust for Life by Vincente Minnelli
8
Anchors Aweigh
connected to Designing Woman by editor Adrienne Fazan
9
Tony Rome
connected to Anchors Aweigh by Frank Sinatra
10
Cry of the City
connected to Tony Rome by Richard Conte
11
My Darling Clementine
connected to Cry of the City by Victor Mature
12
Bernadine
connected to My Darling Clementine by producer-writer Samuel G. Engels
13
Harvey
connected to Bernadine by writer Mary Chase
14
T-Men
connected to Harvey by Wallace Ford
15
Bend of the River
connected to T-Men by director Anthony Mann
16
Rooster Cogburn
connected to Bend of the River by genre and setting
17
Sorry, Wrong Number
Connected to Rooster Cogburn by producer Hal Wallis
18
Belles on Their Toes
connected to Sorry, Wrong Number by actor Jimmy Hunt
19
Test Pilot
connected to Belles on Their Toes by Myrna Loy
20
Mantrap
connected to Test Pilot by director Victor Fleming
21
The Last Performance
connected to Mantrap by actor Rolfe Sedan
22
All Through the Night
connected to The Last Performance by Conrad Veidt
23
Sullivan's Travels
connected to All Through the Night by William Demarist

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Seven Things to Know About Raymond Chandler (in his own words)

For this edition of Seven Things to Know, we selected some choice excerpts from Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler, edited by Frank MacShane.

1. In a 1950 letter to his publisher, Raymond Chandler wrote: "I went to Hollywood in 1943 to work with Billy Wilder on  Double Indemnity. This was an agonizing experience and has probably shortened my life, but I learned from it as much about screen writing as I am capable of learning, which is not very much."

Martha Vickers.
2. On The Big Sleep: "(It has had) an unfortunate history. The girl who played the nymphy sister was so good she shattered Miss (Lauren) Bacall completely. So they cut the picture in such a way that all her best scenes were left out except one. The result made nonsense and Howard Hawks threatened to sue to restrain Warners from releasing the picture." (The actress who played the sister was Martha Vickers.)

3. On his Philip Marlowe novel The Lady in the Lake and the 1947 film adaptation: "This is the only published fiction of mine which I have tried to adapt for films. And it would take a lot of money to make me try again, and I don't think this kind of money would be paid me now from Hollywood. When a man has written a book and rewritten it and rewritten it, he has had enough of it."

4. On Strangers on a Train: "I'm still slaving away for Warners Brothers on this Hitchcock thing, which you may or may not have heard about. Some days I think it is fun and other days I think it damn foolishness....Suspense as an absolute quality has never seemed to me very important. At its best it is a secondary growth, and at its worst an attempt to make something out of nothing."

Farley Granger and Robert Walker in Strangers.
5. In a letter to Alfred Hitchcock about Strangers on a Train: "Regardless of whether or no my name appears on the screen among the credits, I'm not afraid that anybody will think I wrote this stuff. They'll know damn well I didn't. I shouldn't have minded in the least if you had produced a better script--believe me, I shouldn't. But if you wanted something written in skim milk, why on earth did you bother to come to me in the first place?"

6. On Agatha Christie's classic novel And Then There Were None: "As entertainment I liked the first half and the opening, in particular. The second half got pallid. But as an honest crime story, honest in the sense that the reader is given a square deal and the motivations and the mechanisms of the murders are sound--it is bunk."

7. After completing Playback, which turned out to be his seventh and final Marlowe novel, Chandler wrote about a potential eighth book: "My next book is to be laid in Palm Springs with Marlowe having a rather tough time getting along with his wife's ideas of how to live...Of course, I have to have a murder and some violence and some trouble with the cops. Marlowe wouldn't be Marlowe if he could get along with policemen." Chandler did, in fact, start on that novel, but died in 1959. Mystery writer Robert Parker completed it in 1989 and published it as Poodle Springs.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Glenda Jackson Reigns as Queen Elizabeth

A stellar cast carries the day in Elizabeth R, the highly regarded 1971 British miniseries shown on Masterpiece Theatre in the U.S. The compelling subject matter and the first-rate actors—led by Glenda Jackson in the title role--mask what is often a  slow-moving, occasionally creaky historical biography.

Elizabeth R charts the life of Queen Elizabeth I of England, from her days as a young woman through her 45-year reign as queen to her death in 1603. The six episodes, each with a running time of approximately 85 minutes, focus on: the events that lead to Elizabeth’s ascension to the throne; her close relationship with Robert Dudley (Robert Hardy); Elizabeth’s near-marriage to France’s Duke of Anjou (Michael Williams); the treason plot involving Mary, Queen of Scots (Vivian Pickles); the defeat of the Spanish Armada; and her complex relationship with the much-younger Earl of Essex (Robin Ellis).

The best episodes are those involving the men in Elizabeth’s life, specifically Dudley, the Duke of Anjou, and Essex.  Each of them love the Queen in their own way, but they are thwarted by rumor (Dudley), politics (Anjou), or greed (Essex). It helps immensely that these historical figures are portrayed by a trio of fine actors.

Robert Hardy as Dudley.
Robert Hardy, best known for playing veterinarian Siegfried Farnon in the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, captures the genuine affection that Dudley feels for his queen. He also makes it clear that Dudley is an ambitious man who faults fate for not having a seat on the throne. Married when childhood sweetheart Elizabeth becomes queen, Dudley's terminally-ill wife suffers an accidental death--or commits suicide--while he's at court. The timing leads to rumors that Dudley may have been involved with her demise. Those suspicions nix his chances of marrying Elizabeth, though they remain lifelong friends and he becomes a powerful royal adviser.

Michael William as the Duke of Anjou.
Michael Williams takes center stage in the third episode as the Duke of Anjou, brother to King Henry III of France. Williams, a veteran stage actor and long-time husband to Dame Judi Dench, brings much-needed humor to his role of the suitor that Elizabeth nicknamed "her frog." Eager to claim a position of similar authority to his brother, Williams' Anjou is a delightful mixture of lazy fop, petulant child, and charming wooer.

Robin Ellis as Essex.
Robin Ellis, best remembered as the handsome hero of the immensely popular Poldark, stars in the last episode as the doomed Essex. Ellis portrays Essex as a likable rascal, who is far too greedy and self-absorbed to appreciate the royal favors bestowed by Elizabeth. He repays her with insolence--at one point, she smacks his head and he partially withdraws his sword, an incident that actually occurred. Poldark fans will no doubt enjoy seeing Ellis in such a different role.

Jackson as the young Elizabeth.
Yet, while these three actors hold their own, it is Glenda Jackson that dominates Elizabeth R. She captures the intricate shadings of Elizabeth, as she ages from teenage princess to powerful ruler to an elderly woman who accepts her life, but not without remorse. She is gleeful when unlikely events fall into place and secures her the throne. She is filled with guilt and anger when her closest advisers convince her to execute her half-sister Mary. She is overcome with grief with she learns of Dudley's death. It's a remarkable performance and one that earned Jackson an Emmy. Ironically, she played Queen Elizabeth again in 1971 in the theatrical film Mary, Queen of Scots, which starred Vanessa Redgrave in the title role.

Elizabeth R won a total of five Emmys, including ones for outstanding drama series and costumes. Although it's easy to see why it was held in high esteem, the series is nonetheless inconsistent. The episode about the defeat of the Spanish Armada is flat, mostly because the show's budget required that the battle scenes not be shown (but described by a character after the fact). Although Jackson has a powerful scene near the end, the episode about the treasonous Babington Plot is so convoluted that it's often hard to follow the historical events.

Still, Elizabeth R remains a must-see for fans of historical drama. It is, based on my limited research, remarkably accurate...and the acting is often sublime.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: A Colorful Collage of Songs & Dances...Plus an Awesome Breakfast

The Oregon Territory in 1850 provides the setting for this high-energy, colorful musical based on a Benet short story (which, in turn, was inspired by Plutarch’s “The Abduction of the Sabine Women”). Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) is a hard-working “mountain man” who comes to town for supplies—and a wife. After announcing his plans to a storeowner, he adds: “I’m in no hurry…I got all afternoon.” He quickly settles on Millie (Jane Powell), a comely—but sassy—lass who chops wood, cooks, and milks cows. For Millie, it’s love at first sight and the chance to take care of her own home.

The honeymoon gets off to a rocky start when Millie discovers that Adam has six brothers. “Y’all live around here?” she asks. “Not ’round. Here,” replies one of the brothers. After overcoming her initial shock, Millie grows fond of her brothers-in-law…until they listen to Adam and take extreme measures to get their own brides.

The score by Johnny Mercer and Gene de Paul is a tuneful one. “Wonderful, Wonderful Day” and “When You’re in Love” are bright, pretty love songs. But Mercer’s best lyrics are reserved for “Lonesome Polecat,” a woeful lament sung by the lovesick brothers (a sample line: “A man can’t sleep when he sleeps with sheep”).

Michael Kidd’s spectacular choreography provides a perfect complement to the music. Kidd insisted that all the dance numbers derive from what the brothers were doing. Most critics consider the barn-raising scene to be the film’s showstopper. But I favor the dance where the brothers try to outshine their rivals from the town and the aforementioned “Lonesome Polecat,” in which the brothers cut and saw wood in unison with the musical beats.

The cast is uniformly fine, with Powell and Keel generating the required chemistry as the romantic leads. Four of the brothers were accomplished dancers (I think Matt Mattox, who plays Caleb, is the best). Russ Tamblyn, who had no prior dancing experience (he was an acrobat), is quite appealing as the youngest brother. It’s hard to believe it’s the same actor who would later played a key role in the wonderfully weird TV series Twin Peaks.

I first saw Seven Brides on The CBS Late Movie in the mid-1970s. I liked it well enough then, but my fondness for it has grown significantly over the years. See a good print of it, if possible, so you can enjoy the vibrant colors. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers inspired a mediocre, short-lived TV series and a very successful Broadway play.

It has also played in a key role in a running joke between my mother-in-law and me. In one scene in Seven Brides, Jane Powell's character fixes the brothers an incredible breakfast with everything you can imagine: flapjacks, sausage, eggs, biscuits, potatoes, etc. So when visiting my's wife folks, if my mother-in-law asks if I want something to eat in the morning, I always reply: "A Jane Powell breakfast would be nice." I never get one, though. But I do get to hear a lovely laugh in response.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Textbook Survival: Robinson Crusoe on Mars

I could have sworn that Robinson Crusoe on Mars was produced by George Pal. However, as a recent viewing confirmed, Pal played no role in the making of this 1964 cult classic. If it seems like a Pal picture, that's because it was directed by Byron Haskin. A former special effects wizard, Haskin teamed up with Pal for four movies, including The War of the Worlds (1953) and personal favorites The Naked Jungle (1964) and The Power (1968). Both men shared a love of visual science fiction and fantasy, a trait that's readily obvious in Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

Paul Mantee as Christopher Draper.
Inspired by Daniel Defoe's novel, the film's premise is established quickly when a meteor forces the two astronauts of the Mars Gravity Probe 1 to abandon their spaceship and land on the Red Planet. Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West) perishes when his escape module crashes. However, his friend Christopher Draper (Paul Mantee) survives--along with a monkey named Mona. With his oxygen and water supplies dwindling with each day, Draper seems destined to die, too. But the astronaut, to his own surprise, proves to be remarkably resourceful. He discovers a rock that burns and gives off oxygen. He finds shelter in a cave. Observing that Mona never drinks water, he follows her and finds an underground lake--and an edible plant.

Mona plays a key role in Draper's survival.
Like its source novel and many film variations (e.g., Cast Away), a large chunk of the running time is devoted to Draper's lonely existence. We "hear" Draper's thoughts as he talks into his tape recorder or discourses with Mona. After four months, he notes that he has conquered all challenges except the biggest one: loneliness. In one of the film's best scenes, he even imagines the survival of his friend McReady.

Director Haskin creates a colorful Martian world, with deserts and mountains set against a bright red sky. Fireballs zip across the surface and winds whisper eerily throughout the night. It's a mysterious world, but also one devoid of any living creatures--until alien spaceships appear and begin mining some of the planet's ore. That sets the stage for the arrival of Friday (Victor Lundin).

With only three human characters and a monkey, Paul Mantee is left with carrying most of the film by himself. A journeyman actor, Mantee creates a vivid portrait of an "everyman." In a 1988 interview with Tom Weaver, Robinson Crusoe on Mars co-writer Ib Melchoir noted: "There is some advantage, when watching a film of this sort, in not seeing a major star in it... The film was more believable that way."

Lundin as Friday.
Unfortunately, Robinson Crusoe on Mars did not perform well enough at the boxoffice to further Mantee's career. The actor guest starred in numerous television series in the 1960s and 1970s. In the 1980s, he joined the cast of Cagney and Lacey as Detective Al Corassa. Later, he also had a recurring role on The A Team as Commander Tom Clayton. Mantee died in 2013, as did his Crusoe co-star Victor Lundin.

War of the World fans will note
a spacecraft similarity!
The film's true star, though, is director Byron Haskin. He began his Hollywood career in the 1920s, later worked with David O. Selznick, and directed his most famous movie, The War of the Worlds, when he was 54. Either Haskin had a natural talent for science fiction cinema or he was very good at picking the right properties. In addition to Robinson Crusoe on Mars and The War of the Worlds, he helmed Pal's underrated The Power and two of the best episodes of The Outer Limits TV series ("Demon With a Glass Hand" and The Architects of Fear).

As for Robinson Crusoe on Mars, it has evolved into a cult classic. It even got the highbrow treatment when Criterion released a deluxe blu-ray in 2011 packed with bonus features, such as commentary by screenwriter Ib Melchoir and stars Paul Mantee and Victor Lundin.