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Mexico/USA 1954
Directed by
Luis Bunuel
90 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe

Luis Buñuel is not a director one would associate with an adventure yarn like The Adventures Of Robinson Crusoe but this film which was financed by American money, his only English language film and his first in colour was made while he was in exile in Mexico (it was shot in the jungle near Acapulco).

Aside from textual elisions it stays largely faithful to Defoe’s hugely successful and now iconic 1719 novel about the titular hero who becomes stranded for 28 years on an island off the coast of South America. Given that Crusoe is a would-be slave trader and an epitome of the colonialist mindset of his day you would be forgiven for thinking that the arch anti-bourgeois Buñuel would have a field day with satirizing Defoe’s cultural assumptions (James Joyce called Crusoe the true symbol of the British Empire, manifesting “the manly independence, the unconscious cruelty, the persistence, the slow yet efficient intelligence, the sexual apathy, the calculating taciturnity" of his type). On the contrary, the director who co-scripted with Hugo Butler, if anything, treats Crusoe sympathetically.  And the feverish hallucination which is often cited as a Buñuelian touch is more the result of giving a visual form to the guilt which Crusoe feels over ignoring his father and which is one of the main themes of his self-reflection, rather than any surrealist flourish,

Daniel O'Herlihy who looks and sounds like a character out of a Hollywood Biblical epic makes for an appealing Crusoe. Mexican actor Jaime Fernandez as his man, Friday, is at best acceptable (one of the questionable aspects of the film is how quickly he becomes adept in English).

A critical success in its day the film is too awkward, particularly in its action sequences, to pass muster as an action adventure film today but for Crusoe and Buñuel buffs it will hold some interest.




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