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Robinson Crusoe (1954)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Robinson Crusoe (1954, Mex./US) (aka (The) Adventures of Robinson Crusoe)

In director Luis Bunuel's adventure saga (his only American-financed film, his first big-budget production, his first color film, and sole film in English), based upon Daniel Defoe's classic 1719 novel, told predominantly through voice-over narration - [Note: the film was released in Mexico two years before its American distribution.]:

  • the opening title credits sequence set above an opulent leather-covered book atop an ancient map - the voluminous novel with an unidentified hand opened the cover, and read from the opening passage (in voice-over): "Being the third son of a good family and not educated to any trade, my head began to be filled early with thoughts of leaving England to see the world. And thus against the will, nay the commands of my father, I broke loose and went to sea. How true my father's prophecy of disaster, for not long after being in the latitude of 12 degrees, 18 minutes bound for Africa to buy Negro slaves for my fellow planters in the Brazils, a violent tornado came upon us which carried us westward. Far out of the way of all human commerce"
  • the reading was accompanied by the sequence of the stormy shipwreck of the Ariel on a voyage from Brazil to Africa in September 1659, that left young English aristocrat Robinson Crusoe (Best Actor-nominated Dan O'Herlihy), a slave trader, stranded on a deserted island; as he wandered on the island barefooted, he noted: "My only possession, my only weapon"; after a night's sleep in a tree, he continued: "I woke refreshed and half perished with hunger"; he reached over to a nearby nest, cracked open an egg found there and discovered a live, downy baby bird inside; he safely returned the hatchling to its nest (without resorting to cannibalism), and then added: "Thirsty, without provisions, with little hope of survival, I set out to survey my fate. No other land in sight. I was on an island, and barren by the sea"
  • he raced down to the shore where he had joyfully sighted the wreckage of the ship caught on offshore rocks far off in the distance: "The wreck of our ship stranded during the night"; he swam out and discovered a fellow survivor on board: Sam (a scraggly black and white cat); he plundered what he could from the wreckage, including drinking water, bread, "clothes, tallow, gunpowder, the carpenter tools and scores of other most useful articles," plus gold coins (he realized their uselessness: "What use to me?"), and "tinder, steel, flint" - to make a fire ("Worth more to me than all the gold in the world"); the supplies were transported back to the island on a makeshift raft
Salvaging from the Ship's Wreckage
Makeshift Raft to Bring Supplies to Shore
"Tinder, Steel, Flint" - To Make a Fire
  • on shore that evening, he was overjoyed to discover Rex (a German shepherd) from the ship; soon after, the ship shifted off the rocks and sank with a loud noise ("That fearful sound had been the death cry of our poor ship"); he mused that the only other survivors of the wreck - stowaway rats - were unwelcome on the island: ("The only things from the ship that I did not want ashore") - and stomped some of them to death
  • the scenes of his survival over the first few months were consumed with preparing emergency signals: ("I kept dry branches ready to flame into a mighty beacon"), creating a protective stockade for shelter - to secure his safety from wild animals, and digging a supply storeroom in a cave compound; he also hunted wild fowl, cut open coconut for milk, regularly searched the horizon: ("Trips to my lookout hill to search for sight of ships"), and kept diary notes
  • the instances of loneliness, isolation, and recurring hallucinations when he fell ill and feverish during his 11th month (and the film became reddish tinted): his "terrible dream" and delirium in the cave involved the imagined arrival of his disapproving, reprimanding and rebuking patriarchal father (also O'Herlihy) for having traveled away from home: "Why did you fling yourself into this stupid adventure?"; while bathing a pig with fresh water, the father taunted the wayward son; his father was also seen floating face-up and Messiah-like in water, until a force pulled him under; and then the suffering Crusoe perceived himself as bound to a crucifix and suspended in a pool of water that he could not reach down and drink from
Hallucinations of Robinson Crusoe
Reprimanding Father
Bathing a Pig With Fresh Water
Father Floating Face-Up
On a Crucifix While Immersed in Water
Drunkenly Singing with Shipmates
Scarecrow with Woman's Blue Dress
  • as time passed, Crusoe found a Bible inside one of his salvaged chests with a Bible ("a cure for both the body and soul"), tobacco, and some wheat seeds (that he planted for a wheat crop); he also located fruit and banana trees, sugar cane, and more; he made one failed attempt to sail in a canoe to a distant island; he herded goats into a corral and drank their milk, and adopted a parrot named Polly; Sam had a litter of kittens (he asked rhetorically about the feline's immaculate conception: "Where did you find their father?" - it was "the one mystery of the island I never solved")
  • after setting up a rickety scarecrow cross (with a woman's cornflower-blue dress garment hung on it) to protect his crops from birds, he again suffered from longings for an illusory female that he thought he saw above the scarecrow
  • while celebrating his fifth year anniversary, he drunkenly imagined a sing-along with former shipmates to the shanty song "Down Among the Dead Men," but then when he realized he was fantasizing, he despaired at his loneliness
  • later, he pondered about his extreme imprisonment on the island and dreamed of escape: "Sometimes in the midst of my work, the anguish of my soul and my loneliness would break out upon me like a storm. Escape. No matter the dangers, I must do something to escape this tomb, this prison. My heart died within me. Alone. Alone. Forever alone. I was a prisoner, locked up by the eternal bars and bolts of the ocean. Days became weeks, weeks became months, months became years. I quite gave up looking to see for ships"
  • after the death of his beloved dog Rex from old age in 1673 (14 years after arriving on the island), Crusoe buried Rex and set up a marker; in a despairing scene, Crusoe recalled: "Now truly alone, starved for the sound of another voice, any voice. I would rush to the valley of my echo"; Crusoe's echoed voice cried out in a valley as he called out the words of the 23rd Psalm for comfort: "The Lord is My Shepherd" - although it brought no solace
  • afterwards that evening, feeling totally alone ("The world seemed but a whirling ball. Its oceans and continents, a green scum, and myself. With no purpose. And no meaning"), he raced to the water's edge with his lighted torch, crying out "Help!" to an unseen and unhearing savior, before extinguishing the flames of hope in the disheartening, imprisoning water before him; he turned around and marched directly toward the camera (until his body blackened the screen)
  • the obligatory insect sequence (for director Bunuel) in which Crusoe acted as God; he greeted two "little friends" (ant lions) and placed them in a mound of dirt to hide; then he promised: "Just you wait there in your homes and I will feed you"; he pinched an ant between his fingers ("Here's a morsel for ya!"), dropped it onto the mound of dirt, and watched as his two friends 'consumed' the ant, while amused and cheering them on: "Get him, get him!"
  • in 1677, after being on the island for 18 years, the eccentric Crusoe was startled to discover a large footprint imprinted into the beach sand on the other side of the island; he placed his own foot into the imprint; the sight and thought of others on the island caused him extreme paranoia ("Condemned to all those years of loneliness, now trembling in the very apprehension of seeing another human. How mad men are possessed by fear")
Startling Discovery of Human Footprint After 18 Years
  • that night, he spied upon a group of natives on the beach, horrified at them for being cannibals: "Men eaters. From that very land I had once thought to sail to. Revolted, horrified, all that night, I observed the cannibals at their ghastly entertainment"; then the next morning after they departed, he found the aftermath - the charred remains of a cannibalistic party with gruesome body parts (human heads and bones) of victims scattered about the beach; he became very disturbed and slept fitfully: ("I knew no peace for months and months"); he prepared for an assault on his stockade, and even fantasized about constructing a "bomb" trap under their fire-pit to blow up the "monsters" - but then reconsidered: "After passion, hatred, I realized I had no heaven-sent right to be judge and executioner on these people, who had done me no injury. I would leave them to God’s justice. I would not interfere with them unless they attacked me first”
  • later, when the cautious Crusoe spotted smoke and the sound of drums, he spied upon the cannibals on the beach who had returned with two victims; one of them, a savage, dark-skinned native (Jamie Fernandez) broke away from his captors and was chased down the length of beach by two of the cannibals; Crusoe knocked one cannibal unconscious with his gun, and shot the second one to death; as the captive native bowed down at Crusoe's (and Crusoe placed his foot on the native's head), the first cannibal revived; the captive quickly grabbed Crusoe's machete and stabbed the cannibal to death; Crusoe stood watch as the freed native dug holes in the sand to bury the corpses
  • back in his stockade, Crusoe named the escapee for the day of the week - Friday (the day he was rescued); he tried to teach him some words: "Friday, Master, Friends...Eat!", and 'Friday' from the start was designated as his servant; when the native rejected Crusoe's baked bread and gestured that he would prefer to eat the corpse of the buried cannibals instead, Crusoe scolded: "No, no eat man, wrong!"
  • Crusoe was immediately suspicious of him: "I dare not sleep. If the cannibals fail to come for me before morning, he might"; when the cannibals departed without searching for their two missing companions the next day, Crusoe took many additional precautions: "I would not let him handle any weapon. I used my musket to ensure his continued fear and respect of me. I put a strong door to my cave so he could not take me unawares at night"; after shooting a bird and cooking it for dinner, Crusoe was relieved and reassured: "How reassuring it was to see him eat the flesh of animals knowing that the only source for that other meat he so relished would be my self"
  • however, Crusoe remarked: "How pleasant it was, once more to have a servant" - and he taught him how to use a fork; nonetheless, Crusoe worried that Friday would forget his obligations to him and "plunder my precious possessions" and "feast" upon him; at first, as they struggled to trust one another, Crusoe put 'Friday' in leg irons every night (originally to be used on slaves), fearing for his life (when Friday snuck into his room to smoke his pipe), but then, when Friday avowed: "Friday love Master always," Crusoe relented and removed them: "I cannot hold you here by force," and Friday begged to remain with him: "No send Friday away"; thereafter, Crusoe vowed to be his loyal companion and friend ("I want you to be my friend. I will never leave you"); Crusoe praised their camaraderie: "How wrong I had been. Friday was as loyal a friend as any man could want. With his many different skills he enriched my life on the island. We had found that two working together could do much more than working separately"
  • during a short theological discussion sequence about the problem of evil, the two smoked together as Friday cryptically but profoundly asked Crusoe a baffling question -- why didn't the all-powerful God ("stronger than the devil") destroy the devil: "If God the most strong, why he not kill devil?" - Crusoe thoughtfully answered: "Well, you see Friday, without the devil, there would be no temptation and no sin. The devil must be there for us to have a chance to choose sin or resist it"; Friday pointed out the irony: "Is God let devil tempt us?...Then, why God mad when we sin?"; Crusoe laughingly deflected: "Friday can't get these things into his head"
  • in one startling sequence of the savage native's domestication, Friday decorated his neck with gold coins and feminized himself by wearing a woman's dress; he was sternly rebuked by Crusoe who was unamused by the cross-dressing ("Take that off!")
  • after 28 years on the island, Crusoe still had a "burning desire" within him to escape - and he thought of constructing a canoe with Friday's skill and knowledge to navigate to "Spanish the north" - Crusoe spoke: "This would be my last chance to see my native England before I died"
  • suddenly, there was a second major encounter with the cannibals; Friday saved Crusoe's life by killing one cannibal who had aimed his bow and arrow at his master; they also pursued two other threatening cannibals through the jungle (killing both of them); after seeing another landing of cannibals on the beach, Crusoe and Friday began to prepare to defend themselves with multiple guns, during their practice session, they were surprised by gunfire
  • they discovered a group of white men (mutineers from a ship) firing at the cannibals on the beach, and their two victimized prisoners of the mutiny who were bound by rope - the ship's Captain Oberzo (Felipe de Alba) and his Bosun (Chel López); the leader of the mutineers - First Mate (Emilio Garibay), ordered: "Tie them to those trees. We'll come back for you, when we have water for the ship"; Crusoe and Friday were able to cut the ropes of the two prisoners, tie up their mutineer-guard, and rescue the two prisoners; the Captain explained their predicament - the mutineers had control of the weapons: "They anchored here to take on water and abandon us when they surprised and killed the savages... Should they return to the ship, we are lost!"; Crusoe promised to help them prevent the mutineers' return to the ship under two conditions: (1) that Crusoe was in charge on the island, and (2) in exchange for their support, 'Friday' and Crusoe would be given passage back to England
The Tied-Up Captain and Bosun During Mutiny
Crusoe's Plan to Defeat the Mutineers
Friday's Tempting Gold Necklace
Mutineers Led by First Mate Forced to Surrender
  • with his gold necklace as a lure (the promise of gold coins), 'Friday' was able to lead the greedy mutineers through the jungle back to their stockade, where they were overpowered and forced to surrender
  • as Crusoe prepared to leave by dressing in his finest silken garb, he stood before a mirror and recalled his younger self, asking: "Was I that young?"; when the Captain regained command of his ship, he called for Crusoe and 'Friday' to board; they gathered their possessions, including Crusoe's journal: ("The proof of the pudding, so the people cannot say that Crusoe's mad"); he took one last long look at his abode for the previous 28 years; the mutineers were allowed to remain on the island (in the stockade with Crusoe's tools and survival instructions) rather than being returned to the gallows for their crimes; he gave them a rolled-up parchment: "I have here instructions for you: time of planting, care of livestock, places of concealment of weapons and powder, information also, as to the savages, who do on occasion, visit this place. Whether or not you learn the lessons I have learnt and survive, I cannot foresee. And you'll have something which I for years did not have, something for which I wept, for which my soul shriveled and starved! You have others of your own kind. You have companions. You have man!"
  • the concluding sequence of Crusoe's departure from the island; he asked if Friday (dressed as a servant) was afraid about leaving the island - and Friday answered: "If Master is not, Friday is not"
  • in the bittersweet ending, Crusoe looked back from the dinghy taking him to the Captain's ship and 'heard' his beloved deceased dog Rex barking in the distance; his last narrated words were: "And thus, I left the island after I had been upon it eight and twenty years, two months and nineteen days"

The Ariel's Shipwreck

Washed Up Onto the Shore

The First Morning - Awakening in a Tree

The Hatchling in an Egg

Discovering Rex on Island

Writing in Diary Journal

Death of Rex

23rd Psalm Echoing in Valley

Rushing to the Ocean


18 Years on the Island - Wearing Patchwork Quilt Clothing

Observing Charred Remains and Body Parts After Cannibals Departed

The Return of the Cannibals

The Rescue of the Cannibals' Captive

Named "Friday" For Day of Week

"No take Friday away"


Crusoe To Friday: "Take That Off!"

Crusoe: "Was I that young?"

Crusoe's Instructions for the Mutineers

On the Dinghy to the Ship, Crusoe Heard Rex's Barking Back on the Island


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