are you an admirer of Dick Van Dyke, but a bigger fan of some of his works than others? do you, for instance, relish the unprecedented suburban sophistication of The Dick Van Dyke Show - still hands-down the greatest "real life" sitcom in television history - but cringe to think of his slushier cinematic efforts, like Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? (personally, i quite liked everything else about Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, but the diabetes inducing musical numbers killed my enthusiasm.) if you're looking for amicable middle-ground, seek no farther than Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. for my money, this is the all-time most underrated Walt Disney production.
it's a fitting as well as charming showcase for both Disney's amicable brand of good-natured fun and Van Dyke's agile "everyman" slapstick. it admittedly borrows only the basics from it's literary blueprint, but that's all it needs. Robinson Crusoe, like Moby Dick or Romeo & Juliet, is one of those books that somehow conjures a feeling for us even if we haven't read 'em.
the protagonist was named Robinson by a father who yearned but never managed to go to sea. ("why couldn't Dad've named me Dwight or Lyndon"?) a navy pilot forced to evacuate his overheated jet, he manages to find a vacant but habitable island and undertakes the rigors of self-sufficiency. (one wonders if the popularity of Gilligan's Island had something to do with the film's existence. maybe "Uncle Walt" should've done a movie starring Bob Denver as a tv comedy writer to even things out.) along the way he befriends a similarly lost "astro-chimp" and Nancy Kwan, who becomes his "girl Wednesday." ultimately he must confront her dictatorial father, the Chief, and bring Woman's Lib to the tribe.
it's a semi-bummer that such Van Dyke Show cronies as Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam couldn't make it, but we do at least get a delightful cameo by (the voice of) Richard Deacon. his early narration for Crusoe's survival-at-sea manual gleefully reflects the button-down pomposity Deacon had flaunted as Alan Brady's brother-in-law/producer. Van Dyke's muffling of the obsequious instructor's narrative by burying the manual in damp sand is a rebut worthy of Buddy Sorrell.
only one thing about it particularly bugs me, in fact downright pisses me off: the sight the famously left-handed Van Dyke writing with the other hand. the same thing frequently happens on his sitcom, even though his left-handedness was a punchline more than once. for decades my fellow lefties were forced to use the wrong hand on film, and i realize there are activities where it's practical to resist one's southpawness, such as fencing. but the fact is, 99.99% of it was sheer bigotry!! when it comes to as mundane an activity as writing, how is this any different from telling Denzel Washington that he can't have a part unless he bleaches his skin?
another oddity is the credit "story by Retlaw Yensid." the joke is that it's Uncle Walt's name backwards, only it's not quite. technically, the mirror image of "Walter Disney" would be "Yensid Retlaw." if there's one thing more perplexing than why they didn't go all the way, it would be why i've seen others attempting the same gag making the same mistake. oh, well.
like any movie fanatic, i've been asked once or twice if i had any "guilty pleasures." to be honest, i'm not sure i grasp the concept. i mean, you just sort of turn out to be whatever it is you are, y'know? you can't really choose your taste in movies anymore than you can your singing voice or how tall you are. so if a friend doesn't care for one of your favorites, well, there's certainly letdown potential, but it's not really anybody's fault. (unless you wanna blame God or Nature.) so as i interpret it, what you're being asked to feel guilty about is pretty much being who you are.
and anyway, i tend to favor the other extreme. faced with the denigration of something i enjoyed (and sometimes the praise of something i couldn't stand), i'm more the righteous indignation type. (again, not really quite fair in light of the nobody's-fault syndrome, but i haven't quite convinced my gut yet.)
still, i have gotten some idea what whoever's in charge wants to make us feel guilty about enjoying. from what i've gleaned i get the feeling that some would say Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. should be listed as one of mine (if i had any), but i refute the very idea. maybe it's not particularly profound or revolutionary, but it's charming and fun, so who the hell cares? i repeat, it's a sterling (however prosaic) example of both Walt Disney and Dick Van Dyke doing what they did best.
- Actors: Dick Van Dyke, Nancy Kwan, Arthur Malet, Tyler McVey, Pete Renoudet
- Directors: Byron Paul
- Format: Closed-captioned, Multiple Formats, NTSC
- Language: English
- Region: Region 1 (US and Canada DVD formats.)
- Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Studio: Buena Vista Home Entertainment
- DVD Release Date: 12 April 2005
- Run Time: 114 minutes
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- ASIN: B00077BPFU
Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
47,398 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
- #33256 in Movies (Movies & TV)