Robinson Crusoe

The means are simplified to the utmost, Crusoe in his self-made weeds, his palisade and compound, the apt location, a camera and his voiceover narration. Friday is a small boy whose father is one of the tribal captives (the other is a sailor).

A boat is tried and fails, the island is explored (striking waterfalls), the tribesmen come ashore wielding spears. They are repulsed, the captives are rescued and tended with roast meat on a spit.

Very little happens, as Crusoe points out, except his resilience of faith tried deeply in solitude, until a party of mutineers makes shore (announced by a journey amid crocodiles). He frees their captain, binds them within the palisade. A second landing party is fought, the leader is killed, Crusoe makes a truce. The captain in mufti boards his ship and retakes it, Crusoe returns home with Friday, after conferring with his government of parrots.

Buñuel’s great film being unrecognized, like all his Mexican output or nearly, the reduction here reflects such an experience and greatly telling it is, too. Drama is avoided for the facts in the case, the panning camera zooms to Crusoe in his dilemma to take stock of him taking stock for a moment or two, sufficiently.


Guyana: Crime of the Century

This terribly overlooked little film plays like Gangbusters thanks to a voiceover narration by a survivor, and the quick clinical view it provides of the terrible events in its purview (TV Guide, astonishingly, calls it “mean-spirited”).

Cardona has a beautiful establishing sequence in San Francisco, culminating in a slow high-angle tilt-and-pan across the city, repeated (halfway) in a view of Georgetown (Guyana) later. The photography is very proficient, accomplishing such difficult tasks as the American deputation landing on the tarmac in Georgetown with the low sun on the horizon behind them. Camera movement is very skillful throughout.

Rev. Johnson (Stuart Whitman) proclaims the Last Judgement and leads a flock to the jungle, where they declare “Johnson is Christ!” Parents willingly see their children tortured before their very eyes, and when Johnson proclaims it needed for “the salvation of mankind,” they just as willingly “prepare for the final night.”

But even after so much subjugation, misery and isolation, they still cling, many of them, to life in their last moments. Whitman conveys here, I think, the hopeless dreary inanity of the real event.

Before this, you get the U.S. Ambassador calling Johnson a socialist in contact with Russia, and the reporters interviewing Johnson at his temple in Johnsontown (Guyana), and Congressman O’Brien (Gene Barry) answering their questions back in the U.S. “Is Johnsontown a sort of concentration camp?” “Well, there’s torture, extortion, violations of civil rights, child abuse,” etc.