Robinson Crusoe On Mars/Van Cleave

November 8, 2011

Nathan Van Cleave (1910-1970), like Hugo Friedhofer, Fred Steiner, Conrad Pope, and Mark McKenzie, were known for their fine orchestral arranging in Hollywood. Fred Steiner was responsible for much of the orchestration in this work which had an ensemble of 24 instruments including two organs. All mentioned have been in high demand for their talents as being able to add to the film with their orchestration and arranging. This year FSM has released three of his soundtracks one of which I’ve reviewed. This release is part of their Silver Age Classics and it is limited to a pressing of 3000 discs.

Directed by Byron Haskin, who also directed War of the Worlds, From Earth to Moon, and Conquest of Space, the film starred Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, Adam West, and Mona the monkey. It tells the classic Daniel Defoe “Robinson Crusoe” story with Mars being the setting. It was recently re-mastered by Criterion to Blue Ray.

“Seal and Main Title,” the opening track introduces us to both of the themes. The first is rather slow and plodding while the second is upbeat and military sounding. Both of these themes are featured on several of the tracks. The second melody, the ‘Crusoe’ theme, is memorable and one you’ll remember. The main title makes its point well in the film but its motif is not one you’ll likely remember. Steiner does an excellent orchestral arranging job making good use of the organ, woodwinds, percussion, strings and brass. “Fires of Mars” continues with the main title theme from the trumpets who also offer a military fanfare. “Martian Night” is an atonal statement from the brass but quickly changes into an eerie sequence with the Organ offering theremin type music. The brass offers a variation of the main theme in a tension type tempo. “Search For Shelter,” one of the longer cues, continues with variations of the main theme. The Organ offers harmony which is quite eerie sounding. “Search For Partner” begins much like track 5 with slow plodding of the main theme, a deathlike timbre. Long notes from the organ offer the science fiction harmony background. The trumpets offer a statement of the ‘Crusoe’ theme but it is only a hint and will be expanded further in track nine. There is a steady rhythm from the percussion. “Alarm Clock/Alone on Mars offers the ‘Crusoe’ theme in a longer cue with major key strings, some dissonant flute work, and very bright trumpets. “Dinner for Two” arrangement of the ‘Crusoe’ theme seems out of place as it sounds like a romantic interlude. “Martian Matzo Balls” opens with the clarinet offering the ‘Crusoe’ melody and the orchestra responds with harmonic chords. “Strange Grave” offers tremolo from the strings, a muted horn playing a variation of the ‘Crusoe’ theme without orchestra, and a brass fanfare. “Enter Friday” begins with atonal staccato with the horns playing both the ‘Crusoe’ theme and the ‘Main Title’ “Finale/End Title is harmonic underscore followed by a large bold version of the ‘Crusoe’ theme to end the score. Source music as a bonus consists of an old fashion sweetband/elevator music, off key dissonant “Dixie” played on the bagpipes, and Organ music right out of Sunday Church services.

Van Cleave made an important contribution to science fiction music with his scores to Space Children, Colossus of New York, and Robinson Crusoe on Mars. This material is a must have if you’re a collector of this kind of material. In my opinion Steiner did an incredible job arranging with the small orchestra he had to work with. The recording sounds fine if you remember this was mastered nearly 50 years ago.

Track listing

1. Seal and Main Title (00:58)

2. Fires of Mars (01:01)

3. False Alarm (00:50)

4. Martian Night (01:25)

5. Search for Shelter (05:07)

6. Search for Partner (04:06)

7. Enter Mona (00:30)

8. Homeward Trek/Return to the Cave (03:08)

9. Alarm Clock/Alone on Mars/The Flutestone (overlay) (01:50)

10. Dinner for Two (01:20)

11. Water (01:07)

12. Lonely Lights (01:36)

13. My Echo, My Monkey and Me (00:43)

14. Martian Matzo Balls/The Dream (03:29)

15. Strange Grave (01:34)

16. Enter Friday (01:20)

17. Guest in the Cave/And So to Bed (04:05)

18. Language Lesson (01:06)

19. Search for Partner (excerpt)/Pit of Death (02:14)

20. Ask Them/Storm’s Aftermath (04:45)

21. The Attack/Along the Ledge (03:13)

22. On to the Ice Cap/Friday’s Sacrifice (03:56)

23. Water Hazard (00:56)

24. Snow Storm (01:50)

25. Finale/End Title (04:06)

Total Time: 57:11

Source Music

26. Selection for Tape Recorder (01:11)

27. Bagpipe No. 1, 2 and 3 (consisting of “Dixie” by D.D. Emmett)(00:56)

28. Organ—23rd Psalm (00:29)

Total Time: 2:41

Total Duration: 00:58:51


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