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With the safe landing of NASA’s Curiosity rover on Mars today, our thoughts have rocketed back to 1964’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars. One year before the NASA probe Mariner 4treated humans to their first close-up views of the Red Planet’s surface, filmmaker Byron Haskin and his crew sought to depict the terra incognita of Mars in a way that would make it feel unprecedentedly real to viewers. Using a mix of optically composited special effects and shots taken in California’s Death Valley, they imagined into existence a landscape in beautifully stark images, filmed in the widescreen Techniscope format, that lend a visceral immediacy to this tale of survival’s sense of melancholy and isolation.

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