Robinson Crusoe
Mexican film poster
Directed byLuis Buñuel
Written byLuis Alcoriza
Luis Buñuel
Hugo Butler
Based onRobinson Crusoe
by Daniel Defoe
Produced byÓscar Dancigers
George Pepper
StarringDaniel O'Herlihy
Jaime Fernández
Felipe de Alba
CinematographyAlex Phillips
Edited byCarlos Savage
Alberto Valenzuela
Music byAnthony Collins
Distributed byDistribuidora Mexicana de Películas (Mexico)
United Artists (U.S.)
Release dates
  • 5 August 1954 (1954-08-05) (U.S.)
  • 30 June 1955 (1955-06-30) (Mexico)
Running time
89 minutes
United States[1]

Robinson Crusoe (Spanish: Aventuras de Robinson Crusoe; also released as Adventures of Robinson Crusoe[2]) is a 1954 adventure film directed by Luis Buñuel, based on the 1719 novel of the same name by Daniel Defoe. It stars Dan O'Herlihy as Crusoe and Jaime Fernández as Friday. Both English and Spanish versions were produced, making it Buñuel's first English-language film.

The film was entered into the 15th Venice International Film Festival, and was a critical and commercial success. In Mexico, it won six Ariel Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. O'Herlihy was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor,[3] and the film was nominated for a BAFTA Award for Best Film From Any Source.


Actor Role
Daniel O'Herlihy Robinson Crusoe /
Crusoe's father
Jaime Fernández Friday
Felipe de Alba Captain Oberzo
Chel López The Bosun
José Chávez Pirate
Emilio Garibay Lead Mutineer

Robinson Crusoe, a third son with few prospects, goes to sea against his father's wishes. On a voyage from Brazil to Africa to collect slaves, a storm forces him to abandon ship. He swims alone to a deserted island somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean on September 30, 1659.

To his delight, the abandoned ship turns up on an offshore rock, allowing him to salvage food, tools, firearms and other items before it sinks. He herds goats, hunts game, makes clothes, and builds a home, with only the company of a dog, Rex, and a cat, Sam, his only fellow castaways. Crusoe lets Sam and her kittens run wild. When Rex dies of old age in 1673, Crusoe nearly goes insane from loneliness.

In 1677, after 18 years, Crusoe discovers that cannibals are visiting his island with their victims. The next time he spots them with his telescope, he sees a prisoner make a break for it, pursued by two cannibals. He knocks out one and shoots the other; when the first one regains consciousness, the escapee kills him with Crusoe's knife. Crusoe takes the man back to his stockade.

He names him Friday (after the day of the week they met). Crusoe teaches him English and Western customs and turns Friday into a servant. Crusoe does not trust him at first, believing Friday to also be a cannibal who would kill him if given the chance. He builds a door to the cave in which he takes to sleeping. When Friday enters without permission late one night to sneak some tobacco, Crusoe puts leg irons on him. The next day, however, Crusoe relents and takes them off. He comes to trust his new companion completely.

In 1687, after 28 years, Friday saves Crusoe from a cannibal sneaking up behind him. Seeing a large group, they flee back to their stockade. The cannibals, however, are driven off by white men with guns. Captain Oberzo and his bosun are the victims of a mutiny; the mutineers have landed to get fresh water and to maroon the two. Crusoe and Friday rescue the men and get away undetected. Friday then goes to the leader of the mutiny, offering him a basket of fruit, but the mutineers are more interested in the necklace of gold coins (salvaged from Crusoe's ship) he is wearing. Friday leads the greedy men to the stockade. There, Crusoe, Friday, Oberzo, and the bosun capture them. Oberzo regains control of his ship. At Crusoe's suggestion, Oberzo agrees to let the mutineers remain on the island instead of being sentenced to die on the gallows. Crusoe leaves them his tools and instructions on how to survive.

Crusoe leaves for home with Friday, having spent 28 years, two months, and 19 days on the island. As they row for the ship, Crusoe imagines he can hear his dog Rex barking in the distance.


Luis Buñuel began working with screenwriter Hugo Butler in 1950 on a script.[4] Alex Phillips was hired as the cinematographer.[5] More than 300 actors were considered for the lead role. O'Herlihy recalled that the producers of the film wanted Buñuel to use Orson Welles for the role, with Buñuel refusing, saying he was too loud and too fat. They arranged a screening of Welles' Macbeth to show how a bearded Welles would look, but Buñuel demanded O'Herlihy,[6] who played Macduff, for the lead role.[4] Negotiations with O’Herlihy occurred at the last moment and under strict conditions of secrecy to prevent a wealthier motion picture studio from rushing a similar story into production.[5]

Jaime Fernández was cast as Friday. Fernández was the younger brother of well-known Mexican actor/director Emilio Fernández. Jaime Fernández was working as a grip when discovered by Buñuel. He spoke no English, and learned it on the set much as his character did.[5]

Filming began on July 7, 1952, on the west coast of Mexico. Principal photography was scheduled for seven weeks, with both an English and Spanish language version shot simultaneously.[4] Both films were budgeted at a total of $350,000. Exterior shots were filmed near the city of Manzanillo in the Mexican state of Colima. There were 60 people in the production crew. The crew took daily doses of Diodoquin and aralen to guard against dysentery and malaria, respectively. A security squad of local Manzanillans kept snakes, wild boar, and other dangerous animals at bay with guns and machetes. Interior shots were filmed on Sound Stage 3 at Tepeyac Studios in Mexico City. The negatives were flown to Hollywood, where they were developed and color-corrected.

Three times a week, Buñuel, Phillips, the producers, O'Herlihy, and others watched the rushes in a local movie theater. Editing and scoring were also done in Mexico City.[5] For the Spanish version, O'Herlihy's dialogue was dubbed by Buñuel 's regular collaborator Claudio Brook.

According to O'Herlihy, Buñuel saw the central theme of the story as that of a man who ages and almost loses his mind, only to find that companionship is his salvation. O'Herlihy also said that the script was used only for the first week of shooting. Afterward, Buñuel and O'Herlihy would merely discuss the story and how O'Herlihy should act and react.[7]


The producers initially believed the film would be ready for distribution by December 1952,[5] but numerous delays upset these plans. On October 14, 1953, the producers announced that United Artists had signed an agreement for worldwide distribution rights to the film.[8] The film premiered in New York City on August 4, 1954, at the Normandie Theatre.[9]


The film was Buñuel's most successful film in the United States until Belle de Jour was released in 1969.[10][11]

Awards and nominations

Academy Award

Year Category Nominee Result
1955 Best Actor Dan O'Herlihy Nominated

Ariel Award

Year Category Nominee Result
1956 Best Picture Luis Buñuel Won
Best Director Won
Best Screenplay Won
Best Supporting Actor Jaime Fernández Won
Best Cinematography Alex Phillips Nominated
Best Editing Carlos Savage Won
Best Production Design Edward Fitzgerald Won


Year Category Nominee Result
1955 Best Film From Any Source Nominated

Venice Film Festival

Year Category Nominee Result
1954 Golden Lion Luis Buñuel Nominated

See also


  1. ^ "AFI|Catalog".
  2. ^ "Adventures of Robinson Crusoe". Retrieved 2021-05-25.
  3. ^ "'Oscar' Nominees Are Shown on TV". The New York Times. February 13, 1955.
  4. ^ a b c Pryor, Thomas M. (July 5, 1952). "Mexican Will Film 'Robinson Crusoe'". The New York Times.
  5. ^ a b c d e Mindlin, Jr., Michael (September 14, 1952). "'Crusoe' Comes to Life in the Mexican Tropics". The New York Times.
  6. ^ "Dan O'Herlihy Obituary". The Independent. 21 February 2005.
  7. ^ Thompson, Howard (July 11, 1954). "Dan O'Herlihy Speaks Up for 'Crusoe'". The New York Times.
  8. ^ Pryor, Thomas M. (October 15, 1953). "Independents Vie for Melville Tale". The New York Times.
  9. ^ "Of Local Origin". The New York Times. August 2, 1954.
  10. ^ "New York Sound Track". Variety. April 17, 1968. p. 20.
  11. ^ Cohn, Lawrence (January 7, 1991). "France, Italy, Sweden head import list". Variety. p. 19.