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The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe      Esmeralda     Robinson Crusoe     Robinson Crusoe     Robinson Crusoe     The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe     The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe     The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe     The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe     The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe      The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

Franco London Film (a.k.a. FLF Television Paris) made three different 'cuts' of the show - a 4-part version, a 6-part version and a 13-part version to accommodate the different broadcasting requirements of countries buying the series. Certain scenes were shot with different actors for the German cut and some extra scenes were filmed, e.g. Wooseley's niece, the Blind man and Jenny do not appear in the French or English versions. Starring Austrian actor Robert Hoffmann as Daniel Defoe's 'Robinson Crusoe, with Fabian Canalos also appearing in the last four episodes as 'Friday', the island scenes of the 13 x 25 minute episodes were shot mainly in the Canary Islands.

It continued to be transmitted sporadically at various times for many years after which the tapes were 'lost' - apparently dumped into a skip by mistake during a clear-out of old material. Fortunately, the 'English' version was still to be found deep in the archives of a French television library 15 years later and have now been restored and released, first on video and latterly available on DVD. Possibly the most memorable thing about the series is the haunting theme tune and soundtrack by Robert Mellin and Gian-Pero Reverberi, quite amazing for a fairly low-budget production. Strangely, the French version has a different musical score, by George Van Parys, which contains a lot of harpsichord and is arguably less evocative.

Neither does the French version have the wonderful conversational narration of Lee Payant (actually born in Seattle, U.S.A. in 1924), Robinson Crusoe's charming 'English' tenor voice for the greater part of the series, apart from sequences involving direct dialogue from Hoffmann himself, usually in flashback sequences or in conversation with Friday. Payant ran a popular Paris 'left bank' cafe, L'Abbaye, with his lover Gordon Heath until his death in 1976. Filmed in 1964, this Franco-London Films production was originally made in French and the show was first aired in Germany in October 1964 under the title 'Robinson Crusoe' as four x 90-minute episodes by co-producers ZDF.

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe Overdubbed in English, it was syndicated in America in the same year before being bought by the BBC, first appearing on UK television screens in 1965. The series is based on Daniel Defoe's classic novel written in 1721 which itself was based on the true survival story of Alexander Selcraig (a.k.a. Selkirk) from around the turn of the century. Robinson Crusoe's island locations were filmed at Playa del Ingles at the southern end of Gran Canaria. The Moroccan 'slave' scenes were filmed further along the coast at Playa de Maspalomas and Maspalomas.

Robert Hoffmann ...............Robinson Crusoe
Lee Payant .....................Voice of Robinson Crusoe (English dub)
Fabian Cevallos ..............Friday
Jacques Berthier .............Robinson's father
Phillipe Ogouz ................Rodney
Jacques Gougin, Francis Chares,
Phillipe Bruneau, .............Robinson's friends in York
Guy Mairesse .................Captain of the Guard
Alain Nobis .................... Jeremias B.Wooseley, the lawyer (part 2)
Robert Dalban ................ Captain Darrick (parts 4/5)
Jacques Dynam .............. Bush, second mate on Darrick's ship (part 5)
Luc Andrieux .................. Kasir, the fishmonger (part 6)

Additional Cast of German Cut:

Erich Bludau ......................Robinson's father
Jane Marken ......................Jenny, the Crusoe's housekeeper
Oskar von Schab ................Jeremias B. Wooseley, the lawyer
Claudia Berg ......................Wooseley's niece
Paul Chevalier ....................Blind man
Michael Chevalier ...............Narrator

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

Narrated by Lee Payant
Director of Photography Quinto Albicoco
Art Director Robert Luchaire

Music by Robert Mellin & Gian-Piero Reverberi
The Paul Whiteman Orchestra
conducted by Gian-Piero Reverberi

Film Editors Borys Lewin & Helene Plemiannikov
Screenplay by
Jean-Paul Carriere,
Pierre Reynal & Jacques Somet

Sound Engineer Georges Mardiguian
Executive Producer Claire Monis

Directed by Jean Sacha
Produced by Henry Deutschmeister

The village of Cruz de Tajeda, located inland, was used for the 'Brazilian' scenes. The 'English' locations (York and Hull) were actually shot in Normandy, France. Sadly, as Hoffmann explains in his interview, many of the then remote and secluded locations in the Canaries used for filming have since been urbanised and constructed on.

The original 'Robinson Crusoe' Island, Juan Fernandez Archipelago, can actually still be visited and you can book a tour of the island and even a holiday there.

See 'Swashbucklers' for more 1950s and 1960s action/adventure series.
  Robert Hoffmann, born 30th August 1939 in Salzburg, Austria, is by far best-known for his debut performance in the title role of this cult series, but has also appeared in many other film and television productions Germany, Italy, France and occasionally the UK, notably as the U-boat Captain in the 1980 film 'The Sea Wolves' starring Gregory Peck, Roger Moore, David Niven, Trevor Howard and Patrick Macnee. He also appeared, briefly, in the epic US television series 'Dallas'. In 1997 he was interviewed for the V.I.P show when the Robinson Crusoe series was eventually released on video. This interview is contained in the 2007 Network DVD release of the series.
Robert Hoffmann     Robert Hoffmann as Robinson Crusoe

Robinson Crusoe video Robinson Crusoe on Video

In 1997 the complete series was released on 4 volumes of VHS video by Network thanks to Tim Beddows who tracked down the only known English language prints to a French film vault. However, these were only 16mm prints - original 35mm prints used by the BBC between 1965 and 1982 had been lost and no other 35mm prints survived.

In 2006 the 4-part German version was released on DVD by Concorde Home Entertainment using restored 35mm prints. In 2007 Network released the series on DVD as a two-disc set with extra features including a merchandise gallery, the first episode of the original French series with Portuguese subtitles and an alternate musical audio track (overdubbed for US and UK broadcast), and an image gallery which includes stills from the 'missing' German scenes.

At the time of writing, the series episodes are actually available to view on You Tube.
For further information and links to these offerings, see the Episode List at the bottom of the page.

Robinson Crusoe on Audio

In February 1966 a 7-inch single of the theme tune (Main Theme from Robinson Crusoe / Adrift) by the Franco London Orchestra was released by Philips records (BF 1470) in the UK and an LP record of George van Parys' original score was released in France by Petit Menestrel Records (ALB 405). Subsequent re-releases by Philips included 'Theme from Robinson Crusoe / Adrift' (March1967 - Philips BF 1562) and 'Main Theme from Robinson Crusoe / Adrift' (August 1969 - Philips BF 1806).

An LP was also released in Germany by Polydor records. In 1990 Silva Screen released the music from the English dub of the series by Robert Mellin and Gian-Piero Reverberi on CD, the tracks being taken from tapes kept by Robert Mellin in Italy. An extended version was released in 1997, as more tapes were found at Franco London Films in France.

(by Mark Ayres, 2nd September 1997)

The master tapes from which this CD has been compiled came from two sources. Composer Robert Mellin had two reels which he loaned to Silva Screen Records in 1990 and from which the original CD was mastered. Earlier this year [1997] another four reels came to light at Franco London Films. To understand what these reels contained it is necessary to describe the production process. "The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe" was scored from a library of cues provided by the composers, with cues written for various moods and situations, re-cut to suit the individual episodes.

The music cues were recorded at various sessions, with safety copies made of the tapes - two of which found their way into Mr. Mellin's possession. From the original masters, copies were made and the copies edited to form play-in tapes of edited cues for individual episodes. Many passages of music were used more than once. When the edited reels were completed, further safety copies were made of the edits, and it is those safety reels that have now come to light, the previous masters are still lost. In compiling this CD, I spent many hours listening to the tapes (over two hours of material), over and over again, in order to pick the best copy of each section of music and to work out how the music was written before it had been edited.

I then re-edited the tapes to reconstruct the original cues. The source tapes were at least third generation and more than thirty years old, nevertheless they were in very good condition, but technical resources in 1963 were not what they are now and there were many small electrical clicks and pops evident in the masters, some more irritating passages of continuous interference and evidence of chewed tape on the masters being copied to the safeties!

To re-master the music, I manually removed most of the clicks and pops using Sound Designer software running on an Apple Mac Computer before re-compiling the master in Pro Tools using various software from Digidesign and Waves to de-noise and re-equalise the music. The main criteria involved removing artefacts added after the recording of the original master but to leave the original sound intact. As a result, you will occasionally hear some soft clicks; minor distortion and dropouts caused by worn tape, but these should not detract from the enjoyment of this wonderful music from a classic series.

Robinson Crusoe audio

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe 
 Episode List    (13-part series)

First shown in the UK on BBC television 12th October 1965
The year is 1697 and, while passenger on the 'Esmeralda' sailing from Brazil to Guyana, the ship is hit by a terrible storm and Robinson Crusoe finds himself to be the sole human survivor, shipwrecked on a desert island off the coast of South America.

First shown 19th October 1965
Crusoe builds a shelter in a tree and finds a solution for the lack of food and encounters his first companion, a dog that also survived the wreck. He spends much of his time reminiscing about his youthful activities in York.

First shown 26th October 1965
Robinson recalls leaving home and travelling to Hull to seek a ship. The remains of the 'Esmeralda' are washed near the shore and he busies himself salvaging as much as possible before it sinks.

First shown 2nd November 1965
Robinson finds a hoard of treasure aboard the wreck, although it is not much use to him. He recalls his first sea voyages and finds a cave which becomes his new home.

First shown 9th November 1965
Attempts at making furniture prove to be less than successful. Crusoe's memories take him back to his first real voyage and the events that resulted in him being captured and placed in slavery.

First shown 16th November 1965
A fire in his cave destroys all he has created. While rebuilding his home he recalls how he escaped from slavery and the events that led him to become owner of a Brazilian banana plantation.

First shown 23rd November 1965
Robinson's recollections relate how he came to be aboard the ill-fated 'Esmeralda'. He makes a disastrous attempt to enlarge his living quarters and starts to construct a canoe with which to escape the island.

First shown 30th November 1965
Robinson becomes adept at making items such as baskets, pottery and bread. He explores his island and discovers another ship that has run aground from which he salvages more useful items.

First shown 7th December 1965
Robinson and his animal companions 'celebrate' his third year on the island with a banquet. Having had rather too much to drink, he returns to the wreck to try and find more rum. He falls asleep and wakes to find that the ship has floated away from his own island.

First shown 14th December 1965
Robinson finds himself on a new island and this time sees footprints in the sand, discovering that the island is visited by fierce cannibals! He rescues one of their planned victims and names him 'Friday' after the day of the week.

First shown 21st December 1965
Despite Robinson's attempts to educate Friday in how to be 'civilised', Friday does not seem to be enamoured by the idea of becoming a manservant and runs away.

First shown 28th December 1965
Friday returns to Crusoe, much to his relief, having blamed himself for the departure of his only companion. Some other, more unwelcome, company arrives on the island - mutineers!

First shown 30th December 1965
Friday and Robinson fight and manage to defeat the murderous mutineers and eventually make their escape from the island. Returning to England, they start writing the story of their adventures.



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