Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. Movie & Book Review

Dick Van Dyke is beloved by Disney fans for his work in Mary Poppins. But what many don’t know is that he did two other movies for Walt. One of those would go on to be one of the worst Disney movies ever entitled Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N.

Am I exaggerating? Nope. Although I will say that it wasn’t Van Dyke’s fault. The story is the problem. The director failed to utilize his hired talent and didn’t capitalize on Van Dyke’s natural physical humor and comedy pacing. And I could say without a doubt that you could swap any comedian into the title role and it wouldn’t change a thing!

What is surprising is that Walt Disney himself conceived the story under the pen name of Retlaw Yensid (not to be confused with the Sorcerer in Fantasia). The plot is filled with old jokes, standard slapstick action, the prerequisite monkey, and inconsistencies aplenty!

So naturally I bought the book as well. We’ll get to that later. The problem with this movie as I see it is that it revolves around the plight of a United States Navy fighter pilot who crashes into the ocean and then finds his way to an island. While he does exhibit some fairly good survival skills once marooned on this typical tropical island, his ineptitude for dealing with conflict, combat, and women, don’t follow for someone so highly trained by the military.

As is common with most family films of this time (1966) it fills out the cast with stereotypical characters that can be hard to watch at times. Again, common sense is thrown out the window if a ‘good’ gag suited the Director better.

The cast hams its way through the movie. His man Friday is a girl Wednesday and her father is not a cannibal, that would be ridiculous in the 1960s! He’s a headhunter. But he does chew through his scenes!

I wish they had let Van Dyke ad lib more and just do what he does best. I felt that he was not being allowed to open up and really do his stuff!

The book is a fair adaption of the movie. The opening pages add some detail about how Crusoe got into his predicament, and the last few pages flesh out what happened after he is rescued.

The back cover attributes the story to ‘those masters of mirth, Walt Disney and Dick Van Dyke’. However, as I’ve said, the mirth was missing from this effort.

Gold Key released two comic book adaptions of the movie. One would have been enough.

Van Dyke’s contract with Disney didn’t last long after Walt’s death and he moved on to bigger and better things like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968.

I always wonder if actors look back on certain movies and regret doing them. Or do they see each outing as stepping stones in a career? Do they agonize over failures? Or see box office flops as just bumps in the road to success? If so, Lt. Robin Crusoe U.S.N. was a huge pothole for Dick Van Dyke!

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