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Nicolas Roeg
David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey, Jackson D. Kane, Jackson D. Kane
Writing Credits:
Paul Mayersberg, based on the novel by Walter Tevis

Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth to get water for his dying planet. He starts a high technology company to get the billions of dollars he needs to build a return spacecraft, and meets Mary-Lou, a girl who falls in love with him. He does not count on the greed and ruthlessness of business here on Earth, however.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 139 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 1/24/2017

• Cast & Crew Interviews
• ďThe Lost SoundtracksĒ Featurette
• 1977 David Bowie Interview
• Trailer
• DVD Copy
• Booklet
• Postcards
• Poster
• Press Book Reproduction


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


The Man Who Fell to Earth: Limited Collector's Edition [Blu-Ray] (1976)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 29, 2017)

On the short list of successful performances from rock stars turned actors, we find David Bowie in 1976ís The Man Who Fell to Earth. It features Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien who comes to our planet to seek water for his arid home world.

Because he needs lots of money to achieve this goal, Newton takes some sensational inventions to attorney Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry) to patent. Newton indeed becomes a huge financial success due to his technology, and World Enterprises turns into a major entity.

Eventually Newton moves his companyís base to New Mexico, where he encounters hotel maid Mary-Lou (Candy Clark). The pair meet under poor circumstances, as Newton gets motion-sick on an elevator, but they quickly become a couple. Mary-Lou remains part of Newtonís life through the remainder of the story.

We also encounter lecherous college professor Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn). He eventually quits academia to work for Newton, and he becomes part of the research team that deals with Newtonís attempts to build a spacecraft.

Newton hides his non-terrestrial identity and motivations, but eventually these become evident to those around him. Newton also turns into a reclusive alcoholic who experiences mental breakdowns.

That synopsis probably makes Earth sound pretty clear-cut and linear, but it most definitely doesnít follow a standard storytelling path. That creates both the filmís biggest strength and greatest weakness.

To be sure, director Nicolas Roeg offers a very unusual piece with Earth. Time flows in a manner that makes it difficult to follow, especially since Newton never ages. Roeg jumps from year to year quite a bit as well, so the viewer may well become confused during a screening of the flick.

That makes Earth difficult to access much of the time. I know that when I first tried to watch it back in the Eighties, I gave up on it after about 15 minutes. One canít enter a viewing of Earth and expect something direct and clear-cut, as the movie requires a suspension of standard narrative notions to a large degree.

In many ways, Earth strongly resembles Kubrickís 2001: A Space Odyssey. Both favor visuals over ďnormalĒ storytelling and they progress in an atypical manner. Earth seems more conventional than 2001 and not quite as good, but the similarities exist, as the Kubrick flick clearly influenced it.

Iíve now seen Earth all the way through five or six times, but I still donít feel sure what I think of it. I do know that the movie offers an intriguing and unusual experience, though. The non-linear style doesnít create as many problems as one might expect, but the loose manner in which Roeg tells the tale can be an issue.

That occurs especially during the second half of the flick, as the plot starts to collapse into moderate incoherence. The introduction of a rather mysterious character named Peters (Bernie Casey) complicates matters, and much of the filmís last hour seems a bit jumbled and messy.

Granted, the events that precede that period donít exactly come across as crisp and taut, but they appear significantly more sensible. The movie really tends to meander during the second half. It ends on a fairly strong note, but getting to that point becomes tough.

Rock stars tend to do best when they play characters close to themselves. Thatís why Madonna scored with Desperately Seeking Susan and Eminem hit with 8 Mile.

While Iím pretty sure Bowie didnít actually come from another world, Newton certainly matched the artist circa 1976. Heavily involved with cocaine, at that time Bowie felt disconnected from the world. That worked well for his art, as 1976ís chilly and robotic Station to Station remains possibly his greatest album, but it certainly didnít help the man himself.

It also seemed to assist his performance as Newton. God knows Bowie didnít need to act a whole lot to come across as detached from society, and he does quite well in the role.

At times, Bowie emotes a little too strongly, as he encounters some problems with the broader elements of the role. This means that when Newton expresses sides of himself beyond the introverted elements, Bowie tends to appear a bit over the top. Still, he provides some of the better aspects of the film, as he mostly inhabits the role well.

A difficult movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth presents an intriguing experience and comes across as generally compelling. However, it definitely isnít for everyone. The non-linear style of storytelling can make the movie seem disjointed, and it also rambles at times.

In addition, it includes copious scenes of sex and nudity, which will turn off some viewers. Occasionally incoherent, periodically dated, but usually stimulating, Earth doesnít impress me as a great film, but itís a consistently interesting one.

Cameo alert: keep an eye out for Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell during one crowd scene. In addition, Bowie fans will recognize the interior of the spacecraft from the cover of Station to Station as well as imagery that reminds us of 1977ís Low.

Also, in a record store scene, we also get a sly glimpse of Young Americans, the then-newest Bowie album on the shelves during the filmís production.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B / Bonus B

The Man Who Fell to Earth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not great, the image seemed mostly positive.

Sharpness usually worked well. Some intentional softness appeared due to photographic techniques, but the rest of the image offered generally appealing delineation. Some shots appeared a little on the soft side for no obvious design reasons, though.

Jagged edges and moirť effects created no concerns, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws failed to materialize here.

Colors looked mostly good. The film took on a somewhat yellow tint that limited the range of hues, but the disc reproduced them with reasonable clarity. Black levels were deep and rich, while shadow detail looked clean and clear. This was a primarily positive presentation.

The DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of Earth worked well for a movie from the mid-Seventies, as the audio showed good spread and imaging. For the most part, the sound tended toward a general sense of ambience, but some more distinct examples occurred, and those were nicely delineated. Localization and placement seemed natural and accurate, and the elements combined well.

Audio quality appeared erratic but generally solid. Speech sometimes seemed a little thin and hollow, and I also noticed some minor vocal bleeding to the sides at times. However, dialogue generally remained acceptably natural, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess.

Music sounded fairly clear and distinctive, as the various musical elements appeared reasonably smooth. Effects occasionally sounded a little shrill, but they usually seemed acceptably natural and accurate.

Bass response remained fairly tight and offered a good presence as a whole. The soundtrack of Earth did nothing terribly spectacular, but I thought it sounded above average for a film from this time period.

How does the 2017 Blu-ray compare to the Criterion Blu-ray release? Audio seemed similar, if not identical, so I detected no obvious differences between the Criterionís PCM stereo mix and this oneís DTS-HD MA track.

On the other hand, visuals seemed a little weaker with the 2017 Blu-ray. With that yellow orientation, colors appeared less natural, and sharpness came across as slightly less concise.

Donít take these changes to indicate a big drop from the Criterion, and honestly, if Iíd never seen the prior Blu-ray, Iíd probably feel more satisfied with this one. Overall, itís a pleasing release, but I think the Criterion Blu-ray presented a stronger image.

The 2017 Blu-ray duplicates almost none of the Criterionís extras. Under Interviews, we get two hours, 46 minutes, and one second of material from eight participants: actor Candy Clark (27:47), writer Paul Mayersberg (31:51), cinematographer Tony Richmond (21:48), director Nicolas Roeg (33:28), costume designer May Routh (14:44), still photographer David James (8:38), fan/filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson (11:20) and producer Michael Deeley (16:26).

Across these, we learn about how various participants came to the project, aspects of their participation, reflections on various cast/crew, production details, and perspectives on the final film.

Inevitably, the quality of these chats varies. To my surprise, Roeg becomes probably the least interesting of the crew, mainly because he tends to ramble and doesnít give us a lot of particularly compelling details. Taylor-Johnsonís interview also feels like little more than generic praise for the film.

Clarkís discussion works pretty well, though, and I like Routhís view of the filmís costumes Ė she gives us a good perspective on the challenges she confronted. The others have their merits as well, so overall, this collection of interviews adds useful material.

The Lost Soundtracks runs 16 minutes, 44 seconds and presents notes from Deeley, arranger/composer/conductor Paul Buckmaster, and author Chris Campion. As implied by the title, they look at various musical concepts intended for the film but not used. ďLostĒ becomes a reasonable overview.

From 1977, we get a French TV interview with David Bowie. In this eight-minute, 20-second piece, Bowie discusses the film and his plans for the future.

Because the clip includes a long snippet from the movie and because the interviewer constantly translates questions and answers into French, we donít get a ton of content here. Still, itís good to see Bowie from the period not long after the filmís release, so this becomes a decent archival segment.

In addition to a trailer, we get materials not housed on the Blu-ray. Four postcards show shots from the movie, and a foldout poster offers an image created for this release.

A reproduction of the filmís press book features credits, ads and reviews. Finally, a 72-page booklet offers photos, essays and archival materials. All of these components add to the package.

The set also includes a DVD copy of the film. One disc includes the movie while another platter provides the same extras as the Blu-ray.

Anyone who wants an evening with a light and easy film should skip The Man Who Fell to Earth. A complicated work, Earth presents an intriguing experience that falters at times but generally seems compelling and interesting. The Blu-ray offers generally good picture and audio along with a fairly informative set of supplements. I prefer the Criterion Blu-ray of Earth, but if you canít find that out-of-print release for a reasonable price, this 2017 disc works well enough.

To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH

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