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The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

Cast: David Bowie, David Bowie, Candy Clark, more...
Director: Nicolas Roeg, Nicolas Roeg
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Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Fox Lorber
Genre: Cult, Foreign, Science Fiction , UK
Running Time: 140 min.
Languages: English
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This title is currently out of print.

Based on a novel by Walter Tevis, The Man Who Fell to Earth achieved cult film status for David Bowie's performance as Thomas Jerome Newton, aka "Mr. Sussex," and the imagery of director Nicholas Roeg, a former cinematographer. In this deeply allegorical science-fiction drama, Newton is an alien from a planet that is dying for lack of water, and he has been sent to earth to find a way to ship some of the earth's plentiful supply to his home planet. He arrives with a human-looking disguise, his knowledge of unusual technologies, his despair, and little else. Using his knowledge, he takes out patents on "his" inventions, aided by patent lawyer Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry). He skillfully parlays the money from these inventions and becomes a financial/industrial tycoon. These inventions, and others like them, along with his political and financial power, should make possible the transfer of water to his planet. But instead of pressing forward with plans to save his home planet, he becomes enamored of Earth's low-down ways and of his strange, passive relationship with his elevator-operator girlfriend, Mary Lou (Candy Clark). Meanwhile, his phenomenal rise from anonymity to power, and his eccentric behavior, spark the government's interest. Chemistry professor Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn) also comes calling, fascinated by the alien's history. As gin and despair slowly cripple him, he becomes consumed by memories of life on his doomed planet. The longer (140 minutes) and sexier British version of this film was toned down for its American release. Roeg, whose work has received polarized responses, also directed such distinctively stylized movies as Walkabout (1971) and Don't Look Now (1973). ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Loved it by Texan99 September 5, 2010 - 2:47 PM PDT
Even among folks who are predisposed to the arthouse effort in general and Nicholas Roeg in particular, this film speaks powerfully to some and irritates others. For me, the movie has too many pleasures to list. Bowie, of course, but also the incomparable Rip Torn, Buck Henry, and Candy Clark. Terrific use of music, including David Bowie's painful efforts to fake it through "Jerusalem" with Clark's congregation, who believe they're making their "English" visitor feel welcome with this hymn. Also an evocative use of Holst's "The Planets." Bowie's alien is a plant that can't take root, especially when he starts trying to water himself with gin.

hard of hearing by Popnfresh May 23, 2008 - 9:37 AM PDT
Bowie mumbles a bit and has a thick British accent, and some of the lines are hard to catch. My foreign girlfriend was miserable trying to follow the complicated plot since there is no available captioning in this version.

The Criterion Collection version includes optional subtitling to help with this problem, and I'm guessing it's a better print and cleaner audio, not that this DVD is necessarily horrible. Greencine has the Criterion version, and it's worth waiting on that one.

I hated it at first, and started to love it by larbeck January 29, 2004 - 7:37 AM PST
4 out of 4 members found this review helpful
This ain't no action picture. Actually, I believe it was a more mature film that I was when I first saw it. I hated it the first time. But after more viewing, I learned to love it and appreciate how it was really a groundbreaking film and perhaps ahead of it's time, in term of display a sense of angst in an artistic yet still cinematic way.

SPOILER: The really great thing about the film is the alien invasion is not defeated by a super weapon or crafty military technique but by convert agents who marginize and discredit this scout rather than killing and just render his ineffective and sad. And have the alien but so phyiscal fragile was inspired.

And, this from Robert Lloyd:

'Screenwriter Paul Mayersberg has described its parade of scenes as "circus acts following one another -- the funny, the violent, the frightening, the sad, the horrific, the spectacular." Roeg delights here in "taking away the crutch of time" ("It has puzzled people whether 25 minutes or 25 years have passed in the film"), eliminating transitions, cross-cutting, flashing forward and back, piling dissolve upon dissolve, letting the camera jerk and twirl and zoom -- finding new ways to see familiar things, while speculating on what the world might look like to someone from Out There.'

Not your normal film, not at all. And beside Bowie great, great performance, I was introduction to both Rip Torn and Buck Henry in this film.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 6.57)
99 Votes
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