The Man Who Fell to Earth
Nicolas Roeg certainly knew what he was doing, in 1973, when he made his film adaption of Walter Tevis book ‘The Man Who Feel to Earth’ as it has become a cult classic. And the good news is that is has just been released as a fully restored 4K edition created from the original film negative.
The story focuses on Thomas Jerome Newton a humanoid alien, who ‘falls’ to earth, and is on a mission to deliver water to his home planet which is suffering from a catastrophic draught.
Newton is played by David Bowie and the film demonstrates exactly why he was referred to as The Thin White Duke. Bowie delivers his role with almost alien detachment, which is only tempered by his relationship with the Human Mary-Lou, a southern American girl.
The film takes full advantage use of Bowie’s ‘other worldliness’ emphasising his almost gender neutral looks and to some extent his character. His portrayal of Newton is exciting and possibly slightly foreboding as the full extent of the plan is never revealed.
Newton, using advanced technology from his home, establishes World Enterprises and engages a Lawyer to run the entire venture. The corporation expands rapidly and is soon one the richest in America nee world.
There is intrigue as a ‘Government’ body grows concerned about the corporation’s power and technology which leads to a direct intervention when Newton attempts to pilot the test fight of his completed Spaceship and he is detained.
It is at this point that the film takes a darker turn. Newton is held captive, in a luxury apartment, while experiments are carried out on him. These have a lasting effect on Newton and it becomes clear that, while still extremely rich, he will never return to his home.
The stories other main characters are well fleshed out, believable and certainly in the case of Dr. Nathan Bryce, played by Rip Torn, quite despondent or world weary until he meets Newton. Mary-Lou, played by Candy Clark, looks fabulous and delivers a very strong and emotional performance. Watch out for her appearance in a yellow jumpsuit, which I suspect was paid homage to in Kill Bill.
The political commentary of the story is clear. Made in a time when America was consuming vast amounts of natural resources and the beginning of major public protest at what was happening to our planet.
I have not seen this film for something like 25 years and had forgotten how really good it is; Sci-fi with real world issues all presented in one feature. This new restoration looks stunning in places even the detail of Newton walking/sliding down a hillside, at the start, the rocks and stones jump out of the screen.
This is a film to cherish and will stand several re-watches over time. You can own it on Bluray from the 10th October 2016.
An aside piece of information for the Bowie fan is that the cover art for his albums ‘Low’ and ‘Station to Station’ are both taken from this film. He was asked to create the films soundtrack however, contractual obligations made this impossible. I wonder what this Bowie Soundtrack could have been?
I saw this film at HOME in Manchester an excellent independent cinema and theatre complex. If you are interested in film their programme focuses mostly on independent and European film makers presenting a much needed break from the Hollywood blockbuster.