In September 1988 a few friends and I were waiting in line to attend the 10 pm showing of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. As the previous show was letting out, a young man began walking our line and proclaiming to all who would listen that “this film is proof that he is the greatest ever!” Eventually someone asked him if he meant Jesus. He didn’t. He meant David Bowie.
We hear the sound of a rocket and then find ourselves hurdling through space. Finally, splashdown. A tall, thin man appears on the shore and wanders into a small town. He goes into a jewelry shop and sells a ring for $20.00. Which seems odd because we soon discover that he is carrying a wad of hundreds that would choke a horse. Who is this stranger and what is he doing on our planet.
One of the most unusual films to come out of the 1970s, THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH crams a lot of images into its almost 2 ½ hour run. The visitor, who identifies himself as Thomas Jerome Newton (Bowie) uses his money to buy the time of Oliver Farnsworth (Buck Henry, in ridiculously large Coke-bottle glasses), a patent attorney. Newton has designed nine items that, after being patented, will revolutionize various technologies and make him lots of money. Within a few years, World Enterprises is the largest corporation in the world. But as his fortunes grow so does Newton’s quirky ways. He only drinks water. He can’t stand to be in a car that travels more than 30 mph, or ride in an elevator. And he must constantly watch television. Eccentric? Maybe. You might even call it other-worldly.
Sitting squarely on Bowie’s skinny shoulders, the film would almost be farcical if not for his earnest performance. He is both without emotion and highly emotional. As he begins to discover new things (gin and women among them) we discover them with him almost as a child would. Candy Clark, coming off an Oscar nomination for AMERICAN GRAFITTI, is heart-breakingly good here as Mary Lou, who becomes Newton’s lover and confidant. Henry is fine as the businessman running things and Rip Torn shows up as a college professor with a taste for bourbon and co-eds who becomes enamored with World Enterprises. Heck, even Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell shows up.
The film is full of imagery, which isn’t unusual for a Nic Roeg film. One thing that struck me as odd were the scenes of Newton watching seven televisions in a New Mexico hotel, with only rabbit ear antennas to bring in the reception. I’m curious, besides the big 3 networks, what channels he was able to receive. Most of them had either stock quotes or old cowboy/Indian movies on. Probably nothing I would have noticed in 1976 (and to be honest, when I saw the film IN 1976, I didn’t notice)
But if that’s my only quibble it can’t be that strange. If you’re a fan of the thin, white Duke this film is a must to see. If you’re a fan of cult films, this film is a must to see. Heck, just see it. You won’t be sorry.
Video: The film is presented in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio and in high definition. For a film that’s four decades old it’s well delivered.
Audio: The soundtrack is presented in DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 and is mixed well. Again, when you’re using source material that’s 40 years old, you work with what you have. I found the audio to be quite acceptable
This is a 3-disc set, with only the first disc being Blu-ray
DISC 1 – Blu-ray
Interviews (2:46): An extensive group of interviews with cast and crew including director Nicolas Roeg and co-star Candy Clark.
The Lost Soundtrack of “The Man Who Fell to Earth” (16:45): Excellent featurette detailing both the music in the film and the music that isn’t.
David Bowie Interview (8:21): From French Television, an enthusiastic Bowie talks about being an actor. This is presented in both English and French, with subtitles for the French parts.
DISC 2 – DVD
DISC 3 – DVD
The same extras from the Blu-ray disc
You also get a 72-page illustrated booklet, photo cards and a mini poster.