Man Who Fell to Earth

The Man Who Fell to Earth

4.0 4
Director: Nicolas Roeg, David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn

Cast: Nicolas Roeg, David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn


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Although Anchor Bay has already produced a solid special edition of The Man Who Fell to Earth, anyone who loves this film is definitely going to want its Criterion edition. First off, this set boasts a stunning new transfer, mastered in high definition and approved by Nicolas Roeg, that captures the arid, detailed cinematography in high style. The audio portion


Although Anchor Bay has already produced a solid special edition of The Man Who Fell to Earth, anyone who loves this film is definitely going to want its Criterion edition. First off, this set boasts a stunning new transfer, mastered in high definition and approved by Nicolas Roeg, that captures the arid, detailed cinematography in high style. The audio portion of the film sticks to the original 2.0 mix: while not as sonically rich as the remixes used on the Anchor Bay disc, this track sounds crisp and free of defects. Also included on the first disc is commentary featuring Roeg along with co-stars Buck Henry and David Bowie. This track was originally produced for Criterion's laserdisc of this title, and fans of the film will love it: Roeg dominates the track with a wealth of production and aesthetic details, but Bowie and Henry chime in with interesting observations to flesh the track out. The second disc offers "Performance," a video interview piece in which Candy Clark and Rip Torn weigh in on the film, their experiences acting in it, and their frustrations over the re-edited American version of the film. Also included is a strong video interview with Paul Mayersberg, who goes into great detail about the choices he made in adapting and reworking the source novel, as well as audio interviews with costume designer May Routh, production designer Brian Eatwell, and Walter Tevis, the author of the source novel. The featurette produced for the Anchor Bay set doesn't appear here, but the interviews offer a comprehensive wealth of detail that makes up for that loss. In terms of images, several galleries are included that cover poster art for all of Roeg's films, tons of stills (production and behind the scenes) and costume sketches. The trailer section of the second disc is quite fun, showing what a challenge it was to sell the film through several unique trailers. Sci-fi fans will want to note that William Shatner narrates one of the trailers. Finally there is a fine booklet with thoughtful retrospective essays on the film and -- best of all -- a complete paperback reprint of the original source novel. In short, Criterion's package for The Man Who Fell to Earth is as stunning as the film itself and it's a must for any fan.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).

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
David Bowie's stage persona of "Ziggy Stardust", rock star from Mars, had been so fully absorbed by his fans (and the media) that he seemed the obvious choice to play Thomas Jerome Newton, alien castaway turned millionaire pop star, in the film version of Walter Tevis's novel The Man Who Fell to Earth. But, of course, Newton is only a pop star for a few moments at the end of the film, which is only one of many areas where director Nicolas Roeg and screenwriter Paul Mayersberg confound the audience's expectations. The Man Who Fell to Earth doesn't play like a traditional science fiction film; interstellar technology and alien conquest don't figure into the story, and instead we're told the strange and sad tale of a man who wants nothing more than to go home to his home and family, which circumstances will not permit. While Bowie doesn't come off as a terribly skilled actor, he's highly effective as an alien presence (and his character's jittery paranoia got an unexpected boost from Bowie's well-documented cocaine abuse in this period), and he manages to radiate a human sense of sadness and loss while maintaining a cold, unearthly emotional distance. Roeg's always sure visual sense never fails him here, as he places Newton in a world that seems a step or two removed from reality; this is never his world, and it also doesn't quite seem to be ours. Candy Clark and Rip Torn, as the two principal human characters, have the drawback of playing people less clearly drawn than Newton, but they ultimately acquit themselves admirably. Few sci-fi films have ever seemed quite so human or made earthbound humanity seem such a cruel fate.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
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Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
David Bowie Thomas Jerome Newton
Candy Clark Mary-Lou
Rip Torn Nathan Bryce
Buck Henry Oliver Farnsworth
Bernie Casey Peters
Jackson D. Kane Professor Canutti
Rick Riccardo Trevor
Tony Mascia Arthur
Linda Hutton Elaine
Hilary Holland Jill
Adrienne Larussa Helen
Lilybell Crawford Jewelry Stor Owner
Richard Breeding Receptionist
Albert Nelson Waiter
Peter Prouse Peter's Associate
James Lovell Himself

Technical Credits
Nicolas Roeg Director
Graeme Clifford Editor
Michael Deeley Producer
Brian Eatwell Production Designer
Kip Gowans Asst. Director
Robin Gregory Sound/Sound Designer
Si Litvinoff Executive Producer
Paul Mayersberg Screenwriter
John Peverall Associate Producer
John Phillips Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Anthony Richmond Cinematographer
May Routh Costumes/Costume Designer
Barry Spikings Producer
Stonu Yanashta Musical Direction/Supervision

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- The Man Who Fell to Earth: The Film
   Play Movie
   Color Bars
      Commentary: Off
      Commentary: On
      Color Bars
Disc #2 -- The Man Who Fell to Earth: The Supplements
   Paul Mayersberg Interview
   Walter Tevis Audio Interview
         Formative Years
         Speculative Fiction
         Full-Time Writer
   Performance - Candy Clark and Rip Torn
   Production and Costume Design
      Brian Eatwell
      May Routh
      Play All
      U.S. Theatrical Trailer No. 1 (Voice-Over by William Shatner)
      U.S. Theatrical Trailer No. 2
      U.S. Teaser Trailer
      International Trailer
      International Teaser Trailer No. 1
      International Teaser Trailer No. 2
      Television Spot
      David James's Photographs
         Play Intro
            David Bowie
            Candy Clark
            Bowie and Clark
            Rip Torn
            Buck Henry
            Nicolas Roeg
            Other Players
            Behind the Scenes
            From the Film
      Nicolas Roeg's Continuity Book
      Si Litvinoff's Snapshots
      Nicolas Roeg Poster Gallery


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The Man Who Fell to Earth 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best thing about the movie by far is the cinematography and the soundtrack. The acting is very bad the american version is so edited that the story does not flow at all. Oh! The packaging for the DVD is great! It comes with the Roeg book. I recommend saving your money and just buying the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Saw this in the movies years ago. It was great. The music is so good, it stands on it's own.
dried_squid More than 1 year ago
My older sister had seen it. I never had. I purchased it because it was a Criterion edition and included commentaries. It also included the book. Watched the movie, then the screenwriter's commentary, and all the interviews. And, then read the book. I liked the book better. I appreciated the movie, and enjoyed the extra features thoroughly, but I believe Newton, David Bowie's character, in the book, has more dimension and his conflicts are clearer. In today's world, with political issues like sustainability, and 50 years after "The Pill", I suspect the movie and book may have new life. And just maybe, we should all understand, that history can repeat itself. I found the movie titillating and thought-provoking in a pleasure vs. pain sort of way. And although I preferred the book, I can offer no suggestion as to how movie might have paralleled the book better. In any case, the movie, in structure and visual space, did reach me emotionally.