Man Who Fell to Earth [Criterion Collection] [2 Discs]


amg_video.v31102 9/27/05 Used

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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, Rovi


Review Text 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. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Product Details

Release Date
Aspect Ratio
2.35:1  - Cinemascope
MPAA Rating
R -- Restricted
2 hours, 19 minutes
  • Dolby Digital Stereo
  • USA & territories, Canada
  • English
  • Spanish
Video Features
  • ccNew, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director Nicolas Roeg
  • Audio commentary by Roeg and actors David Bowie and Buck Henry
  • New video interview with screenwriter Paul Mayersberg
  • "Performance," new video interviews with actors Candy Clark and Rip Torn
  • Audio interviews with costume designer May Routh and production designer Brian Eatwell
  • Audio interview from 1984 with author Walter Tevis, conducted by Don Swaim
  • Multiple stills galleries, including Routh's costume sketches; behind-the-scenes photos; and production and publicity stills, introduced by set photographer David James
  • Gallery of posters from Roeg's films
  • Trailers
  • Walter Tevis's original novel, reprinted specially for this release
  • 28-page booklet featuring a new essay on the film by critic Graham Fuller and an appreciation of Tevis by novelist Jack Matthews
Number of Discs

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