HTF REVIEW: "The Man Who Fell To Earth" (with screenshots)

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Ronald Epstein, Feb 26, 2003.

  1. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    [​IMG]

    The Man Who Fell To Earth





    Studio: Anchor Bay
    Year: 1976
    Rated: R
    Film Length: 139 minutes
    Aspect Ratio: 16X9 Enhanced Widescreen (2.35:1)
    Subtitles: None





    The most frustrating part of my job as a reviewer
    is having to sit through really bad movies for the
    sake of giving a certain studio a review in exchange
    for the product they send. I don't normally make an
    issue over such things, but watching The Man Who
    Fell To Earth
    has got to be one of the most
    difficult 139 minutes I have ever spent in front of
    my television.

    I really thought I was going to like this movie. I
    am a huge fan of director Nicolas Roeg (Don't Look
    Now
    ) and his unusual visual film style. I am also
    a big fan of David Bowie, the self-ascribed "Chameleon
    of Pop," who also is known for being unusual with
    his musical style. You would think that matching
    these talents would produce an end product that
    would hold someone's interest for its entire length.
    Instead, I can only best describe The Man Who Fell
    To Earth
    as pure boredom coupled with heavy sex
    scenes.

    [​IMG]

    The story? Mr. Newton (David Bowie), is a tall and
    skinny, wide-eyed alien who comes to Earth to find
    a way to save his home planet from a severe drought.
    The alien yearns only to make enough money for the
    creation of a space vehicle so that he can return
    home and save his people. His only knowledge of
    earthly customs comes from remotely monitoring
    television, and soon he becomes a business tycoon.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Newton seeks the help of Oliver Farnsworth (Buck
    Henry), a patents lawyer, asking him to take charge
    of World Enterprises, a new corporation specializing
    in electronics. Before too long, the company is
    absorbing smaller firms like Eastman Kodak, and
    Newton is a multimillionaire. Deciding to abandon New
    York for New Mexico, Newton encounters a local motel
    chambermaid, Mary-Lou (Candy Clark). When she becomes
    his companion and then lover, her fate becomes totally
    linked to his.

    Then there's Professor Nathan Bryce (Rip Torn), a
    teacher who loves to bed students half his age.
    When Bryce quits teaching, he decides to come aboard
    World Enterprises where he meets Newton, who informs
    him that his mission is to perfect a spacecraft.

    I am uncertain as to what really happens next. You
    see, the film is so full of holes and unanswered
    questions that it is sometimes hard to follow. I'm
    sure that in 1976 the film still upheld the taste
    and outlook characteristic of that period but now
    nearly 30 years later, I can't imagine this film
    holding anyone's interest except the fans that fell
    in love with it from day one.


    How is the transfer?


    Anchor bay is touting this transfer as one that was
    restored from original negative materials. The print
    is in absolutely magnificent shape sporting not a
    single blemish anywhere. Being a low-budget effort
    to begin with, the film has that 70s dated look to
    it. Colors often look a bit faded and flesh tones
    sometimes stray into being overly reddish. I also
    noticed a small amount of shimmer in background
    images. On the plus side, images are relatively
    sharp and detailed. Actually, I am quite amazed by
    how good this film looks.

    [​IMG]

    The DVD features a restored DTS and Dolby Digital
    audio track. Listening in 5.1, I found the DTS-ES
    track to be only nominally good. On the one hand,
    sound is full of dynamics, coming across cleanly and
    distinctively without a bit of background hiss. The
    rears do provide an ample amount of background
    activity. The main problem I found here is that
    there was no effort to keep the dialogue in the
    center channel as it constantly bleeds across the
    fronts.


    Special Features

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Anchor Bay has released a 2-disc Special Edition
    that arrives in a flimsy cardboard slipcover whose
    innards open up to a 2-pane gatefold that hold the
    DVD discs. Inside you'll find a 8-page collector's
    booklet with enough background material on the
    original novel by Walter Tevis, director Nicolas
    Roeg, and of course....the film and its aftermath.

    [​IMG][​IMG]

    Give credit to Anchor bay for doing some very creative
    and often beautiful menu artwork. Let's look at the
    extras that reside on Disc Two....

    [​IMG]

    Watching The Alien is a brand-new documentary
    full of interviews with the likes of Nicolas Roeg,
    Candy Clark, Si Litvinoff and Brian Eatwell. Most
    notably absent is David Bowie himself, but everyone
    included here talks very fondly about working with
    him. Candy Clark seems to be having the most fun
    here as it seems she had a real blast doing the film.
    We also learn how expensive it was to put together a
    musical soundtrack for this film, and how the producers
    managed to come within budget.
    (length: approx. 24 minutes)

    There are 3 U.S. and 2 international trailers
    offered here as well as 2 TV Spots. You can
    access Talent Bios for Nicolas Roeg and David
    Bowie.

    [​IMG]

    There are about 40 photos on the Poster and
    Still Gallery
    , which range from production stills
    to original poster art to magazine coverage.

    DVD-ROM content includes the film's entire
    screenplay in PDF format.

    As expected, Anchor Bay has provided absolutely
    no subtitles (and probably never will on any of
    their future releases). The DVD is closed captioned.


    Final Thoughts

    [​IMG]

    I am sure that my rather scathing review of The Man
    Who Fell To Earth
    will upset many of its fans
    who probably consider this film to be great classic
    science fiction. For me, however, this film
    represented a jumbled mess of loosely knit ideas
    that made for a rather hackneyed alien visitation
    story.

    For fans of this film, you will be most pleased
    by this wonderfully restored, complete and uncensored
    2-disc DVD set.

    See it only if you know what you're getting into!


    Release Date: Now


    All screen captures have been further compressed.
    They are for illustrative purposes only and do not
    represent actual picture quality
     
  2. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    Hmmmmm...interesting. I was planning on buying this one sight unseen. Maybe a rental first is in order.

    BTW, Ron, you have a typo on the aspect ratio. Should be 2.35:1.
     
  3. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    The screenshots show an AR wider than 1.85.
     
  4. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    The Man Who Fell to Earth is a bizarre film, but one I like quite a bit. Yes, it is slow, has plenty of plot holes, and is a bit over indulgent at times, but it also has a very interesting premise, and is well acted. It gets better with repeated viewings, since the first impression in many sequences often distracts from the details. The transfer here is excellent. The only major omission is the great commentary track that Criterion had on their LD release. I'm none too pleased with the cheap packaging though.

    Like another of my faves, Zardoz, this film will only appeal to select audiences. For those who can appreciate it, it is a masterpiece, and this is certainly an upgrade from the previous DVD release.
     
  5. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    I somehow ended up with a single disc version. The front cover looks like the one on the right in the cover shot. Anyoen knwo anything about this?
     
  6. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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    Coincidentally, I just watched this one last night with a friend. I'd seen it before, but this was like seeing it for the first time. It's an absolutely beautiful transfer. The sound mix is particularly well done; the original theatrical prints were 4-channel magnetic stereo and this DVD's DTS track does a nice job of enveloping the listener.

    Thumbs-up to Anchor Bay for this release of one of the best science fiction films of the 70s. It's certainly not for all tastes, but adventuresome viewers will find ample rewards within. Jeff's comparison to Zardoz is dead-on - I mentioned last night to my friend that it would be an interesting double-bill.
     
  7. Eric F

    Eric F Screenwriter

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    Ron, did you watch the short documentary with Roeg talking about what he tried to achieve with the film?

    He wanted it to progess seamlessly, so it jumps 20+ years from one scene to the next. That might confuse some, but it shows you just how alien David Bowie's character really is.[​IMG]

    But then again I like Zardoz too- Sean Connery, diaper and all.[​IMG]
     
  8. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    I think this is a much better film than Zardoz. And I have enough firepower stored in my house to fight off the ravages of an angry Ulmer for saying this....[​IMG]

    Roeg is a master. Don't forget he was second unit photographer for Lawrence of Arabia for heaven's sake! And his first film Walkabout is a classic in its own right.
     
  9. Claire Panke

    Claire Panke Second Unit

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    Dennis, I'm with you on this. TMWFTE is a fascinating film, flawed but worthy to stand with Roeg's best. (I am not a fan of Zardoz, sorry. Excalibur, yes. Zardoz, no...I particularly hate Connery's "manly sweat" scene.)

    I'm filing this alongside Performance and Don't Look Now.
     
  10. Ronald Epstein

    Ronald Epstein Founder
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    The film is (naturally) presented in 2:35.1.
    Because I work with a template I sometimes forget
    to update the smallest things, but you did guess it
    by the ratio of the screen shots.

    I was expecting to take some flack for my opinions.
    I know how some of you really respect this film. I
    just couldn't get into it.

    The transfer is really superb, so any fan remotely
    thinking of upgrading should absolutely do it.
     
  11. Gordon McMurphy

    Gordon McMurphy Producer

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    One of the great widescreen masterpieces. This film is of my top candidates for why films should be shown in their original aspect ratio. Anthony Richmond and Roeg excelled themselves into orbit with the cinematography. Stunning.

    I own the region 2 edition that was issued by Warner/Canal+ and I believe that the same print was used for the Anchor edition. I would love to see a comparison. I wouldn't mind hearing the DTS mix either. Shame that the Criterion commentary could not be acquired. A friend of mine mentioned something interesting too in regard to the extras; he said that the classic Bowie documentary, Cracked Actor should have been included. I would be great to revisit that fascinating film.

    I love Roeg's film and I look forward to seeing a DVD edition of Performance at some stage. A special edition of Eureka would be great too.

    Cheers,


    Gordy
     
  12. Douglas R

    Douglas R Cinematographer

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    I have to agree with Ron's opinion of the film. Oddly enough when I first saw the film on its initial theatrical release I thought it really interesting and visually stylish. Seeing it again recently on a R2 DVD I couldn't understand what I previously liked about the film. It now seems trite and boring and has dated terribly in a way which other films have not. What looked innovative about the film in the '70s, looks tired and hackneyed today.
     
  13. Eric F

    Eric F Screenwriter

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    Well, Man Who Fell is unique, that's for sure. I wish there were more smart SF film. Unfortunately Hollywood associates SF with action, ray-guns, alien planets, etc.

    If you like this you'll probably also like the PBS version of the Lathe of Heaven- the first made for PBS movie, and still one of the best.

    Any other suggestions along these lines? The only other films like this that comes to mind are GATTACA and Pi.
     
  14. Paul_Scott

    Paul_Scott Lead Actor

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    i was already to love the hell out of this film, and i was for the first two acts- then all of a sudden
    the rocket launch that never happened
    it lost all its charm for me.
    from there on it just droned on and on.
    the whole scene with clark and bowie in the delapidated hotel...with the gun....arrrgghh.
    at that point i was hoping it would be over with quickly
    very disappointing in the end.

    i agree though that fans of the film should really dig the AB set. that original poster art looks cool as hell.
     
  15. RexW

    RexW Stunt Coordinator

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    Great film and I definately will be upgrading to this. I already have the Criterion Laserdisc from the old days.
    But I will admit it's not a film for everyone.
    So sit back and those that will enjoy it, enjoy.
     
  16. Jeff Ulmer

    Jeff Ulmer Producer

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    Paul, that event is key to the whole idea of the film.
     
  17. Ed St. Clair

    Ed St. Clair Producer

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    You have reviewed [as well as had 'guest review] some great DVD already this year!
    Keep them coming.

    Sorry you 'missed it'.
    The work is supposed too be "alien"!

    Thanks.
     
  18. Rain

    Rain Producer

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    Wow, such conflicting opinions....makes me want to see it all the more.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Dennis Nicholls

    Dennis Nicholls Lead Actor

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    How could I not like this film? One of the major characters is a patent attorney! [​IMG] I'm looking to upgrade my fuzzy Fox Lorber disk......

    The only other famous person involved in patents is Albert Einstein...and maybe Calvin's (of Calvin and Hobbs) father....:b
     
  20. Douglas Bailey

    Douglas Bailey Second Unit

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