Particularly during the 1970’s, the late David Bowie often cast himself as a kind of ulterior being–something not of this world, a kind of Space Oddity. How appropriate then, that he play the role of an alien in Nicolas Roeg ‘s The Man Who Fell to Earth. Adapted from the novel by Walter Tevis, Bowie plays Thomas Jerome Newton, a man from another planet in search of water for his drought-stricken nation. Money is of paramount importance to Newton, he needs to make enough to return home and save his planet.
Through flashbacks, it becomes apparent that Newton’s planet us a dry and desolate place. The only apparent survivors, his family–a wife and two children–wear what look like space suits to help retain necessary bodily fluids. While Newton does amass a fortune from electronics, this quickly becomes the tale of Newton’s disintegration, as relationship with a young woman (Candy Clark) introduces him to the joys of sex, television and alcohol. Around this time, his corporation begins to crumble and he can never quite get himself together enough to return home and save his planet.
Bowie made several more movies throughout his career and most would agree that acting wasn’t really his forte. However, given his angular features, milky white skin and lumbering way of moving at the time (consumption of various substances is a given.) this is, without a doubt, his best performance. He perfectly conveys a man out of place. Even his bank of televisions–something that could act as a source of comfort and companionship of sorts–a mass of everything from classic films to nature programs only serves to heighten his despair. The more overstimulated he gets, the more misunderstood Newton feels. The more assimilated to Earth he becomes, the more he falls apart.
While we may not struggle to fit into Earth at large, Newton’s story remains relevant to this day because most of us struggle to fit in somewhere whether it be at school, work, or in a social circle. After all, most of us just want to be loved.
Presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, Lionsgate 4K/ 1080p transfer didn’t quite result in the quality I’d hoped for. It appears the image may be slightly stretched horizontally and the sharpness level varies due to fluctuating bitrates.The image also appears soft in various places. I also spotted a few artifacts and the use of DNR.
The DTS-HD MA Master Audio Mix does a fine job. It won’t blow anyone away, but it handles the film’s heavy sound design and the unusual score (credited to “musical director” John Phillips, former leader of The Mamas & the Papas) that mingles vintage pop standards, original rock tunes and avant-garde pieces by Stomu Yama Shia.
English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
Disc One – Blu-ray
- Interviews (SD, 2:46:01) Candy Clark, Paul Mayersberg, Tony Richmond, Nicolas Roeg, May Routh, David James, Sam Taylor- Johnson and Michael Deeley.
- The Lost Soundtracks of The Man Who Fell to Earth (SD, 16:44) a piece discussing both the music that made it into the film and a lot that didn’t. Includes interviews with arranger Paul Buckmaster (he did the orchestration on “Space Oddity”, which began his collaboration with Bowie).
- David Bowie Interview – French TV 1977 (SD, 8:20) features some anamorphically squeezed snippets from the film, along with Bowie (who is chomping pretty vigorously on some gum) talking about becoming a movie star. In French and English with subtitles for the French parts.
- Trailer (SD, 2:21)
Disc Two – DVD
- Feature Film in Standard Definition with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound
Disc Three – DVD
- Extras included on the Blu-ray disc are repeated here.
- Non-disc swag includes an illustrated booklet, a reproduction of the press book, art cards and a mini-poster.