The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) – Nicholas Roeg

This entry on the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list is a surreal, dream-like film based on the novel by Walter Tevis, that was interesting, and may require a re-watch at some point in the future, but for now, I’m just going to sit back and just try to soak in what I’ve seen.

I didn’t hate it, but it certainly didn’t captivate me, though I do like the idea, and David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton is a perfect bit of casting. Newton is an alien that has arrived on earth, tumbling from the sky to land in a beautiful lake, on a mission to save his desert-world and his family who still lives there.

He introduces new technology, and creates a giant corporation to help him make money, and pull the resources to help his planet.

Unfortunately he falls under the spell of alcohol, sex, and television, as well as hotel maid Mary-Lou (Candy Clark).

Even as his company progresses in its advancements, there are those in the government and other big business, like Peters (Bernie Casey) who feel he may be a threat, and begin to suspect he may not be what he seems.

bowieclarkIt’s not a happy story, Newton is fairly innocent when he arrives on Earth but is then corrupted by almost everything around him, falling further and further away from his home, his wife, and his children, who we see in brief shots.

Familiar face Rip Torn plays Nathan Bryce, who gets recruited to Newton’s company is one of the fist to suspect that Newton may in fact be from another planet, though he reveals himself to Mary-Lou, and terrifies her with his appearance.

Bowie is wonderfully cast as the alien, and it’s sad to watch him slowly losing his way, especially in the final parts of the film when he tells his now-captors that all he wants to do is go home. He asks for this despite the fact that he knows that given the time it would take to get home, and the condition his planet was in when he left, that it’s probably too late for his family. We don’t know about the rest of his civilization, but it’s implied that he is not their alone.

aliensNewton has said he’s seen traces of other aliens everywhere, and at the beginning of the film, and when he mentions he’s alone, there’s a cut to another image, of another traveler, not so far behind him. Perhaps his planet isn’t doomed.

If you come to this movie looking for special effects, and spaceships, you aren’t going to find them. There are brief glimpses of Newton’s home planet, but the movie is mostly centered on Earth. The make-up effects, not only Newton’s appearance, but the aging effects on Clark and Torn are very well done, but there are no xenomorphs running about. The story instead focuses on our own destructiveness and addictions, the way they can corrupt  and destroy, keeping us from realizing our full potential, or making us forget about them.

It’s an interesting little film.

Have you seen it? Have you read the book? What are your thoughts on it?



4 Comments Add yours

  1. The film felt rather 70s, to a bit of a fault, but I really enjoyed Bowie’s performance. I don’t know if I can think of an actor who would have given his performance. Have yet to read the book, though if I ever do, I will surely picture Bowie, no matter what the given description of the character is.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Yeah, if I ever dig up the book to read it, Bowie will be the only way I ever see the character. I’m glad I came to it at the age I did, because if I went to the theater to see it as a kid, I’m sure I would have been severely disappointed by it 🙂

  2. I think the movie improves with multiple viewings, despite the dated look of it. Bowie really does seem like an alien in the movie, his ‘acting’ helps. Nicholas Roeg made some great films, Don’t Look Now and Walkabout in particular.

    1. TD Rideout says:

      Bowie is very unearthly in his film, and I’ve seen Don’t Look Now, but not Walkabout. I’ll have to hunt that one down, thanks!!

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