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The Man Who Fell to Earth(1976)
The Man Who Fell to Earth is a daring exploration of science fiction as an art form. The story of an alien on an elaborate rescue mission provides the launching pad for Nicolas Roeg’s visual tour de force, a formally adventurous examination of alienation in contemporary life. Rock legend David Bowie, in his acting debut, completely embodies the title role, while Candy Clark, Buck Henry, and Rip Torn turn in pitch-perfect supporting performances. The film’s hallucinatory vision was obscured in the American theatrical release, which deleted nearly twenty minutes of crucial scenes and details. The Criterion Collection is proud to present Roeg’s full uncut version, in this exclusive new director-approved high-definition widescreen transfer
For more about The Man Who Fell to Earth and the The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray release, see the The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray Review published by Dr. Svet Atanasov on March 20, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey, Jackson D. Kane
Director: Nicolas Roeg
» See full cast & crew
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Dr. Svet Atanasov, March 20, 2011
Nominated for Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival, Nic Roeg's "The Man Who Fell To Earth" (1976) arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment. The supplemental features on the disc include the film's original theatrical trailer; video interviews with director Nic Roeg, cinematographer Tony Richmond, writer Paul Mayersberg, and actress Candy Clark, and an audio interview with author Walter Tevis, conducted by Don Swain; as well as the documentary featurette "Watching the Alien". In English, with optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. Region-B "locked".
Thomas Newton (David Bowie, Just a Gigolo, The Hunger), an alien from another dimension, arrives on Earth to seek water supply for his dying planet. Looking and talking like a normal human being, he quickly amasses great wealth by patenting a number of groundbreaking technologies. While visiting New Mexico, he also befriends the bubbly Mary-Lou (Candy Clark, American Graffiti, Blue Thunder).
Mary-Lou quickly falls for Thomas. The two spend plenty of time together and even though he isn't as enthusiastic about their relationship as she is, they begin to act as a couple. Eventually, the alien reveals itself to Mary-Lou and attempts to explain why he is visiting Earth. Around the same time, his corporation begins to crumble.
I saw Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth in the mid 80s. I cannot recall exactly when, but I remember perfectly well the effect Bowie's notorious transformation had on me -- it was quite a shock, one that I can only compare to what I experienced when the British media published a series of articles about his fascination with the neo-Nazi movement. So it is only natural that each time I revisit The Man Who Fell To Earth, I inevitably end up thinking about Bowie's past.
A lot of the negative reviews The Man Who Fell To Earth received in Europe were written by critics who could not quite figure out its genre identity -- it was too serious and too far-reaching for a sci-fi film and too unconventional to be a conventional drama. In other words, it did not fit into the stereotypical mold of their thinking and they dismissed it.
In America, The Man Who Fell To Earth also received mixed reviews. Interestingly enough, American critics saw a different version of the film their British colleagues had seen -- the official U.S. theatrical version was cut by approximately twenty minutes. And it wasn't until much later that director Roeg's complete version of The Man Who Fell To Earth was made available to American audiences; but even then many people, including the film's U.S. distributor, didn't seem terribly impressed by its unorthodox narrative.
Things are a lot different nowadays. The Man Who Fell To Earth still raises eyebrows but for different reasons. Most critics agree that the film is a brilliant satire on corporate societies, and profit-obsessed America in particular, as well as human fascination with greed, violence and self-destruction.
I must admit that my take on the film has also evolved rather substantially. There was a time when I thought that Bowie's transformation, for instance, was suggestive of his radical socio-political views, obsession with spirituality and frustration with the then-modern world. In the film he is in a relationship with a beautiful young woman, but emotionally they never connect. He is incredibly wealthy and powerful but always lonely. In real life, Bowie was also incredibly lonely.
In recent years, however, I've also come to realize that The Man Who Fell to Earth is indeed a highly stylized satire on our corrupted world, sort of the flip side of the equally atmospheric Walkabout. It is a beautiful and poetic but at the same time enormously pessimistic film.
Note: In 1976, The Man Who Fell to Earth won Golden Scroll Award for Best Actor (David Bowie), which was granted by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films.
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, Video Quality
Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with MPEG-4 AVC and granted a 1080p transfer, Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth arrives on Blu-ray courtesy British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment.
I must admit that I am slightly disappointed that The Man Who Fell to Earth did not appear as part of the Studio Canal Collection. This year the film celebrates its 35th Anniversary and I think that it would have been great to have it one of those lovely book cases.
The high-definition transfer if very strong. I did a number of tests with Criterion's now OOP Blu-ray release of The Man Who Fell to Earth and I actually lean slightly toward this release as the better one. The most prominent difference between the two pertains to color reproduction. On the Criterion release the reds and browns are slightly stronger, while on the Optimum Home Entertainment release they are better balanced with the variety of prominent greens. Interestingly enough, the discrepancy is not easy to spot as the color fluctuations appear only during specific scenes (I have attempted to match a few screencpatures, but on most of them the color fluctuations are indeed very delicate). I am unsure if this is the case, but perhaps Criterion performed some random spot corrections. Edge-enhancement is not a serious issue of concern, though there are a few scenes, mostly during the second half of the film, where it looks like it is trying to creep in. I also did not see any traces of severe noise reduction - a layer of light to moderate grain, some of which is mixed with noise, is present throughout the entire film. Finally, there are no serious stability issue. I also did not see any large damage marks, cuts, stains, or debris to report in this review. To sum it all up, Optimum Home Entertainment's Blu-ray release of The Man Who Fell to Earth is an excellent alternative to the now OOP Criterion Blu-ray release. (Note: This is a Region-B "locked" Blu-ray disc. Therefore, you must have a native Region-B or Region-Free PS3 or SA in order to access its content).
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, Audio Quality
There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc: English LPCM 2.0. For the record, Optimum Home Entertainment have provided optional English SDH subtitles for the main feature. When turned on, they split the image frame and the black bar below it.
As far as I could tell, the English LPCM track is identical to the one found on the Criterion Blu-ray release of The Man Who Fell to Earth. The dialog is crisp, clean, stable, and exceptionally easy to follow, but it is John Phillips and Stomu Yamashta's retro-ambient soundtrack that benefits enormously from the loseless treatment. There are no pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts.
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Man Who Fell to Earth Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
British distributors Optimum Home Entertainment have put together a solid package for Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth. In fact, I like it so much I wish it was included in the Studio Canal Collection. Fans of the film who already own the Criterion release would probably also want to pick this release for the excellent interviews. If you reside in a Region-A territory, please keep in mind that the disc is Region-B "locked". HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
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