Stale Popcorn » [Blu-Ray Review] The Man Who Fell To Earth

[Blu-Ray Review] The Man Who Fell To Earth

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A classic science fiction film digitally remastered for the Blu-Ray format for it’s 35th Anniversary, but how does Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film fair in the transfer to high definition?

Plot

Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who had come to Earth to get water for his dying planet, and hopefully save his family from certain death. To this end, he starts a high technology company to try & earn the money he needs to create a spaceship to return to his home & take the much needed water with him.

But he didn’t expect to meet a girl called Mary-Lou, who falls in love with the strange & reclusive Newton, or to be corrupted by lust & alcohol or to cause the US Government to become interested in the strange individual who doesn’t seem to be of this planet.

Can Newton manage to return to his home & escape the clutches of the Earth or is this planet’s pull too much for him to escape?

Review

If you have never seen The Man Who Fell To Earth, it’s actually a quite hard film to describe. Mainly because, in a conventional sense there isn’t much of a plot or any real narrative. That’s not to say that it’s not a well written film, as it is, but it just doesn’t follow a “normal” narrative path, being more akin to a surreal art form than it is a conventional film.

David Bowie is perfectly cast as the humanoid & emotionally detatched Newton, and it’s all too easy to realise that he put an awful lot of his own personality at the time into the role – and it’s as much about how Bowie felt about being detatched from humanity due to his stardom as Newton was due to his alien heritage.

It’s this sense of realism & believability that imbues the film with something very special, but it doesn’t just come from Bowie. The other three main cast members, Candy Clark as Mary-Lou (who loses her heart to Newton), Rip Torn as Nathan Bryce (the university professor who goes to work for Newton & comes closest to understanding him) and Buck Henry as Oliver Farnsworth (the man Newton hires to head up his new company & who ends up devoting his life to him) are all superb in their roles. So much so that the running time of just over two hours seems to pass in the blink of an eye (just like the time passages in the film, which are used to great effect to show the changes in the world and people around Newton during their years of contact) as you are subjected to all the strange, and strikingly beautiful imagery the Nicolas Roeg casts onto the screen.

A lot of the praise for this, though, needs to go to Anthony Richmond, the cinematographer. His photography of the New Mexico setting is simply stunning, and this is brought vividly to life in high definition.

This is a visually striking film, born of it’s time and never to be repeated, or thankfully remade, as there are moments in it that could only have come from the decade that spawned both disco & punk, and this film seems to almost symbolise both of those in it’s striking imagery.

Video

This digitally remastered 35th anniversary blu-ray has a superb transfer. The colours are reproduced very well indeed, with very high definition on the images onscreen. There is a certain amount of very fine grain visible in the picture, but for a film of this age it really does look superb.

Audio

The audio is presented in a lossless English LPCM 2.0 track, and it is very good indeed. The audio is of a very high standard, with the dialogue reproduced excellently,  with it being very crisp & easy to hear but it’s the John Phillips and Stomu Yamashta soundtrack that really shines through, with no audio dropout of any kind throughout.

Closing Credits

This is a film that can be rightly described as a classic, and this blu-ray is the absolutely best way to relive it now. It’s a superb film, and while it may not be to everyone’s taste, for those who can see past the fact that it doesn’t conform to a “standard” narrative format there is a visual journey & spectacle that is relevant now as it was in the 1970′s.

A superb film, with a superb high definition transfer that will be a valued & much revisited entry in anyone’s blu-ray collection.

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