Hello and welcome to part 11 of my Journey into Science-Fiction. Last time I looked at Twelve Monkeys 1995. But what links The Man Who Fell to Earth 1976 with Terry Gilliam’s dystopian film? If you would like to find out, then click on the link below.
David Bowie is the very first artist I remember as a child. If I remember correctly, it was his album, Aladdin Sane that first caught my attention. There was something so strange about that album compared to the others in my mum’s collection, something that still stands out to me today. I enjoy a lot of his music and films but never really took a deep dive into his world. I was just waiting for that time, and that has come in the last year or so. So finding myself with the opportunity to look at his work on my site, was a welcome one but not surprising with science-fiction heavily sprinkled throughout his stellar career.
Directed by Nicolas Roeg and written by Paul Mayersberg, The Man Who Fell to Earth was based on a book by the same name by Walter Tevis. The film still receives critical acclaim and is described as a cult classic. Rolling Stone Magazine ranked it 2nd in the best sci-fi movies of the 1970s and Empire and it was ranked 42 in the top 100 best British films.
Thomas Jerome Newton David Bowie is the man who fell to Earth, his mission is to take home water to his drought-ridden planet. Newton has a plan to help make that mission a success which includes gathering as much wealth as possible to help build a ship to return to his planet and save his family. That wealth becomes available almost instantly as he uses advanced technologies we have never seen before on Earth. All this comes under the business name of World Enterprises Corporation and phase one of his plan is up and running. Newton meets Mary-Lou Candy Clark who really starts to introduce him to a way of life he might not have found on his own.
Newton also strikes up a friendship with another person, Dr Nathan Bryce Rip Torn. Bryce deceives Newton and secretly gathers evidence to prove that Newton is an alien. Newton, realising that the truth about him may become known, decides to show Mary-Lou his true self. Mary-Lou is shocked beyond imagination and leaves him. Anyway, back to the plan and Newton’s ship is ready for launch, enabling him to complete his mission. Newton leaves to take his flight, that is until the government steps in to halt all proceedings, Dr Bryce has exposed him and he is taken away for medical testing.
Years later and Newton’s mission has all but failed, he is also still been held and undergoing scientific study. He is visited by Mary-Lou who is looking older by now, after a game of table tennis they decide they don’t love each other anymore. Mary-Lou leaves and Newton realises he is longer held captive anymore and is free again. Newton decides the only thing he can do now is to try and send a message to his family, that comes in the shape of an album. Bryce recognises this is the work of Newton and tracks him down. Newton looks down, depressed and given up hope of ever getting back to his home.
I hope you are still reading because that description I can only say at best is clinical and this film is anything but. This film is completely enriched with all the trappings of a rock star in the 70s. I think this is why I found it so hard to describe those elements into the plot of the film as I kept referring back to that as I tried to write it. It is well known that Bowie was deep into his cocaine addiction when this film was made, and it shows. Literally, after reading a few reviews about the making of this film online, he wasn’t the only one. I really loved watching Newton drinking water from the lake and it looks almost beautiful, and later it shows you him living a life of decadence and becoming miserable, more human perhaps? Alcohol plays a pretty big part in this film as I’m sure I must have seen at least 100 bottles of Beefeater Gin on display, I actually felt like I had a hangover myself watching it. I like Art but I felt that some artistic aspects in the film took me away from the original story. The scene where Newton showed himself to Mary-Lou was quite terrifying but was ruined by people flying through the air in splashes of water, reminiscent of a music video.
Music? Well, I was really disappointed that it was not David Bowie himself that had created the soundtrack to this film as it might have sat better with me. John Phillips did a decent job, but throughout the film, there was a country-style theme going on, turning it into a comedy situation. I was half expecting Dolly Parton to turn up. There is meant to be a Bowie soundtrack recorded in an archive somewhere, I certainly hope that is released someday.
Don’t get me wrong though, this film has some really great visuals and looked amazing and for 1976, that’s some achievement. Basically, I thought this film had such a wonderful story to work with, but decided to show us people playing naked table tennis, unneeded sex scenes and a lot of art house imagery that was a bit over my head. I totally understand people love that, but it’s just not for me. I have just realised this film also reminds me of the book Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, a book that didn’t fill with me with as much joy as some of his other work either. I really enjoyed the scenes showing his family and that is the kind of science-fiction I love. Okay, I admit, I did giggle when his family are on screen as it reminded me of Mac and Me. There is a great film in there somewhere, so I did enjoy it. If only the director would have concentrated on the plot a lot more. I am glad I have finally watched it, but I guess it might have succumbed to the passage of time quite badly.
So where next for my Journey into Science-Fiction? Well, I really love that this film was made by British Lion Films and was hoping something caught my attention from their other productions. I was also pleased to learn that Michael Deeley also produced one of my favourite films, The Deer Hunter, but not exactly sci-fi. I must admit, it’s been pretty hard to find any kind of link to my next film, but alas, a wonderful moment has arrived. Thank you, Rip Torn, who played Dr Nathan Bryce, his resume is quite incredible and he has starred in some great films. One that really caught my eye though was the fact he had played in the Robocop franchise. So next, I will be looking at Robocop 1987 and I’m really looking forward to that, it’s been a while. Thank you for reading and please come back for Part 12 of my Journey into Science-Fiction.
What are your thoughts on The Man Who Fell to Earth? Do think my take on the film is right or wrong? I would really like to hear from you. Let me know in the comments section below.