The "Alien" looking better than ever
Wayne Klein | My Little Blue Window, USA | 10/29/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It was an odd year. 1976 saw the release of Logan's Run with its occasionally heavy handed parable about the youth culture, Ralph Bakshi's Wizards gathered steam at the box office and included a trailer for some movie called Star Wars. Along came Nicolas Roeg with his arthouse science fiction epic and totally mystified everyone. David Bowie is perfect as the alien in this classic science fiction film. He's left his arid, dying planet and come to Earth in hopes that some of "his" inventions could create enough capital so that he can take resources from our planet to save his.
Unfortunately, Bowie's character pretends to be human all too well--he's sucked into the very flaws that cripple humanity. He becomes a victim of our culture rather than master of it. Roeg's film is fragmented and spooky (particularly the scene where Candy Clark discovers that Bowie's character has various attachments to make him seem human). The visually unsettling photography and editing help bring an edge to the film. Roeg manages to fuse science fiction to his European art sensibilities very well. In fact, Man is probably Roeg's most powerful film outside of Don't Look Now his gothic take on the horror film.
I'll get to the point about the difference between the excellent Anchor Bay release and the Criterion release. Both studios had released this film for the first time (there was a previous Fox-Lorber bare bones edition). The Criterion edition looks sharper with better clarity and richer color than the Anchor Bay edition. Detail is better on the Criterion edition and there appears that the Anchor Bay release wasn't digitally restored as the colors are a bit muted and faded in some sequences. Both feature the full length European cut that Roeg intended for the US market as well. The 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound mix for the Anchor Bay is superior to the 2.0 original soundtrack on the Criterion. The entire sound system is used nicely but keep in mind this was never meant to sound as aggressive as the 5.1 ES (or 6.1) releases of more recent movies.
As to the extras, both have excellent extras. The Anchor Bay features a short documentary "Watching the Alien" (a great play on words related to one of Bowie's songs as well as the film), the original theatrical trailer, TV spots, talent bios, a good poster and still gallery as well as Paul Mayersberg's original screenplay in DVD-ROM format. All of these are great extras to be sure and are included on the second disc which allows for a higher bit rate for the movie and, hence, very good video as well. A note about the packaging--Anchor Bay's edition of the movie was fine but came in a very flimsy case with a slip over sleeve. When you took that off the movie and extras disc were held by flimsy plastic holder. The exterior had an image from the original poster and there was a short booklet included as well discussing the film. While normally I could care less about packaging it does bug me when it's as poorly designed as this one which seems like a compromise between an Amray (hard plastic) and snapcase (what Warner used until recently for all their releases). It doesn't stand up to wear and tear well and the discs could potential fall out.
Criterion's transfer is a new, restored high definition digital transfer supervised by Roeg (which explains the color corrections compared to the Anchor Bay edition which was pulled from restored negatives but done three years before). The audio commentary isn't new but is from 1992 (I believe it may be the same one on the original Criterion laserdisc release) and features Roeg and star David Bowie recorded together and Buck Henry recorded on his own. The commentary track is exceptional but that will only matter if commentary tracks are important to you. Some folks never listen to them and never take more than a cursory look at the extras. The second disc includes excellent audio interviews with May Routh who designed the costumes and production designer Brian Eatwell. There's another audio interview with author Walter Tevis recorded in 1984 in which Tevis discusses his novel and the film. There's some great stills, behind-the-scenes photos dominate these and were taken by David James. This section features an introduction by James. The trailers are included as is Tevis' original novel. Finally there's a 28 page critical essay by Graham Fuller about the film and an appreciation of novelist Tevis by another novelist Jack Matthews. Criterion's packaging has the movie in a hard Amray two disc holder and, in turn, within a cardboard cover that houses the movie and the novel. It's very nice and will stand up a better to wear and tear.
Both versions have their strong points. If you purchased the Anchor Bay edition and are satisfied with the exceptional transfer, then you may not want to purchase this new set. The crisper, sharper images and richer colors for the Criterion is the strong selling point while the audio 5.1 on the Anchor Bay has nice presence and sounds better than the audio mix for the Criterion edition. The extras for both are quite good although the commentary track gives the Criterion edition the edge in my mind. The image quality and color are better on the Criterion Edition of "Man" but the Anchor Bay remixed sound has the edge for audio. If you don't have the Anchor Bay or are looking to upgrade to a better looking picture, the Criterion is the stronger of the two. Criterion wins by a nose due to the extra featurettes and audio commentary as well as the Roeg supervised transfer.
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 03/12/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"A thin, pale, androgynous David Bowie is THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH -- Special Edition (Anchor Bay), a two-disc set of Nicolas Roeg's film. Previously available on DVD, this widescreen (enhanced for 16x9 TVs) edition looks sharper, the clean DTS surround sound is THX approved and there's a new, interesting 24 minute featurette, "Watching the Alien."Slow moving and beautifully photographed, this movie adaptation is faithful in theme to Walter Tevis's novel. An alien being, disguised as a human, comes to earth to seek a way to save his home planet from turning into an arid wasteland. He funds this project by designing inventions worth gazillions and becomes bigger than Bill Gates. Unfortunately, he also becomes contaminated by our earthly ways and sinks into a mystical malaise of depression and alcohol. A sweet and chirpy Candy Clark lures him into an affair that, strangely, doesn't help.This hypnotic and provocative film long ago achieved cult status. More than anything, it's a visual meditation about an outsider, stymied by material success, who is on a journey back to a home that cannot in fact be reached. (Hey, who can't relate to that?) Fully restored and uncensored (there's full frontal nudity), this new digital transfer is from original materials. Recommended."
A depressing masterpiece
g cooper | New York City | 01/14/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"i've always found that solitude and loneliness are two of the best outlets for artistic expression. prime examples of this include, 'the metamorphosis,' by franz kafka, 'wish you were here,' by pink floyd, and this astounding film, 'the man who fell to earth.'the movie has a relatively simple plot. an alien comes to earth looking for water for his dying planet. he meet's a sensitive (yet boring and boozy), young woman who he has an affair with, but all the while, his heart is not on earth. it is on his home planet where his family is dying of thirst.at first, his mission stays on track. he starts a huge electronics corporation and begins building a machine that will be able to transport water into out space (nobody knows it's true purpose). however, he is soon corrupted by alcohol, meaningless sex, and television, and his mission starts to fall apart.on top of that, there are higher powers bent on destroying his mission and siezing the money he has made, and soon finds all those he thought were his friends desert him in his time of need. as he goes into an alcoholic daze, we realize that all of the characters are aging except for him, so presumably he has spent decades here on earth. it is at this point that his mission is completely lost, and he will never be able to return home.bowie's performance in this film is astounding. he assumes the role of an alien so perfectly, and he is simply so beautiful and androgynous. it's a wandering, isolated movie, not to be watched alone."
Nicholas Roeg at his best
firstname.lastname@example.org | USA | 08/24/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's a shame that only 5 stars can be given to this classic film.
David Bowie, whom I adore anyway, makes an excellent debut in this superb film.The film follows Walter Tevis's novel very well and adapts to the screen to create a very saddening tale of corporate America and how it can be a boon or a bust to some, including aliens.That alone is a scary thought.Upon his arrival from a dying planet, Thomas Jerome Newton sets out to create an empire to obtain money to purchase water for his dying planet. Occasional scenes are shown of him leaving his wife and children behind, and throughout the film we see other scenes of them waiting for his return.What is never shown is how he is going to transport this to his home planet.Along the way to his path to success, he is plagued by metaphorical leeches who will do anything to stop him. Greed, lust, and several other deadly sins are thrust upon our protaganist as he tries in vain to overcome them in the process.David Bowie was the perfect person to be cast for this movie. He moves along in it with an icy perfection that is or was appropriate to his character at the time.Keep in mind, this film is not without it's flaws. Some scenes were restored to make this the original theatrical release. One involving Rip Torn and his student could have been done without as it makes no sense and attributes nothing to the overall affect of the movie. Again, that is just an opinion, and die hard fans of this movie will be happy that it is included.This film, upon it's release, was well ahead of its time and to this day, many of the themes implied still are appropiate to what constitutes success vs. failure in the American business sense.The films ends on a saddening note, however, and should be a reminder that what goes around, comes around. You do not have to be a fan of David Bowie to appreciate this film, he just makes it all work and the end result is stunning. Nicholas Roeg did everything possible to steer away from the persona of David Bowie and his music. The end result is a very good solid acting part on his behalf. Ironically, some of the incidental music later became working pieces on David Bowie's LOW album, which has a stunning shot from the movie. Highly recommended, and not for anyone looking for a quick plot or storyline and a happy ending, this film is chock full of storylines and plots that keeps you interested throughtout it's prescence."