The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976) from Tuna and Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

We split on this one. Tuna likes it. Scoop kinda likes the first half and admires the imagination and thought that went into the film, but finds the second half very weak and the film to be too long in general.

Tuna's comments in white:

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a Nicolas Roeg film about an alien whose planet is dying from drought. After watching a lot of Earth TV with his family, he decides to visit Earth because it has lots of water. Using the advanced knowledge of his planet, he writes several patentable ideas, and forms a huge conglomerate, placing Buck Henry in charge. As his company builds, he acquires more and more expert help, including Rip Torn, a science professor who spent most of his time bedding coeds before the job came. Only Clark and Torn know his true identity.

Bowie, now worth hundreds of millions, eventually announces that all company assets will be redirected into a space program. He is about to take off, when the government seizes his assets, and puts him in protective custody, where he becomes isolated from both human company and contact with his own people. The story, like much of Roeg's work, is about someone living alone in a strange society, and dealing with loneliness. Except for David Bowie, everyone in the film ages because it takes place over several years, so Bowie gradually grows apart from the humans he had known, even though he becomes increasingly more human and debauched. His chances of going to his own world get slimmer and slimmer, so he gradually becomes a civilization of one.

The film was shot on location, mostly in New Mexico, but with a largely British crew. Like much of Roeg's work, the story is told with a non-linear time line, and includes a lot of nudity. It was not a box office smash, nor were any of Roeg's other films, but he has never been bothered by his lack of commercial success. Producer Barry Spikings said that if Roeg was offered a script that looked like it had commercial potential, he would turn it down.

On the other hand, The Man Who Fell To Earth was a real achievement, and somewhat ahead of its time, although the uncut version is a very long watch. Other, shorter cuts exist, but I understand that they are not worth seeing. Even uncut, the viewer needs to work to keep up with it, and evidently the censored versions make no sense at all. Roeg's imagery, as usual, was wonderful, which helped the 140 minutes pass pleasantly.

I am giving this a C+ with the warning that it is not for everyone.

Scoop's comments in yellow:

I am absolutely in that group of people Tuna referred to - the people for whom it is NOT. I need to get the special edition and read that screenplay, and maybe I'll figure out the second half of the movie.

I don't know if I like any of Roeg's idiosyncratic films. He specializes in misdirection, indirection, ambiguity and long discussions, none of which are among my favorite narrative techniques. He does have some plusses: his photography is always excellent, and he often manages to persuade famous women to remove their clothing for very long stretches of time. Castaway is that film in which Amanda Donohoe is naked throughout. Walkabout is the film in which Jenny Agutter is naked throughout. Full Body Massage is the film in which Mimi Rogers .... well, I guess you get the point. Offsetting Roeg's obsession with nudity and his gift for superlative imagery, are some serious disadvantages: his films are almost always way too long for the material he has to work with, his scripts are sometimes so off and inscrutable as to be gibberish, and many scenes are so static and talky that it's virtually impossible to stay awake when the actresses are dressed. In some cases, his films are so soporific that it isn't even possible to stay awake when beautiful women are naked.

Roeg had a truly strange career as a director. Perhaps he deliberately avoided commercial success during some very short period in the early 70s, as indicated in Tuna's review, but he eventually made some of the least meritorious and most completely commercial crap imaginable. He made that preposterous Samson and Delilah movie with Liz Hurley as Delila. Yeah, I'm sure he did that because it appealed to his delicate aesthetic sensibilities. He also made Full Body Massage, which basically consists of Mimi Rogers getting naked while Bryan Brown rubs her body. Of course, he made that complete crap late in his career, when his complete unbankability had painted him into a corner where he had no choices other than to direct no-budget claptrap or retire.

Roeg began as a cinematographer and did that for many years, never directing a movie before he was 40. In fact, he was a top-notch cinematographer who worked with John Schlesinger, David Lean, Richard Lester, and Francois Truffaut, to name a few pretty fair directors. When he first broke free and started directing, Roeg was wearing both hats, and produced two visually stunning movies: Mick Jagger in "Performance" and then Agutter in "Walkabout." Then he did the highly-respected "Don't Look Now" with Julie Christie. Three movies, three critical successes. So he was a budding genius, right? Wrong. He had consistently lost money and moved steadily down the ladder. His next film was the beautifully filmed Man Who Fell to Earth. Unfortunately, several scenes were unnecessary, the ending of the movie dragged on forever with nothing additional to say, and the whole thing cost too much, was too long, and delivered too little. The studios took the film out of Roeg's hands and trimmed it by 22 minutes for theatrical release, but neither version really makes much sense in the second half.

His career was down the tubes at that point, but not so far down that he was unable to recover. In four years someone was willing to take a chance on him again, and he delivered "Bad Timing: A Sensual Obsession." This, again, was visually impressive but this time the entire movie was nonsensical, not just the second half. Roeg seemed to like musician/actors, but he had been going downhill there, too. He started with Mick Jagger, then dropped to David Bowie, and finally to Art Garfunkel in "Bad Timing".

Well, there's no sense in chronicling the entire decline. Within a decade he had fallen to directing Liz Hurley as Delilah. After that, he was basically through. As I write this, he has not directed a theatrical film in ten years, but he is poised for a comeback at age 78 with a project entitled Adina, starring Neve Campbell.



  • Full 140 minute version restored from original negative and remastered sound
  • "Watching the Alien": an all-new 24-minute featurette
  • Talent bios
  • Poster and still gallery
  • Original screenplay in DVD-ROM


  • We see Rip Torn in bed with Linda Hutton (breasts), Hilary Holland (full frontal) and Adrienne Larussa (full frontal).

  • Claudia Jennings does a full frontal in a pool scene

  • Candy Clark gives a three B performance in several scenes. There is a rather strange sex scene between Clark's character as an older woman, and Bowie, where they keep shooting each other with blanks. I know from the bonus features that Clark played herself as an old woman, and also played the alien wife, but the body which appears in some of this sex scene is clearly not hers. It is either a double, or a very good makeup job. I am going to go with makeup job, and think the bra she keeps around her waist hides a seam in the makeup.

The Critics Vote ...

  • Super-panel consensus out of four stars: two and a half   stars. Roger Ebert 2.5/4, BBC 4/5.

The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, it's a C+ (Tuna) or C- (Scoop) - a long, long 140 minutes which has many rewards, and lots of sex scenes, but isn't always clear and moves forward slowly.

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