The Man Who Fell to Earth
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 one of their first Blu-ray titles Criterion presents the director’s cut of Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this dual-layer disc. The image is presented in 1080p.
The transfer looks to come from the same one used for the DVD release. The DVD has a pretty solid video transfer and now that transfer looks even better on Blu-ray. Sharpness and detail, which was excellent to begin with, has still been greatly improved, film grain now more prominent. Colours look spectacular, Bowie’s orange hair being the real stand out. Blacks are strong, and skin tones look accurate.
The print has very few problems, presenting only an occasional fleck here and there. Other than that it’s quite clean.
Again the DVD looked fine but the Blu-ray still manages to present a fairly nice improvement.
(Screen grabs below have been provided by DVD Beaver. Grabs have been downscaled somewhat but should provide an idea of the image quality.)
Criterion again sticks with the original track (where a previous Anchor Bay release contained a DTS track) presenting a lossless 2.0 surround track. In all honesty I didn’t notice too much of a difference between the track found on the DVD and the lossless track here, but since the DVD’s track was more than fine the same can be said for the one found on the Blu-ray. Dialogue and music are both sharp and crisp, with music sneaking to the rear speakers. Range is excellent, as is bass. The track is also clean, free of any damage. I can’t say it’s an upgrade over the DVD but it still sounds good.
Most of the supplements have been ported from the 2-disc DVD release, one rather big feature being the only thing missing. Most of this portion of the review has been copied from the DVD review for this film.
Criterion has included an audio commentary by director Nicolas Roeg, performer David Bowie, and actor Buck Henry, which has been ported over from the original Criterion laserdisc release. Overall, I liked the commentary, but I think it's Bowie and Henry that save it. Bowie is recorded with Roeg, and Henry is recorded on his own but unfortunately Roeg has most of the track. I can't really say I find Roeg a terribly interesting commentator for his films, this really only based on his track here and then one included on Criterion’s DVD for Walkabout. His portion comes off really more technical than I probably would have liked. He only touches a little on the themes and never gets too deep into them. Henry was probably the most interesting as he talks a lot about acting in the film and acting in general and he does have quite a bit to say. Bowie is also good, as he adds some much needed levity to a few sequences. Plus the guy does an amazing Rip Torn impersonation. It is overall a good track, but I guess I was hoping for more insight into the film. The film welcomes a lot of analysis and I don’t feel we really got that. But I should probably be thankful that Bowie was even willing to participate in a track, and he, along with Henry, do at least make the track worthwhile.
The rest of the supplements are aptly found under the menu heading of “supplements”.
The first is a 26-minute interview with screenwriter Paul Mayersberg, presented in anamorphic widescreen. He covers the novel, working on the adaptation of the book, working with Roeg, and then goes into great detail about the themes of the film, even touching on Tevis’ other works like The Hustler. It's a pretty good discussion and a great analysis of the movie.
Next you will find a 1984 audio interview with author Walter Tevis, which covers his early years (including his drinking), his science fiction writing and the themes he enjoys writing about. It lasts about 25-minutes and is quite interesting. He's a good interview subject and those who are fans of his work and/or the novel of The Man Who Fell to Earth will want to listen to it. The interview plays over a chapter list with four stops.
Performance: Candy Clark and Rip Torn is a 25-minute interview with Candy Clark and Rip Torn, who both talk about working with Roeg and Bowie, and then offer insight into their characters. They both have some rather interesting things to say (Clark had one or two surprises). Decent look back to the production and some slight insights into the film. This has also been presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Production and Costume Design presents a few sub-sections. First you get a 24-minute interview with production designer Brian Eatwell. The interview is an audio one playing over images and sequences. He discusses Roeg and the intended look of the film. It concentrates a lot on the opening sequence and the sequences on Newton's home planet, as well as the end in the labs. Next is a 19-minute audio interview (playing again over stills and clips) with Mary Routh discussing the costumes, showing sketches, and even getting into the sex sequences. There's even time for Buck Henry's rather humourous glasses. You then get an actual sketch gallery with images. Both interview segments are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Then closing off the supplements you get a collection of theatrical trailers (one with a voice over by William Shatner,) all presented in anamorphic widescreen, and a TV spot (not in widescreen.) There’s also a gallery of photos that include production shots, continuity shots, and a poster gallery for Roeg's Performance, Walkabout, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Don't Look Now, and Bad Timing.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray release (and all Blu-ray titles from Criterion) is the Timeline. You can open it from the pop-up menu, or by pressing the RED button on your remote. This is a timeline that shows your current position in the film. It lists the index chapters for the film and the commentary track, and you can also switch to the commentary track from here. You also have the ability to “bookmark” scenes by pressing the GREEN button and return to them by selecting them on the timeline. You can also delete bookmarks by pressing the BLUE button. This is pretty common on Blu-ray (also common on HD DVD) so it’s nothing new, but a nice presentation still.
One notable feature missing is the complete novel by Walter Tevis, which was included with the DVD. It’s a shame since the novel is quite good and actually helped in improving my understanding of the film (I’ll be honest and admit I was lost at certain points when I first viewed this film.) This aspect is the only thing the DVD has over the Blu-ray.
And that’s about it. Pretty much the same as the DVD except for the missing source novel, which was a rather thoughtful inclusion for the original DVD.
A strong Blu-ray debut from Criterion, but since it was one of their stronger DVDs in terms of video transfers that shouldn’t be a shock. I’m disappointed that the source novel couldn’t be included since it was definitely nice to have with the DVD release, but at least the rest of the supplements, all of which are informative and help in appreciating (and understanding) the film, have made it.