The Man Who Fell To Earth

The Man Who Fell To Earth

Static Mass Rating: 4/5
Optimum Home Entertainment 

Release date: April 4th 2011
Certificate (UK): 18
Running time: 139 minutes

Year of production: 1976

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Cast: David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark

For the best part of my childhood I always assumed there was something otherworldly about David Bowie. As the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986) his androgyny fascinated me, I just couldn’t tell either way what this being was. It terrified my parents and they tried to outlaw anything Bowie related in case it might influence me in being some way “different”.

Despite this ban, it was impossible to filter out MTV completely and fragments of Space Oddity, Ashes To Ashes, and Ziggy Stardust filtered through, only serving to solidify the idea Bowie couldn’t be from here, but somewhere far, far away.

The Man Who Fell To Earth

After seeing The Man Who Fell To Earth, I was not only awestruck, but even more convinced than ever before of this idea.

Music artists who cross over into film tend to play extensions of themselves. It’s evident with Elvis Presley in Jailhouse Rock (1957) and then in the 80’s with Prince in Purple Rain (1984), Madonna in Desperately Susan (1985) and Michael Jackson in Moonwalker (1988). But in The Man Who Fell To Earth, rather than Bowie’s character catering to the idea of how fame, power and wealth feeds a larger than life persona, we see how it ultimately destroys it.

Based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis, it tells the story of an alien (David Bowie), from the planet Anthea, who arrives on Earth in search of water to return home with. He takes on the name Thomas Jerome Newton and armed with knowledge of his planet’s advanced technology, he sets about making a fortune for himself with the help of a patent attorney to fund the building of his ship.

The Man Who Fell To Earth

Along the way, Thomas meets hotel worker Mary-Lou (Candy Clark) who introduces him to things on Earth he probably would never have encountered without her; church, alcohol, sex, television and music. He begins to lose interest in his mission to save his drought ridden planet and by the time the government get their hands on him, he’s become as jaded and human as the rest of those around him.

The Man Who Fell To Earth, although it’s sparse on special effects for a science fiction film, is a story is as epic as 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) in that they’re both timeless, poetic and haunting pieces which reflect on the paradoxical nature of being human.

The Man Who Fell To Earth

It’s also a film which plays heavily with imagery, themes and subtexts. Thomas, fresh from his arrival on Earth, is fascinated and then tormented by anything to do with liquids; the lake, alcohol, bodily fluids, even the moment he throws up in his hotel room after passing out from a ride in an elevator…Thomas is a “fish out of water” in every way possible. Even the suit he wears on Anthea is partly made out of liquid on the outside.

In one of the film’s many poignant scenes, Thomas observes the value of television and comments:

“The strange thing about television is that it doesn’t tell you everything. It shows you everything about life for nothing, but the true mysteries remain. Perhaps it’s in the nature of television. Just waves in space.”

The Man Who Fell To Earth

Despite it feeling rather slow in places, Bowie’s enigmatic presence and out-of-this-world persona add much to his performance as he looks at the world with his alien eyes, not understanding what he sees. Thomas, although starting off with great ambition, gradually falls from grace and becomes a terrible failure, sucked in by the monotony of television and drowning his sorrows in the readily available liquids on offer.

In terms of the Blu-ray transfer, the picture quality is immaculate. Colours are much richer than on previous releases and the overall images are sharp and clear. I was surprised by the lack of the grain which usually shows up when classics such as these are released in high definition, but that’s not the case with The Man Who Fell To Earth.

The Man Who Fell To Earth

As for extras, there are interviews with Nic Roeg (director), Tony Richmond (cinematographer), Paul Mayersberg (writer) and actress Candy Clark (Mary Lou) who all look back on the making of the film and talk about what it was like working with Bowie. There’s also an audio interview with novelist Walter Tevis from 1984 where he talks about having a childhood disease which left him very weak and isolated and partly inspired some of the themes in the book and movie.


  • Interview with Nic Roeg (33.27)
  • Interview with Tony Richmond (21.47)
  • Interview with Paul Mayersberg (31.50)
  • Interview with Candy Clark (27.46)
  • Watching the Alien (24.31 mins)
  • Clip from Walter Tevis audio interview (4.10)
  • Theatrical Trailer (2.20)

For those who were looking out for an interview with The Man himself, Bowie, or even an isolated score which fans have been waiting decades for, sadly they won’t find it here, neither are there any deleted scenes or behind-the-scenes footage.

While the documentary Watching the Alien features production stills, it doesn’t make up for the lack of other material which would have made this the definitive edition of The Man Who Fell To Earth.

About Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.