I Saw A Film!

I always enjoyed David Bowie, even when some of his early work misfired (and there were some gaffs) while he was trying to work out what his career was going to look like, he always seemed to carry himself with a flair and dignity becoming an artist of calibre. So having Ziggy Stardust himself portray an alien in a strange sci-fi doesn’t seem a reach, it seems custom made.

The problem with the film isn’t the story, or the low-end budget, the problem lies in the fact that it mostly comes across as a Sid and Nancy type relationship film. While our Alien, Thomas Newton shows up at a lawyer’s office (Buck Henry) to invoke some original patents on some new, but appropriate tech (one of which is just self-processing camera film, like mini polaroids) he’s actually trying to save a Dune-like planet from dying off from lack of water. He’s not got any serious powers and actually seems to need to build a new space ship (something must have happened to his original that he crashed into a lake in) and somehow cart water or make a massive deal for water . . . look I can’t really tell what he’s up to, but his process is kind of limited. He needs to manipulate Earthly finances to save his far off world. Meanwhile he’s got a lover, Candy Clark from American Graffiti, who doesn’t really know what he’s up to but she can’t help being fascinated with his watching multiple televisions while lounging around. There’s also a lecherous Rip Torn as a professor who has relations with his students who ends up in a kind of . . . well . . . I forget, but he has some of the more amusing lines.

There are some tough sequences, the alien is subjected to some nasty tests, that he pleads to be left out of. A gruesome scalpel to the nipple seems unnecessarily excessive. His lawyer is tossed out a window and the financial work threatened. But this doesn’t stop our lean alien. What gets him in the end, in a kind of harkening back to the mundanity, War of the Worlds style, is booze. Mr. Newton finally just sort of loses his motivation to achieve his goals. Instead he’s apparently made a record he hopes his far off wife will hear on the radio waves. A most unsatisfying but probably fairly real-world finish.

This is running free on prime and probably wouldn’t be half as fun if it wasn’t Bowie in the lead. At one point he reveals his “true” face to Candy and she flips out spectacularly, but honestly, it just looks like Ziggy Stardust.

2 thoughts on “The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

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