The Man Who Fell to Earth  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Man Who Fell to Earth is a 1976 British science fiction film directed by Nicolas Roeg and written by Paul Mayersberg, based on Walter Tevis's 1963 novel of the same name, about an extraterrestrial who crash lands on Earth seeking a way to ship water to his planet, which is suffering from a severe drought. The film retains a following for its use of surreal imagery and the performance by David Bowie (in his first starring film role) as the alien Thomas Jerome Newton; the film also stars Candy Clark, Buck Henry, and Hollywood veteran Rip Torn. The same novel was later remade as a less successful 1987 television adaptation.

The film was produced by Michael Deeley and Barry Spikings, who reunited two years later to work on The Deer Hunter. Despite a mixed critical response upon release, the film is now considered an important work of science fiction cinema and one of the best films of Roeg's career.

Plot

Thomas Jerome Newton is a humanoid alien who comes to Earth from a distant planet on a mission to take water back to his home planet, which is experiencing a catastrophic drought.

Throughout the film are brief sequences of his wife and children back on his home planet, suffering, perhaps dying.

Newton uses the advanced technology of his home planet to patent many inventions on Earth, and acquires tremendous wealth as the head of a technology-based conglomerate, World Enterprises Corporation, aided by leading patent attorney Oliver Farnsworth. His wealth is needed to construct a space vehicle with the intention of shipping water back to his home planet. While revisiting New Mexico, he meets Mary-Lou, a lonely, unloved, and simple girl who works as a maid, bell-hop, and elevator operator in a small hotel; he tells her he is English. Mary-Lou introduces Newton to many customs of Earth, including church-going, alcohol, and sex. She and Newton live together in a house Newton has built close to where he first landed in New Mexico.

Meanwhile, Dr. Nathan Bryce, a former womaniser and college professor, has landed a job as a fuel technician with World Enterprises and slowly becomes Newton's confidant. Bryce senses Newton's alienness and arranges a meeting with Newton at his home where he has hidden a special X-ray camera. When he steals a picture of Newton with the camera, it reveals Newton's alien physiology. Newton's appetite for alcohol and television (he watches multiple televisions at once) becomes crippling and he and Mary-Lou fight. Realizing that Bryce has learnt his secret, Newton reveals his alien form to Mary-Lou, and her resulting reaction is one of pure shock and horror. He leaves her.

Newton completes the spaceship and attempts to take it on its maiden voyage amid intense press exposure. However, just before his scheduled take-off, he is seized and detained, apparently by the government and a rival company; his business partner, Farnsworth, is murdered. The government, which has apparently been told by Bryce that Newton is an alien, holds him captive in a locked luxury apartment, constructed deep within a hotel. During his stay, they keep him sedated with alcohol (to which he has become addicted) and continuously subject him to rigorous medical tests – notably one involving X-rays which causes the contact lenses he wears as part of his human disguise to permanently affix themselves to his eyes.

Toward the end of his years of captivity, he is visited again by Mary-Lou, who is now much older and whose looks have been ravaged by alcohol and time. They have mock-violent, playful sex that involves firing a gun with blanks, and afterwards occupy their time drinking and playing table tennis. Mary-Lou declares that she no longer loves him, while he says that he doesn't love her either. She leaves him. Eventually Newton discovers that his "prison," now derelict, is unlocked, and he leaves.

Unable to return home, a broken and alcoholic Newton creates a recording with alien messages, which he hopes will be broadcast via radio to his home planet. Bryce, who has since married Mary-Lou, buys a copy of the album and meets Newton at an outside restaurant in town. Newton is still rich and young looking despite the passage of many years. However, Newton has also fallen into depression and alcoholism and the film ends with an inebriated Newton passing out in his cafe chair.

Cast

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "The Man Who Fell to Earth" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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