My long-suffering dad is probably still haunted by our trip to the cinema those many years ago, with me a wee lad and my sister — a naïve young fan of the musician David Bowie — eager to see what we thought would be perhaps a slightly offbeat sci-fi movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth. Two hours of nudity and jaw-dropping weirdness later, we were proven wrong as we were introduced to mysterious interplanetary traveler Thomas Newton (Bowie), an entrepreneurial genius who strikes it rich quick with a host of advanced technologies. He’s also quite thirsty, a clue to his secret intentions which become more difficult to bring to fruition as he is increasingly sidetracked by the new vice and excess of his wealthy American lifestyle.
The greater significance of director Nicolas Roeg’s arty, stylized film of Walter Tevis’ novel is subject to interpretation but it’s certainly a tale of loneliness, of misunderstanding and ultimately of loss. At present, Best Buy’s exclusive steelbook edition is the only way to procure the movie on a 4K disc. Lionsgate has given us the R-rated version, different from the Criterion Collection unrated director’s cut and with an alternate complement of bonus content.
The Ultra HD picture quality is mostly solid, with tremendous detail in 2.35:1 wide shots of the New Mexico landscapes. Colors are pleasing if not always stunning, many scenes displaying a golden warmth, although Bowie’s fiery red hair tends to command the eye. Some of the original photography can look a bit soft, and blacks can sometimes appear flat and lifeless, as in the shadowy back seat of Newton’s limousine. The Dolby Vision high dynamic range improves the image somewhat but does not afford a revelation.
Lionsgate was either unable or unwilling to provide a modern multichannel remix of The Man Who Fell to Earth, opting instead to recycle what sounds to be the same Linear PCM 2.0 track from their 2017 HD Blu-ray. It’s clear and full but unsurprisingly unspectacular, despite an ambitious theatrical stereo mix that layers in some clever effects and transitions. The musical score might best be described as eclectic, a real hodgepodge of original compositions and needle drops, discussed in depth in a featurette on the included Blu-ray platter.
That’s where we’ll find all of the extras (none on the 4K disc), highlighted by an extensive gallery of ported legacy interviews, almost three hours in total, in addition to a 1977 French TV clip with the late Mr. Bowie.
Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray
STUDIO: Lionsgate, 1976
ASPECT RATIO: 2.35:1
HDR FORMAT: Dolby Vision, HDR10
AUDIO FORMAT: Linear PCM 2.0
LENGTH: 139 mins.
MPAA Rating: R
DIRECTOR: Nicolas Roeg
STARRING: David Bowie, Candy Clark, Rip Torn, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey, Jackson D. Kane