The Man Who Fell to Earth appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Earth provided a consistently strong visual experience.
Sharpness looked solid. Various photographic techniques occasionally gave us a slightly soft presentation, but those issues seemed related to the cinematography. Overall, the movie was concise and accurate.
Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also detected no signs of edge enhancement. Despite the age of the movie, it seemed surprisingly free of defects. Any specks remained so minor as to essentially not exist.
Colors excelled. Within the production design, the hues came across as reasonably rich and distinct. I noticed no issues related to bleeding, noise, or other concerns, as the tones were lively and dynamic. Black levels were deep and rich, while shadow detail looked clean and clear. The image looked exceedingly good.
The LPCM Stereo 2.0 soundtrack of Earth worked quite well for a movie from the mid-Seventies, as the audio showed good spread and imaging. For the most part, the sound tended toward a general sense of ambience, but some more distinct examples occurred, and those were nicely delineated. Localization and placement seemed natural and accurate, and the elements combined well.
Audio quality appeared erratic but generally solid. Speech sometimes seemed a little thin and hollow, and I also noticed some minor vocal bleeding to the sides at times. However, dialogue generally remained acceptably natural, and I noticed no issues related to intelligibility or edginess.
Music sounded fairly clear and distinctive, as the various musical elements appeared reasonably smooth. Effects occasionally sounded a little shrill, but they usually seemed acceptably natural and accurate. Bass response was a bit boomy at times but it remained fairly tight and offered a good presence as a whole. The soundtrack of Earth did nothing terribly spectacular, but I thought it sounded above average for a film from this time period.
How does the Criterion Blu-ray compare to the Criterion DVD release? The lossless audio was a bit more robust, and the visuals demonstrated superior accuracy and vivacity. I felt pleased with the DVD but the Blu-ray improved on it.
The Blu-ray repeats the DVD’s extras. To start, we get an audio commentary with director Nicolas Roeg and actors David Bowie and Buck Henry. Roeg did one session on his own and another with Bowie, while Henry sat solo.
Originally recorded for a 1993 laserdisc, the edited track meshes the three recordings well. Bowie and Roeg look at how Bowie came onto the project and why he did it, thematic and character issues, Bowie’s state of mind at the time, locations and sets, Roeg’s style and his cinematic history, camerawork and visual design, scientific topics and how the film fits in the sci-fi genre, the movie’s non-linear style, and other production topics. Henry gets into his own casting and performance as well as why he wanted to work with Roeg, his impressions of the director, and additional story-related material.
Given how much I adore Bowie’s work, it probably comes as no surprise that I think he shines the brightest here. Bowie’s a truly interesting conversationalist, and he peppers the commentary with plenty of interesting and funny memories. Roeg gives us solid thoughts about his work, while Henry contributes his own useful concepts. More introspective than most commentaries and with a fair amount of interpretation, this one complements Earth well.
One minor complaint: this commentary has become somewhat dated because the participants refer to a fair number of then-current events. This doesn’t make it tough to understand their intentions, but it can cause some confusion as the listener tries to get into a 1992 mindset to comprehend the references.
Next we find an Interview with Screenwriter Paul Mayersberg. In this 26-minute, 17-second piece, Mayersberg discusses the work of author Walter Tevis and various issues connected to its film adaptation. The writer gets into the complications related to bringing Tevis’s complex tale to the screen and what he attempted to do with the story. Mayersberg also goes over various references and influences , connections to Tevis’s The Hustler, cast and characters, and specifics about the script. He tells us quite a lot of useful information about the script in this rich and involving chat.
We hear from the novel’s author himself in a Walter Tevis Audio Interview. Recorded in 1984, he chats with writer/broadcaster Don Swaim for about 24 minutes. They discuss Tevis’s history and its influences on his work, how he got into writing and eventually made it into his career, reflections on his novels, his interest in “speculative fiction”, and his plans for the then-future.
The interview largely discusses Tevis’s then-current novel. That makes sense since the author obviously wanted to promote his product, but it means the interview isn’t tremendously interesting for those who want to learn more about Earth. Tevis is always lively and frank, and he ensures that the chat remains enjoyable. It just doesn’t satisfy for those who want to know what led Tevis into Earth. He does toss out a few notions such as how his alcoholism affected the story but nothing else about Earth pops up here.
Performance: Candy Clark and Rip Torn goes for 24 minutes, 52 seconds. We find interviews with those two actors. Recorded separately, they talk about their impressions of the film, why they took their parts and their performances, the script and the characters, working with Roeg and Bowie, shooting the sex scenes, and general anecdotes about their experiences. Both provide fine notes, though I think Clark offers the most interesting tidbits such as the revelation that she fills in for Bowie in one scene. Neatly edited and engaging, “Performance” works well.
A few different segments appear under the banner Production and Costume Design. We find audio clips with production designer Brian Eatwell (23:37) and costume designer May Routh (19:37). Both participants discuss issues we expect. Eatwell gets into sets and the movie’s visual look, while Routh chats about the film’s costumes and related challenges.
Eatwell proves especially edifying as he digs into topics like working in New Mexico, collaborating with Roeg and his thoughts on the actors, and many shot specifics. Both are useful, but Eatwell is very chatty and engaging. This section also includes “Sketches” of eight costume concepts.
Six trailers and one TV spot show up along with a collection of Galleries. That domain gives us “David James’ Photographs” (181 shots), “Nicolas Roeg’s Continuity Book” (39 frames), “Si Litvinoff’s Snapshots” (35) and “Nicolas Roeg Poster Gallery” (52). All offer good material, but James’ pictures are definitely the best of the bunch. In addition to the stills, James provides a surprisingly long and informative audio introduction about how he came onto Earth and his work on the flick.
The package includes a 32-page booklet. It presents a 1938 poem from WH Auden, essays by Graham Fuller and Jack Matthews, and photos. It’s a good little piece. It also throws in a reproduction of the original novel, which is a very nice touch.
Anyone who wants an evening with a light and easy film should skip The Man Who Fell to Earth. A complicated work, Earth presents an intriguing experience that falters at times but generally seems compelling and interesting. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture as well as positive audio and a useful selection of supplements. This becomes a strong release for an absorbing movie.
To rate this film visit the Special Edition review of THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH