Per ardua ad astra
40 years on and Nicolas Roeg's David Bowie vehicle, The Man Who Fell to Earth, looks as young as ever.Shocking studio execs into refusing to even pay for the damn thing, Roeg's 1976 sci-fi has built up a strong cult following over the last four decades, and, around the passing of its star, icon David Bowie, was finally restored for a re-release. Typically Roeg-ian, the trippy, twisted morality play is almost impossible to place, following the tale of stranger-from-a-strange-land Newton, who rises to power with unprecedented speed, in what appears to be an aim to take to the stars in a spacecraft designed through the company that he has built. Along the way he meets a woman who becomes his partner of sorts, but he finds his weakness in alcohol, distracting him away from a mission of both paramount - and personal - importance.There are multiple accounts of just how Bowie ended up playing this, his first, and arguably one of his only truly memorable, lead acting roles in quite such a... distinctive fashion. Whether cocaine or innate commitment, or merely his own inner insecurities and paranoia manifesting on screen, the end result is an arresting, aloof, positively alien lead performance that is simply perfect for the movie. Roeg goes full tilt, whether in terms of his crazy camera work, his wacky narrative or his full frontal romps, and the story doesn't quite work - whether as an ahead-of-its-time commentary on xenophobia and isolation, or globalisation, commerce and what we're doing to our planet, but it's certainly a unique space odyssey experience.
Picture Quality40 years on and The Man Who Fell To Earth arguably looks better than it ever has, even for its initial release, with an impressive 4K restoration cleaning and polishing the 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition presentation to near perfection. It's been lovingly handled, and the shift in quality from old to new is astounding - and clearly evident through the difference in quality from the title sequence to the first shot of the movie after.
40 years on and The Man Who Fell To Earth looks better than it has ever done
Undoubtedly Roeg's unique tinkering and distinct camera styles makes it hard to quantify this as anything approaching contemporary reference material, but it's demo nonetheless and a tremendous restoration of a cult classic. Detail is impressive throughout; exteriors pop with life and vibrancy; interiors are privy to fine flourishes; close-ups reveal excellent textures and nuances; and even black levels remain intact. Beyond the period effects and style of the piece, the title sequence and a few fleeting hints of softness peppered across the runtime (and mainly from the aforementioned filming techniques) there's little here to evidence its vintage.
Sound QualityThe accompanying English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo track is also a loving rendition of the original audio, now arguably something of its own celebrated cult entity due to all of the furore surrounding the score.
The accompanying track is also a loving rendition
Dialogue is firmly prioritised across what is inherently a front-dominated track, whilst effects - clearly still bearing the hallmark of the period style - are disseminated with some necessary aplomb, lending tangible weight to some of the more hectic, bizarre sequences. Of course the highlight is the ethereal, and equally wacky score which blends classical pieces with then-modern riffs; instrumental experimentalist work that perfectly suits the cult sci-fi classic.
ExtrasThis 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition boasts a plethora of pretty hefty (averaging half an hour each) relatively recent interviews with Candy Clark, Paul Mayersberg, Tony Richmond, Nic Roeg, May Routh, David James, Sam Taylor-Johnson and Michael Deeley, all reflecting on the film and their experiences during the production, although arguably the highlight - beyond perhaps the interviews with Roeg (who gives an interesting allegorical overview into how he got into the industry) and Clark - is the short archival French Interview with David Bowie from 1977 (in English) where he chats briefly about his music career and film work.
The Lost Soundtracks is a brand new Featurette which spends just over a quarter of an hour looking at the mess over the soundtrack during production, which saw multiple contributors substituting for the work that Bowie was originally supposed to deliver but couldn't complete, and crafting a soundtrack which, due to ongoing licensing problems, has not be released until now.
This 40th Anniversary Collector's Edition boasts a plethora of pretty hefty extras
Watching the Alien is a 25 minute Featurette from some years back that looks behind the production and features interviews with many of the filmmakers who talk about their experiences on and around the film. The disc is rounded off by the original Trailer.
Blu-ray VerdictCertainly a unique space odyssey experience
The Man Who Fell To Earth receives outstanding video restoration for its 40th Anniversary, with a tremendous 4K remaster, very good audio, and a welcome selection of comprehensive extras. Fans may want to consider the collector's edition - with the soundtrack - as the one to pick up, and, for said fans, this is a must-have release.
You can buy The Man Who Fell to Earth on Blu-ray here
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