By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: Alien looking for water.
Thomas Newton Bryce (David Bowie) is a humanoid alien that has come to earth looking for water to bring back to his drought stricken planet. He works under the disguise as an inventor who uses the advanced technical knowledge of his home planet to patent many new inventions that eventually turns him into a millionaire head of a giant conglomerate. He even meets Mary Lou (Candy Clark) a hard-living, earthy girl who he falls in love with. Fuel technician Nathan Byrce (Rip Torn) suspects that Thomas may not be human and takes a secret picture of him with an X-ray camera that reveals his alien make up. Nathan then tips off the government and when Thomas tries to return to his home planet in a spaceship he built himself he is seized and taken into captivity and interrogated.
Director Nicolas Roeg has always had an incredible visual flair and able to take simple stories like Walkabout and Don’t Look Now and turned them into flashy masterpieces. I admire the way he can create atmosphere and attitude with every shot and tell a narrative in fragments and yet still have it come together into a fluid whole.
Watching this movie is particularly fun and the variety of music used is terrific. Whether it is a country oldie or new wave techno it fits and is always lively. The scenes are intoxicating and Roeg seems to be challenging himself by trying to come up with a unique way of capturing everything he shoots.
However, the story is light and proves to get even lighter as it goes along. The first hour, although fun, goes nowhere. The second half has some twists, but they are predictable. There are also tons and tons of loopholes with a letdown of an ending that explains nothing.
When compared to sci-fi films from the past it seems progressive, but in hindsight it is a victim of the 70’s era as it oozes too much with the irreverence of that period. Its main purpose seems to be turning-the- tables on all those sci-fi classics where the alien was always the threat by instead portraying the alien as the gentlest person in the picture. Yet they still could have made this message while giving it a more fleshed-out story and legitimate sci-fi leanings.
The overall glossiness maybe enough for some as it certainly does seem intriguing and promising at the start. Bowie is a perfect choice for the lead and unlike most rock singers, his foray into acting seems solid and almost like he is a natural.
Candy Clark is also outstanding. She is the perfect embodiment of a small town southern girl simple, sweet and generous yet also very to-the-point. Buck Henry is also good playing a part that most resembles his true self and his line describing his father’s advice on how to look a gift horse in the mouth is priceless.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: May 28, 1976
Runtime: 2Hours 19Minutes
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Available: VHS, DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video