Synopsis: An impromptu goodbye party for Professor John Oldman becomes a mysterious interrogation after the retiring scholar reveals to his colleagues he never ages and has walked the earth for 14,000 years…
There are certain cardinal rules to a successful get together: keep the booze flowing but know when people have had enough; plenty of snacks; and never discuss politics or religion.
Man From Earth takes the last of the three and smashes the rule entirely. The premise is a 90 minute verbal dissection of a college professor who, during a gathering to say farewell to his learned colleagues, claims to be a 14000 year old who never ages and has walked the planet experiencing every significant social age. Oh that old chestnut…
I tend to get bored watching academics drink whiskey and argue the semantics of subjects that I find interesting in the broad sense, but often tedious in the detail. So why would I want to subject myself to watching the discussions on film for 90 minutes?
In short, because for what is essentially a potted lesson in anthropology, history and theology it is incredibly well written and retains enough twists and turns to remain engaging until the last 10 minutes or so when it drifted off. For a tiny movie Man From Earth shows huge ambition and in the most part carries it off. Focussed almost entirely within two rooms, save for a couple of exteriors, it is surprising it wasn’t adapted from a stage play as it had a theatrical quality to the writing and direction. If someone told me it was adapted from a David Mamet short I would have believed them.
The film relies on the performances of it’s low key cast to play all the requisite parts in a small space, both in their movements and reactions, as well as the physical space around them. The last third in particular as the light is dimmed, Schenkman gets his camera in close and the tension within the discussion is palpable. All the characters are to make it work are there: the sceptic; the clown; the introvert; the lover; and the ally. Between them they tease and coax a fascinating story of how 14000 years of social interaction would shape a man. Through exploring that one big question the movie asks many more; where have we come from? Where are we going? And if someone told you everything you ever believed was a lie, would you still believe the lie?
Sometimes it tries to hard to give answers to the questions it asks rather than leaving the viewer to overlay their own opinions, and it suffers from over acting/over scripting more than once. But given that it appears to have been made on a budget of 10 packs of Twinkies, some sticky tape and a tube a glitter it can be forgiven.
If you get past the grainy camcorder visuals and the terrible acting and soundtrack of the first 5 minutes then Man From Earth is a fascinating watch that is far more engaging than it has any right to be.
Conclusion: A fascinating, if occasionally over scripted, delve into how one man would view the world if he’d seen it grow over 14000 years. Will make you think about it’s message long after the grainy credits roll
Director: Richard Schenkman – to call him a B-Movie director is probably stretching the quality of his output. His last movie? Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies, a low budget straight to DVD cash in on Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The low key, cerebral tapestry of Man From Earth seems weirdly out of keeping with the rest of his work
Writers: Jerome Bixby – Old school legendary sci fi screenwriter who wrote several episodes of Star Trek: Original Series (or as it was known then…..Star Trek) and Twilight Zone. This was the last thing he wrote before his death in 1999
Cast: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, Ellen Crawford, Annika Peterson, William Katt, Alexis Thorpe
- The whole movie was shot using 2 Panasonic DVX100 camcorders, which probably explains the overall grainy look of the film.
- There were no deleted scenes for this movie, only 3 deleted lines, as explained by Director Richard Schenkman in the DVD commentary.
- The film is loosely based on the Transylvanian legend of Krim Rosü (Krim Red in English), a man said to have lived thousands of years.