Even as our civilization becomes more advanced, we still know very little about our world and the universe around us. There are unexplored regions of land, undiscovered species, uncharted waters, etc. "Jerome Bixby's The Man From Earth" takes the simple notion of "what else is out there?" and creates a mind bending drama about a man unlike any other in the world.
The story: Before moving to no one knows where, a professor named John Oldman invites a group of colleagues and friends over to his house. The guests are under the impression that they are having a going away party, but Oldman has an announcement to make to them all. He reveals that he is around 140 centuries year old. At first everyone thinks he's joking around, but the more he speaks the more convincing he seems. Has Oldman lost his mind? Is he telling the truth? What else is he hiding?
If you are not a patient viewer and like your Sci-Fi filled with spaceships and explosions...this is not the movie for you. "Jerome Bixby's Man From Earth" is purely a HARD science fiction piece. Virtually the entire film takes place in one room where the characters sit and talk. It may not sound like much, but the dialogue really draws you in. Not since "My Dinner With Andre" have I seen such a provoking and thoughtful dialogue driven drama. True, the film can be a bit repetitious at points with the endless series of questions, history lessons, and sometimes pretentious conversations, but the movie is never boring. I personally find it fascinating to think about who or what Oldman really is. Is he an immortal? Is he a religious figure? Is he something more? Since the characters can't approve or disprove what Oldman is saying, it makes the movie all the more engaging. Everything is laid out for the viewer, but it's up to them to decide what to make of it all.
Had the performances been lazy or weak, the movie could never have work. Thankfully, everyone here is strong, especially the personable John Billingsley (who played Phlox on "Enterprise"), Tony Todd as the open minded Paleontologist, and David Lee Smith as John Oldman.
The only part of the film that doesn't quite succeed is the twist ending. While the conclusion does offer more insight into who Oldman is, it felt a tad too abrupt and wasn't handled very well. For instance, in the very next scene the character's reactions to the event were unconvincing as they seem un-phased by what happened. Any normal person would be devastated.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen picture is about as messy as the exploding head in "Scanners." I know often say this, but the entire print is covered in grain. I am willing to forgive the bad quality, however, as the film itself more than makes up for the low production values.
The Dolby Surround 5.1 track is as poor as the film quality. The unnecessary and distracting music score takes away from the emotional impact of the scenes and the dialogue often sounds like its being mumbled.
* Trailers for "Hatchet," "Jimmy And Judy," "Shanghai Kiss," and "The Quiet Earth."
* The 2 minute "The Story Of The Story" is exactly what it sounds like.
* A 4 minute featurette titled "Star Trek- Jerome Bixby's Sci Fi Legacy." This is my favorite extra as it talks about Bixby's work on two of the best shows ever made- the original "Star Trek" and "The Twilight Zone."
* "On The Set" (4 minutes) shows us the location that the crew shot at and the bad catering.
* "From Script To Screen" (2:11) reveals how "The Man From Earth" was Bixby's final script before he passed away. His son Emerson Bixby vowed to get it made. A nice touching background story to be sure.
* A commentary track by director Richard Schenkman and actor John Billingsley. While Richard merely praises everyone, John livens up the track with humorous jokes and references to classic films.
* The second commentary track features Emerson Bixby and author Gary Westfahl. This is a more serious and informative track. Highlights include pointing out the "Star Trek" references and talking about the sorry state of Sci-Fi.
Film buffs looking for an intelligent Sci-Fi drama should not hesitate to check out "Jerome Bixby's The Man From Earth." It sure beats watching "Transformers."
Film and television enthusiast Nick Lyons recently had his first book published titled "Attack of the Sci-Fi Trivia." It is available on Amazon.com.