The Man from Earth
|The Man from Earth|
The Man from Earth theatrical poster.
|Directed by||Richard Schenkman|
|Produced by||Emerson Bixby, Eric D. Wilkinson, Richard Schenkman, Steven Alexander|
|Written by||Jerome Bixby|
|Starring||David Lee Smith
|Music by||Mark Hinton Stewart|
|Distributed by||Anchor Bay Entertainment,
|Running time||89 minutes|
The Man from Earth is a 2007 science fiction film written by Jerome Bixby and directed by Richard Schenkman. It stars David Lee Smith as John Oldman, the protagonist. The screenplay was conceived by Jerome Bixby in the early 1960s and completed on his death bed in April 1998. The movie gained recognition in part for being widely distributed through Internet peer-to-peer networks; its producer publicly thanked users of these networks for this. The film was later adapted by Schenkman into a stage play of the same name.
The plot focuses on John Oldman, a departing university professor, who claims to be a Cro-Magnon (or Magdalenian caveman) that has somehow survived for more than 14,000 years. The entire movie is set in and around Oldman's house during his farewell party and is composed almost entirely of dialogue. The plot advances through intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty members.
The movie begins with Professor John Oldman (David Lee Smith) packing his belongings onto his truck, preparing to move to a new home. His colleagues show up to give him an impromptu farewell party: Harry (John Billingsley), a biologist; Edith (Ellen Crawford), an art history professor and devout Christian; Dan (Tony Todd), an anthropologist; Sandy (Annika Peterson), a historian who is in love with John; Dr. Will Gruber (Richard Riehle), a psychiatrist; Art (William Katt), an archaeologist; and his student Linda (Alexis Thorpe).
As John's colleagues press him to explain the reason for his departure, he slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, reveals that he is a prehistoric caveman who has lived for more than 14 millennia, and that he relocates every ten years to keep others from realizing that he does not age. He begins his tale under the guise of a possible science-fiction story, but eventually stops speaking in hypotheticals and begins answering questions from a first-person perspective. His colleagues refuse to believe his story. John continues his tale, relating how he was a Sumerian for 2000 years, then a Babylonian under Hammurabi, then a disciple of Gautama Buddha. He claims to have known other historical figures, including Christopher Columbus and Van Gogh (one of whose original paintings he apparently owns, received as a gift from the artist himself).
In the course of the conversation, each of John's colleagues questions his story based on knowledge from his or her own academic specialty. For instance, Harry, the biologist, discusses how biology might allow for the possibility of a human being living for so long. Art, the archaeologist, questions John about events in prehistory. He exclaims that John's answers, though correct, could have come from any textbook. In response John points out that, because of the nature of knowledge, he can only put his memories together with what modern science knows after he has learnt the new ideas along with the rest of humanity.
The discussion turns to the topic of religion. John mentions that he is not a follower of a particular religion; though he does not necessarily believe in an omnipotent God, he does not discount the possibility of such a being's existence. John then reluctantly reveals that, in trying to bring Buddha's teachings to the West, he became the inspiration for the Jesus story and "the one called Jesus". After this revelation, emotions in the room run high. Edith begins crying. Will Gruber, the psychiatrist, sternly demands that John end his tale and give the group a sense of closure by admitting it was all a hoax, and further threatens him with commitment to a psychiatric hospital for observation. John appears to ruminate over his response before finally apologizing to everyone for leading them on.
John's friends begin to leave the party. He apologizes to Harry and Edith, while Art and Linda depart without many words of farewell. When it is Dan's turn to say goodbye, his words hint that he believes John's story. After everyone but Will and Sandy has left, Will overhears John and Sandy's conversation, which suggests that the story was true after all. John mentions some of the punning pseudonyms he gave himself over the years, such as John Paley (as in Paleolithic) and John Savage. He also mentions another pseudonym, used over sixty years ago while he was a chemistry professor at Harvard: John Thomas Partee (as in John T. Party of Boston). Will is startled, since this was his father's name. Shocked and over-excited by the realization that the ageless man with him is actually his own father, Will suffers a heart attack and dies. After Will's body has been taken away, Sandy notes that John seems especially moved by this death. John promises to return in order to attend his son's funeral. Sandy realizes that this is the first time John has seen one of his grown children die. Without another word, John gets in his truck and starts to drive away. Then he stops and looks at Sandy. It appears he has changed his mind about going off alone and has decided to spend a period of time with her. The movie ends with Sandy getting into John's truck.
In order of appearance:
- David Lee Smith as John Oldman
- Tony Todd as Dan
- John Billingsley as Harry
- Ellen Crawford as Edith
- Annika Peterson as Sandy
- William Katt as Art Jenkins
- Alexis Thorpe as Linda Murphy
- Richard Riehle as Dr. Will Gruber
- Robbie Bryan as Police Officer
The story is Jerome Bixby's last work, which he completed on his deathbed in April 1998. Bixby dictated the last of his screenplay to his son, screenwriter Emerson Bixby. After Jerome Bixby's death the script was given to Richard Schenkman to direct on a $200,000 budget.
Release and marketing
The film screened at the San Diego Comic-Con Film Festival in July 2007, and premiered theatrically in Hemet, California and Pitman, New Jersey in October 2007. It was released on DVD in North America by Anchor Bay Entertainment on November 13, 2007 and became available for digital rental and sale at iTunes on September 22, 2009. It won the grand prize for Best Screenplay and first place for Best Feature at the Rhode Island Film Festival in August 2007.
Publicity through filesharing
Producer Eric D. Wilkinson has publicly thanked users of BitTorrent who have distributed the movie without express permission, saying that it has lifted the profile of the film far beyond the financier's expectations, while encouraging fans to purchase the DVD or donate.
Rotten Tomatoes does not have enough reviews for a consensus.
Festivals and awards
The film has been nominated for and won numerous awards.
- 2007 – WINNER – 1st place – Best Screenplay - Rhode Island International Film Festival
- 2007 – WINNER – Grand Prize - Best Screenplay - Rhode Island International Film Festival
- 2008 – WINNER – Best Film – Montevideo Fantastic Film Festival of Uruguay
- 2008 – WINNER – Audience Choice Award Montevideo Fantastic Film Festival of Uruguay
- 2008 – WINNER – Best Director - Fantaspoa – International Fantastic Film Festival of Porto Alegre, Brazil
- 2008 – WINNER – 2ND place – Best Screenplay - Rio de Janeiro International Fantastic Film Festival (RioFan)
- 2008 – WINNER – Audience Award: Best Screenplay Film – Fixion-Sars Horror & Fantastic Film Festival of Santiago, Chile
- 2008 – WINNER – Jury Award: Best Screenplay – Fixion-Sars Horror & Fantastic Film Festival of Santiago, Chile
- 2008 – WINNER – Best SCI-FI Screenplay - International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival, Phoenix, AZ
- 2008 – WINNER – Best Screenplay - Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre – Int'l Independent Horror, Fantasy & Bizarre, Argentina
- 2007 – Official Selection - Another Hole in the Head SF IndieFest
- 2007 – Official Selection – San Diego ComicCon International Film Festival
- 2008 – Official Selection – Amsterdam Fantastic Film Festival
- 2008 – Official Selection (Opening Night Screenplay) – Down Beach Film Festival, Atlantic City, NJ
- 2008 – Official Selection – Otrocine Fantastic Film Festival of Bogota
- 2008 – Official Selection – FilmColumbia – Festival of Film in Chatham, NY
- 2008 – Official Selection - Festival de Cine Fantástico (Fantastic Film Festival of Malaga) (FANCINE)
- 2008 – Official Selection - Festival Cinema de Salvador
- 2008 – Official Selection - Mostra Curta Fantástico of São Paulo, Brazil
- 2007 – Saturn Award nominee - Best DVD Release - The Man From Earth
- 2008 – WINNER – DVD Critics Award – Best Non-Theatrical Movie
All music performed by Mark Hinton Stewart.
- "7th Symphony - 2nd Movement" - Written by Ludwig van Beethoven
- Lyrics by Richard Schenkman
- Music by Mark Hinton Stewart
- Performed by Mark Hinton Stewart and Chantelle Duncan
- Copyright - BDI Music LTD.
In 2012, Richard Schenkman adapted the film to a play, which got positive reviews.
- "Requiem for Methuselah" – a 1969 Star Trek episode also written by Jerome Bixby, with the same central idea that he later developed into The Man from Earth. "Mr. Flint" is 6000 years old and has lived through all of recorded history, but otherwise the story is quite different.
- The Wandering Jew – a series of old legends about a Jewish man who is made immortal in the time of Jesus and cursed to wander the Earth until his second coming.
- Casca (series), a series of novels with a similar story to the Wandering Jew, about one of the soldiers tending Jesus at the crucifixion who is cursed to wander the Earth until his second coming, and participated in most every major battle and met some of the most famous people in human history since then.
- "Long Live Walter Jameson" - an episode version of a similar tale of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone.
- The Boat of a Million Years by Poul Anderson - the story of immortals living among us from the beginning of recorded history and back into the time of myth.
- "The Immortal" by Jorge Luis Borges - short story first published in February 1947. The story tells about a character who mistakenly achieves immortality and then, weary of a long life, struggles to lose it and writes an account of his experiences.
- The Sandman: Brief Lives by Neil Gaiman has a substory that tells of old humans and possibly other humanoids that have lived on earth throughout history.
- Fernandez, Jay A. (2007-07-25). "A sci-fi writer's final words are brought to life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
- Man From Earth "The Man From Earth (About)". Retrieved 2008-04-09.
- Movie producer from Newfield releases sci-fi film November 1, 2007 by Senitra Horbrook at Gloucester County Times.
- ""Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth" on DVD Nov. 13". StarTrek.com / CBS Studios, Inc. 2007-10-26. Retrieved 2008-01-07.
- "Producer Thanks Pirates For Stealing His Film". TorrentFreak. 2007-11-13. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- "Piracy isn’t THAT bad and they know it". RLSLOG.net. Retrieved 2012-03-24.
- Teh, Hock (November 6, 2007). "The Man From Earth DVD Review". IGN.com. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- Stewart, James A. (November 13, 2007). "The Man From Earth". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2 June 2013.
- The Man from Earth MySpace Blogs
- The Man from Earth official website, top left
- Isenberg, Robert. "The Man From Earth". Pittsburgh City Paper. Retrieved 2 June 2013.