Low Budget High Praise! The Man From Earth.

manearthThe Man From Earth (2007)

Yes, I know. I normally like to pile on the poop deep and heavy if I think something is bad – and a lot of movies out there are really bad! However – this one is an exception. A shining jewel! A glittering nugget of gold that stands out amongst the mundane celuloid dross.

This piece of cinema really is the definitive poster child to showpiece what can be achieved on a low-budget with a tight, well crafted script, a good director and an excellent cast who all know their business.

But don’t take my word for it. Here is just a small selection of some of the top awards this movie has won:

2007 – WINNER – Grand Prize – Best Screenplay – Rhode Island International Film Festival

  • 2008 – WINNER – 2ND place – Best Screenplay – Rio de Janeiro International Fantastic Film Festival (RioFan)
  • 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.
  • Festival, Atlantic City, NJ
  • 2007 – Saturn Award nominee – Best DVD Release – The Man From Earth
  • 2008 – WINNER – DVD Critics Award – Best Non-Theatrical Movie

Directed by Richard Schenkman on a shoestring budget of a mere $200,000 in 2007 this movie rapidly gained rightful cult status and popularity not only from word of mouth, but from fan sharing on peer-to-peer networks – oddly encouraged and approved of by the producer who said at the time that the financial goals of the movie had already been attained and surpassed so he really had no problem with fans passing this movie around – although if anyone still wanted to buy the DVD, then by all means feel free!

This tour de force script was sadly the final one penned by veteran TV writer and acclaimed sci-fi author Jerome Bixby. Originally conceived in 1960 it was finally completed from his death-bed in the April of 1998. Bixby dictated it to his son, another renowned screenwriter Emerson Bixby. The movie comprises many elements that must had evidently fascinated Jerome Bixby during his life. Some themes had been lifted directly from his Star Trek TOS episode Requiem for Methuselah. Anyone familiar with this classic Star Trek episode (and if not I’d certainly recommend that you’d see it) will instantly recognise the premise behind this powerful and intellectual movie.

The plot revolves around a group of college professors who meet up at a friend and fellow colleague’s isolated desert house to throw him an impromptu party. The recipient of the gathering is John Oldman and he is leaving the university they all teach after a 10 year tenure. The whole movie, with an impressive ensemble cast, is set around an in the house. As the party progresses, his curious colleagues press Oldman to explain the reason for his departure as he is a popular, tenured professor on the campus. Oldman, somewhat reluctantly, imparts to the assembled group that he is in fact an ancient Cro-Magnon human who has now lived for more than 14 thousand years; and that he is forced to move on every 10 years or so to keep people from realizing that he never actually ages. But the question is, is Oldman telling the group the truth? Or is this some elaborate psychological game he is foisting on his friends purely for his own amusement?

Each of his friends are also tenured professors having their own particular scientific discipline and as Oldman pulls them into his complex tale it makes them all question all the suppositions they previously had and even questions one of them’s firm belief in the divine and God. The story keeps you guessing right until the end of the movie – the script is incredibly well crafted, the direction tight, and the performances from the impressive cast that include David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, William Katt,  and that great character actor Richard Riehle.

Perhaps my one and only minor nit is the ending – I thought it was a little heavy-handed – almost clumsy in its execution – but even with that still one of my favorite movies and I highly recommend it.

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