A Hit 14,000 Years in the Making: Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth

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Jerome Bixby's The Man from Earth Blu-ray

A cabin. A handful of characters. An engaging conversation.

A pretty good way to spend an evening -- but would you believe that such a simple, prosaic and unchanging scene could make for a compelling film? That's the case with Director Richard Schenkman's vision of Jerome Bixby's THE MAN FROM EARTH.

CSI: MIAMI's DAVID LEE SMITH plays Dr. John Oldman, a college professor who is giving up tenure after ten years teaching to move on. He's ditched the goodbye party thrown by his friends, so they bring it to him, at his remote cabin, and press him for the reasons why he is leaving. And that's when these academics--leaders in their field--are given a story and a hypothesis that challenges everything they believe in: that John Oldman is a Cro-Magnon man who, for reasons he himself doesn't understand, has never died.

This presents challenges to the biologist, Harry (TRUE BLOOD's JOHN BILLINGSLEY), archeologist Art (THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO's WILLIAM KATT) and his youthful student Linda (ALEXIS THORPE from DAYS OF OUR LIVES), Christian literalist Edith (ER's ELLEN CRAWFORD), philosopher Dan (TONY TODD, THE FLASH), and lover Sandy (ANNIKA PETERSON). They at first believe it's a thought experiment, the basis for a science fiction story. But as they continue to try to poke holes in his story, the more they become convinced -- that either John is what he claims he is, or that he is one-hundred percent insane. Art believes the latter -- so much so that he calls in a psychiatrist, Dr. Gruber (OFFICE SPACE's RICHARD RIEHLE), to assess John's faculties.

Nearly all of the film is set within John's cabin, with a few scenes occuring outside of it and one trailing scene on the highway further down the road. The action is all verbal sparring, the special effects are non-existent as they are unnecessary. All the big things happen in your mind as you become as enthralled with John Oldman's tale as do his colleagues, who are left questioning everything they ever knew about their respective fields, particularly when some of John's claims about places he's lived and people he has been create cognitive dissonance within his friends of shattering proportions.

This Blu-ray release includes a number of extras, including two commentary tracks -- one with Director Richard Schenkman and Actor John Billingsley, and another with Executive Producer Emerson Bixby and Author Gary Westfahl.  There's also a documentary, "The Man from Earth: Legacy," that's nearly as long as the feature itself. Additional features include a micro-short film, "Contagion," that's really a special-effects test, and the trailer for the upcoming sequel, THE MAN FROM EARTH: HOLOCENE, which reunites Smith and Katt ten years down the road, and which I now greatly look forward to viewing. You should as well.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0