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  Man from Earth, The I've Been Everywhere, Man
Year: 2007
Director: Richard Schenkman
Stars: David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, Ellen Crawford, Annika Peterson, William Katt, Alexis Thorpe, Richard Riehle
Genre: Drama, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: College lecturer John Oldman (David Lee Smith) is moving on, and is packing up his belongings from his cabin in the countryside, waiting for his friends to arrive to bid him a fond farewell, which they do, by and by. Once they have drawn up in their cars one of them, Edith (Ellen Crawford), remarks on a painting that is lying out ready to be put in the back of John's truck, and how it looks as if it could be an authentic Van Gogh, but it couldn't be, could it? Soon they are all inside and ready to drink a toast to their colleague, but he has called them all here for a reason...

How do you make a science fiction film without any special effects? That was the challenge writer Jerome Bixby set himself for one of his final scripts, and one which was brought to the screen quite a while after he had died thanks to the dedication of his son in keeping his father's work enduring. Not that The Man from Earth was anything like a major blockbuster, but as the My Dinner with Andre of sci-fi it built up a following of those sympathetic to what they were trying to achieve. The economical, shot on video result was endlessly talky, as you might expect with dialogue cheaper than effects any day, but represented a particular kind of speculative fiction.

That didn't stop it coming across as a filmed play, or even a visualisation of a radio play, but this was a film where you had to sit back and soak up the conversation. Whether you'd be with this all the way was a different matter: Christians of the more devout stripe were likely to take offence rather than take its ideas onboard, but fans of this kind of cerebral work might appreciate what they were trying to set off in your mind. On the other hand, it could be that you'd find the whole concept so preposterous that you'd have difficulty accepting it as anything other than a nice idea which had been indifferently presented, or worse, an indifferent idea nicely presented.

What John has to tell his assembled pals as they cosy around the fire in his increasingly empty cabin (the removal men show up halfway through and just leave the couch to sit on) is that there's a reason why he doesn't appear to have aged in the ten years since he met them. And here's where it gets strange: no, he doesn't have an expert cosmetic surgeon lurking in the wings, it's because he's actually a caveman. Not that he lives in a cave these days, but through whatever means at his disposal he has built up an immunity to ageing and has lasted at this stage fourteen thousand years. As you can imagine, this has his friends expressing some degree of scepticism and wondering if he's pulling their legs.

But the odd thing is he comes across as perfectly sincere, and has an answer to whatever question they put to him, but one remains, do we believe him or not in the context of the story? Obviously if one of your friends came to you with this yarn you'd either laugh it off or start to worry for their sanity, but this is a movie we're talking about so you have to make up your own mind about how authentically this is related to the audience; naturally, nobody likes to be fooled, so you may prefer to reserve judgement until you're in full possession of the storyline. Suffice to say, when John starts telling them he was Jesus Christ it's a leap of faith few are willing to agree with, even if he makes his case as plainly and reasonably as he can, and his friends, including turns from genre stalwarts Tony Todd and John Billingsley and well acted all round (thankfully), react with growing concern. If there's a big problem it's that there's nowhere to go with this information, believe it or otherwise: what could you do but say "Oh, really? Fancy that." Music by Mark Hinton Stewart.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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