The Man from Earth

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The Man from Earth

The Man from Earth theatrical poster.
Directed byRichard Schenkman
Produced byEmerson Bixby, Eric D. Wilkinson, Richard Schenkman
Written byJerome Bixby
StarringDavid Lee Smith
John Billingsley
Tony Todd
Music byMark Hinton Stewart
Distributed byAnchor Bay Entertainment,
Shoreline Entertainment,
Release date(s)
  • November 13, 2007 (2007-11-13)
Running time89 minutes
LanguageEnglish
Budget$200,000[1]
 
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The Man from Earth

The Man from Earth theatrical poster.
Directed byRichard Schenkman
Produced byEmerson Bixby, Eric D. Wilkinson, Richard Schenkman
Written byJerome Bixby
StarringDavid Lee Smith
John Billingsley
Tony Todd
Music byMark Hinton Stewart
Distributed byAnchor Bay Entertainment,
Shoreline Entertainment,
Release date(s)
  • November 13, 2007 (2007-11-13)
Running time89 minutes
LanguageEnglish
Budget$200,000[1]

The Man from Earth is a 2007 science fiction film written by Jerome Bixby and directed by Richard Schenkman. The film stars David Lee Smith as John Oldman, the protagonist of the story. The screenplay for this movie was conceived by Jerome Bixby in the early 1960s and was completed on his death bed in April 1998, making it his final piece of work.[2] The movie gained recognition in part for being widely distributed through Internet peer-to-peer networks and 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) who has somehow survived for over 14,000 years. The only setting is in and around Oldman's house during his farewell party, with the plot advancing through intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty members.

Contents

Plot

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 continue to pressure him for the reason for his departure, John slowly, and somewhat reluctantly, reveals that he is a prehistoric "caveman" who has survived for more than 14,000 years. He begins his story under the guise of a possible science-fiction story, but he 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, stating that he was once a Sumerian for 2000 years, then a Babylonian under Hammurabi, then a disciple of Gautama Buddha. He claims to have known Christopher Columbus, Van Gogh (from which he apparently owns a painting as a gift from the artist himself), and other famous historical figures.

During the course of the conversation, John's colleagues question his story according to their specialties. For instance, Harry, the biologist, discusses the possibility of a human 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, to which John points out the nature of knowledge, as he can only put his memories together with modern science after he learnt the new ideas 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 shocking revelation, emotions in the room run high. Edith begins crying, and Gruber sternly demands that John end his tale and give closure by admitting it was all a hoax, threatening him with the possibility of locking him up for observation. John apologizes to everyone and tells them that it was all just a story.

John's friends begin to leave. John apologizes to Harry and Edith, while Art and Linda depart without many parting words. When it is Dan's turn to say goodbye, his words hint that he believes John's story. After everyone but Dr. Gruber and Sandy has left, Dr. Gruber overhears John and Sandy's conversation, which suggests that the story was true after all. John mentions some of the pun pseudonyms he had used over the years, such as John Paley (as in Paleolithic) and John Savage. He also mentions another pseudonym, used over sixty years ago while a chemistry professor at Harvard: John Thomas Partee (as in John T. Party of Boston). This was the name of Gruber's father; upon hearing this, Gruber, shocked and over-excited at the sight of his ageless father, suffers a heart attack and dies. After Gruber's body is taken away, Sandy notes that John seems especially struck by his death. John promises to come back for his son's funeral. Sandy realizes that it is the first time he has seen one of his grown children die. John wordlessly gets in his truck and drives away, as though to leave forever. Then he stops and looks at Sandy, apparently deciding to spend some time with her. The movie ends with Sandy getting into the truck.

Production

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.[1]

Cast

In order of appearance:

Distribution and Publicity

The film screened at the San Diego Comic-Con Film Festival in July 2007, and premiered theatrically in Hemet, California and Pitman, New Jersey[3] 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.[4]

Festivals and awards

The film has been nominated for and won numerous awards.[5]

Soundtrack

All music performed by Mark Hinton Stewart.

Publicity through filesharing

In what may be an unprecedented move, the producer of this film, Eric D. Wilkinson,[7] has publicly thanked users of BitTorrent who have distributed the movie without express permission, saying that it has lifted the profile of this product far beyond the financier's expectations,[8] while encouraging fans to purchase the DVD or donate.[9]

See also

References

External links