A group of friends getting together to say goodbye to Professor John Oldman, a colleague, turns into a heated discussion when he announces he’s over 14,000 years old.
Directed by – Richard Schenkman
Written by – Jerome Bixby
Starring – David Lee Smith, Tony Todd, John Billingsley, Ellen Crawford, Annika Peterson, William Katt, Alexis Thorpe, Richard Riehle, Steven Littles, Chase Sprague, Robbie Bryan
Suggested to me by a friend a few months ago, The Man From Earth was an impressive thoughtful movie. There’s no big effects, even if the poster there might suggest something like that, and they never leave the location of John Oldman’s cabin. It’s simply a group of professors sitting around listening to John tell his story of how he’s actually a caveman and trying to decide if he’s being truthful or has lost his mind. Some of the acting is a little stiff and the low-budget is obvious in the actual look of the film with it being grainy but it’s the amazing story that pushes the film. It starts out simply enough with the friends getting together to say goodbye to John (David Lee Smith) but he eventually begins to tell them a story about how he’s been alive for over 14,000 years, essentially making him a caveman.
At first it’s very basic. They don’t believe him and he tells them a lot of facts that anyone could have read in a textbook. Of course they’re all professors so they find it very hard to believe. They try to dispute him by pointing out he’s only telling them things that everybody knows which leads into a discussion about his memory of the time on Earth. He wasn’t able to understand some of the things from his past until people discovered them later in the future and put names to things that he had experienced. It’s very interesting at the beginning but it’s towards the middle of the film that it really starts to explore some great territory.
At first he’s only covering broad areas. What did the world look like? Where did he go and why? How does he keep his secret? When society begins to be built up around him his stories become more focused. He speaks of the different religions he followed, how he learned from Buddha and eventually they begin a discussion involving the Bible and Jesus. That’s the moment that I really became hooked on the flick. John, in an off-hand way, claims to have been Jesus. The problem is that one of the professors there is a very religious person and feels that John is trying to destroy her beliefs. I found the story to be particularly interesting there because it goes along with a lot of what I have always thought about religion. Anyone who can be open-minded enough to listen will find some interesting ideas offered up.
A lot of the story is whether or not John is even telling the truth. Is he or isn’t he? Opinions vary and change throughout the film but the ending gives us a definite answer. There’s nothing that is really special about the movie besides the story. One location, no effects and a very small cast. It’s the script that is the star here offering up some wild theories that will leave you thinking about it after the credits roll. It’s no surprise to see that Jerome Bixby has written a few episodes for The Twilight Zone as that’s how the movie winds up feeling. It shares a typical structure with many of the Twilight Zone episodes that I’ve seen and has a fitting ending, making this a 90 minute long Twilight Zone type flick. It’s not shocking or insulting and the end isn’t exactly an amazing twist but it’s the ideas that are presented that make it so great.
Anyone looking for a movie that will challenge ideas and get them thinking should check this one out. I know I was glued to the screen, wondering if what John said was true or not. Would he be revealed to be 14,000 years old or just insane? I had to know and was happy with the end. There’s a few moments that are a little melodramatic, including the slightly sappy ending, but don’t let that take away from what is essentially a very intelligent flick.
Under the marquee – Will