science fiction writer Jerome Bixby produced many short stories in the genre,
but he is perhaps most well-known for writing a handful of classic Star Trek episodes (“Mirror, Mirror,”
“By Any Other Name,” and more). The memorable original Twilight Zone entry, “It’s a Good Life,” was based on his short
story, as was the same segment in The
Twilight Zone—The Motion Picture (1983). Bixby was also responsible for the
stories or scripts for sci-fi films such as Fantastic
Voyage (1966), and It! The Terror
from Beyond Space (1958).
last work, allegedly completed on his deathbed in 1998, was the screenplay The Man from Earth. Nearly ten years
later (2007), Bixby’s son Emerson helped bring it to the screen as producer.
The low-budget feature was directed by Richard Schenkman and starred David Lee
Smith as “John Oldman,” a man in the present day who has lived without aging
for 14,000 years. Released with little fanfare, The Man from Earth grew a cult following and is today considered
one of the “great science fiction films you’ve never heard of.” It is the kind
of picture that is cerebral, intelligent, and deals with existential themes and
ideas. Sci-fi for the mind.
the ensuing years, Schenkman and Emerson apparently received many requests from
fans of the original work to make a sequel. The idea was resisted until the
concept of a TV series was floated. In each episode, the Man from Earth would be
on the run, followed by various groups of cultists and “believers”—much the
same way Richard Kimble (The Fugitive)
had to move from place to place.
The Man from Earth: Holocene was made
as a backdoor pilot to a series, was an official selection at the Dances with
Films Festival, and it is now available on home video.
Holocene picks up a decade
after the events of the first picture, with John “Young” (he changes his
surname with every move across country) teaching religious studies at a
community college in a small California town. He’s shacking up with fellow
teacher Carolyn (Vanessa Williams), keeping a low profile, and inspiring
students. A quartet of these young adults, played with aplomb by Akemi Look,
Sterling Knight, Brittany Curran, and Carlos Knight, discover John’s secret,
decide that he has all the answers to their many questions about life,
religion, and the universe, and begin to, well, stalk him.
of the students, Isabel (Look), contacts Art (William Katt), the primary
antagonist from the first film. Art had been a professor, like John, who wrote
a non-fiction book about the Man from Earth, exposing his tale, and was roundly
pilloried by the academic world and shunned for it. Thus, he has an axe to
grind with John.
any more about the story would spoil what is a very decent continuation of the
original picture. While the first movie took place mostly in one room—like a
stage play (and, in fact, Schenkman adapted that film into a play that has been
produced around the world)—Holocene has
“opened up.” It was shot in various locations around the town. It does retain,
however, the intellectual and dialogue-heavy aspects, keeping it in tune with the
original and what will, hopefully, indeed become a series. This reviewer has fingers
Star Trek—The Next
Generation’sMichael Dorn and Star Trek: Enterprise’s John Billingsley also appear in Holocene as, respectively, the college’s
dean and as Harry, a character from the first film.
The Man from Earth:
once again a low-budget but thoughtful treatise on the nature humanity. The
acting, especially of Smith as John, and of Look as Isabel, is top-notch.
Blu-ray looks gorgeous and shows off Richard Vialet’s cinematography with sharp
images and vivid color. The main feature comes with an audio commentary by
Schenkman and co-producer Eric D. Wilkinson. A Behind-the-Scenes Documentary
features most of the crew and cast and takes the viewer through the history of
the first film and production of Holocene.
Also included are featurettes on the score by Mark Hinton Stewart, the premiere
at the Dances with Films premiere, deleted/extended scenes with optional commentary,
a kickboxing video made for the movie, photo gallery, poster gallery, teaser
trailer, and theatrical trailer.
you’ve never seen either picture, the original The Man from Earth is now also available from MVD as a special
edition Blu-ray/DVD combo.(Click here for review). Holocene may
not have the impact of the first movie, but it is indeed a worthwhile follow-up.