|THE EARTHLING (director: Peter Collinson; screenwriter: Lanny Cotler; cinematographer: Don McAlpine; editors: Frank Moriss; music: Dick DeBenedictis; cast: William Holden (Patrick Foley), Ricky Schroder (Shawn Daley), Jack Thompson (Ross Daley), Olivia Hammett (Bettina Daley), Alwyn Kurts (Christian Neilson), Redmond Phillips (Bobby Burns), Willie Fennel (R.C.), Pat Evison (Meg Neilson), Ray Barrett (Parnell); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: John Strong/Elliott Schick; Filmways Pictures/Orion; 1980-Australia)|
|"The melancholy disease film set
somewhere in the wilderness of Australia was a
box office bomb despite the star power of
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The melancholy disease film set somewhere in the wilderness of Australia was a box office bomb despite the star power of William Holden. Under the direction of Aussie filmmaker Peter Collinson ("Tomorrow Never Comes"/"The Sell-Out"), with a reputation as a foul-tempered taskmaster on set, who like the film's main character was dying in real-life from terminal cancer, the pretentious arthouse film was saddled with awkward dramatics and shallow characterizations. It's a hard film to sit through without getting restless and praying it will soon end. This is one of Holden's poorer films, but not because of him. That's mainly the fault of the bullying Collison, who lashed out at the cast and the child actor who Holden bonded with when Holden stopped the tyrant director from picking on him. What's good is the lush wilderness photography by Don McAlpine, what's really bad is the stilted script by Lanny Cotler.
The middle-aged globe-trotter Patrick Foley (William Holden) returns to his native Australia to die in peace from his terminal cancer in the remote outback farmhouse he spent his childhood. En route to his bush country destination he encounters Shawn Daley (Ricky Schroder), an American youngster recently orphaned when his vacationing parents were killed in a freak accident when their caravan went off a cliff. Foley comes across the kid in the wilderness and becomes his mentor and teaches him survival skills in the bush country, realizing he didn't have time to take him back to civilization.
The suits found the Collinson film too much of a downer and called in producer John Strong, an actor turned director, for a re-write. If this is the rosier version, I would hate to see the other one.
This was Holden's second to last film before his untimely death in 1981. Holden had joined Alcoholics Anonymous to help control his problem with booze, and to his credit did the film sober. Meanwhile Collinson died in 1980 at the age of 44 just before the film opened in the U.S..
REVIEWED ON 5/4/2018 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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