Sunday, May 05, 2013

Lost Island of VHS...XIII

The Earthling - Peter Collinson - 1980

William Holden is dropped off on a dirt road that overlooks the Australian wilderness. He looks out over the valley, gives a gritty, toothy grin and says, 'I remember you!' Thus begins one of the few cool movies out there about the beauty of traveling through wild nature. But, of course, it is much more than that.

Holden plays Patrick Foley a man dying of cancer who wants to spend his final days trekking through the Australian forest to his boyhood home where he can die peacefully in the same place his parents are buried. After a brief, terse good-bye to a couple friends he sets off.

On his journey he comes across a ten-year old boy named Shawn whose parents have been killed in a horrible accident. Patrick would just as soon leave this kid be. But his instincts tell him to approach the boy and, at the very least, point him in the right direction to get back to civilization.

The boy [played by Ricky Schroder] is too shocked to hand his situation and being rather young and inexperienced with outdoor living he is completely at the mercy of the wilderness. Patrick has no choice, he's got to take the kid along for a while and teach him a few survival tricks. But this is where the movie gets good - because Patrick doesn't want to be bothered with helping this kid and he lets him know. Many conflicts arise including one moment where he leaves the kid to scale a cliff by himself as he's pursued by wild dogs.

Patrick's method is of the 'throw the kid in the pool to teach him to swim' school. He doesn't want to be a nice guy primarily because he doesn't want to form an attachment at this juncture of his life. He just wants to go die. Even when he gives advice he has a tough time being sincere. "There's nothing to be afraid of except the cold wind, which will kill you if you stand around looking stupid."

The Earthling keeps itself [barely] above the formulaic fray by basically sticking closer to reality than to the sentimentally one would expect from the material. Perhaps that's one reason it failed at the box office and is still not available on DVD. See it if you can find it. VHS can still be found and it is streaming on YouTube. [It was streaming on Netflix].

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