Whatever your view of Nicolas Roeg's 1976 sci-fi drama - a cosmic parable with a diverse range of allegorical interpretations, an hallucinatory myth or a baffling mess - it's an undeniably memorable work, imbued with stunning surreal imagery and haunting, imaginative visuals. Based on Walter Tevis's original novel, the film offers moments of real menace, and - despite props and effects that feel a little clunky today - still has unbridled power to shock and a poignancy that's hard to match.
One of the cinematographer turned director's master touches was the casting of the film's leading player. David Bowie - just finishing a cosmic juggernaut ride with his pop personas Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane - was already decidedly weird and from the planet Zarg, so it didn't take much for the Thin White Duke to slip convincingly into the role of Thomas Jerome Newton, an extra-terrestrial who arrives from outer space in search of water for his distant and dying planet.
Newton, brilliantly played with icy detachment by Bowie, uses the advanced technology of his planet to come up with incredible inventions and, in the process, becomes very wealthy. His masterplan is to finance a space programme to ferry water back to his home planet, but, as he becomes more acclimatised to our world, he falls prey to earthly vices, such as drink, sex and TV, and his powers are destroyed.
A thoughtful, provocative tale, it's easy to dwell long and hard on the meaning of it all, especially when key scenes - such as Newton being pestered by his clingy girlfriend Mary-Lou (Candy Clark), going into the bathroom and slowly removing his human eyes and skin to reveal his true reptilian form and her extraordinary reaction when she sees him - are so gut-wrenchingly shocking. Completed after Roeg's other 70s masterpieces Walkabout and Don't Look Now, it's rightly regarded as a cult classic.