The Earthling (1981)

PG | 96 mins | Drama, Adventure | 8 February 1981

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HISTORY

       According to articles in the 7 Sep 1979 DV and the 31 Mar 1980 HR, American International Pictures (AIP), which became Filmways Pictures, co-financed The Earthling with Australian investors. It was the first production filmed under an Australian government ruling that offered generous tax incentives to attract film production to the country. An article in the 22 Aug 1979 Var reported that the film was a co-production of Earthling Productions Pty. Limited, a company set up through a deal between executive producer and Hollywood, CA, “investment and tax shelter specialist” Stephen W. Sharmat and Sydney, Australia, film attorney Andrew Martin. They created a plan to bypass the new Australian tax write-offs “in favor of a tax deferral scheme for Australian investors.”
       Items in the 18 Jun 1979 DV and the 26 Jun 1979 HR noted the film was budgeted at $4.5 million and principal photography was scheduled to begin 15 Sep 1979. The 22 Aug 1979 Var reported an eight-week shooting schedule and two weeks of second-unit filming. Var and production notes in AMPAS library files noted principal photography began in Sydney, Australia, for two weeks, then shifted to the Royal National Park before moving to Dungog, a small town in New South Wales. While the company filmed in Dungog, crews built a “small city” in the remote Barrington Tops National Park of New South Wales, where the filmmakers spent the next six weeks of principal photography. The completion of filming was announced in the 14 Nov 1979 Var and the 13 Nov ... More Less

       According to articles in the 7 Sep 1979 DV and the 31 Mar 1980 HR, American International Pictures (AIP), which became Filmways Pictures, co-financed The Earthling with Australian investors. It was the first production filmed under an Australian government ruling that offered generous tax incentives to attract film production to the country. An article in the 22 Aug 1979 Var reported that the film was a co-production of Earthling Productions Pty. Limited, a company set up through a deal between executive producer and Hollywood, CA, “investment and tax shelter specialist” Stephen W. Sharmat and Sydney, Australia, film attorney Andrew Martin. They created a plan to bypass the new Australian tax write-offs “in favor of a tax deferral scheme for Australian investors.”
       Items in the 18 Jun 1979 DV and the 26 Jun 1979 HR noted the film was budgeted at $4.5 million and principal photography was scheduled to begin 15 Sep 1979. The 22 Aug 1979 Var reported an eight-week shooting schedule and two weeks of second-unit filming. Var and production notes in AMPAS library files noted principal photography began in Sydney, Australia, for two weeks, then shifted to the Royal National Park before moving to Dungog, a small town in New South Wales. While the company filmed in Dungog, crews built a “small city” in the remote Barrington Tops National Park of New South Wales, where the filmmakers spent the next six weeks of principal photography. The completion of filming was announced in the 14 Nov 1979 Var and the 13 Nov 1979 HR.
       A 4 Jun 1980 Var news item reported that The Earthling would premiere 20 Jul 1980 in Sydney, and several months later, a 30 Sep 1980 US brief stated the Australian premiere was not well received. The 11 Feb 1981 Var tracked subsequent changes made to the film before its U.S. premiere and cited the 30 Jul 1980 Var review that was written after the Sydney premiere, which noted that Nick Beaumont’s “slick editing” could not hide the magnitude of post-production work; producer John Strong and film editor Frank Morriss recut the film and Beaumont does not receive onscreen credit. The picture was lengthened by five minutes and the song "Halfway Home" was added to the final credits. The 13 Feb 1981 LAT also noted that the voices of Australian actors Olivia Hamnett and Jack Thompson were dubbed to match the American accent of their onscreen son, actor Ricky Schroder.
       An item in the 4 Feb 1981 HR stated The Earthling would premiere at New York City’s Guild Theatre on 2 Feb 1981. The film was set to open in Hollywood, CA, Orange County, CA, Dallas, TX, Denver, CO, Portland, WA, Salt Lake City, UT, and Seattle, WA, on 13 Feb 1981 and would be released nationally on 27 Mar 1981.
       The film marks the feature film debut of writer Lanny Colter. The Earthling was the final feature film of director Peter Collinson, who died of cancer at age forty-four on 16 Dec 1980.

      End credits include the following written statements: “We wish to thank: The Royal National Park New South Wales Forestry Commission Rangers from the Barrington Forest Nature Wonderland"; “This picture was made under the jurisdiction of the A.T.A.E.A. and Actors Equity"; “Transport for the film’s principals was provided by Continental Airlines"; and “Production services by United American & Australasian Film Production Pty. Limited, Sydney, Australia.”
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Jun 1979.
---
Daily Variety
7 Sep 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Jun 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
13 Nov 1979.
---
Hollywood Reporter
31 Mar 1980.
---
Hollywood Reporter
4 Feb 1981.
---
Los Angeles Times
13 Feb 1981
Part VI, p. 8.
New York Times
8 Feb 1981
p. 55.
US
30 Sep 1980.
---
Variety
22 Aug 1979.
---
Variety
14 Nov 1979.
---
Variety
4 Jun 1980.
---
Variety
30 July 1980
p. 26.
Variety
11 Feb 1981.
---
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Samuel Z. Arkoff Presents
An Earthling Associates Film
A Filmways Picture
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
Prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit 1st asst dir
PRODUCERS
Exec prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Focus puller
Clapper loader
Gaffer
Key grip
Stills photog
2d unit dir of photog
2d unit focus puller
2d unit clapper loader
Photog equip by
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Standby props
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Greensman
Const mgr
Const mgr
COSTUMES
Cost des
Standby ward
MUSIC
Mus score
Songs prod
Mus ed
Mus mixer
Mus supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Titles and opt by
MAKEUP
Makeup artist and hairdresser
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod supv
Prod accountant
Asst to the prod
Asst to the prod
Asst to Mr. Collinson
Unit mgr
Prod coord
Loc mgr
Accountant asst
Transport mgr
Animal wrangler
Animal wrangler
Animal handler
Animal handler
Post prod supv
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col prints by
SOURCES
SONGS
Theme song "Halfway Home," by David Shire and Carol Connors, sung by Maureen McGovern
"Fast Women And Slow Dancin'," words and music by Michael Lloyd, Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn, sung by Gene Nelson
"He'll Never Fill My Shoes," words and music by Michael Lloyd, Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn, sung by Michael Lloyd
+
SONGS
Theme song "Halfway Home," by David Shire and Carol Connors, sung by Maureen McGovern
"Fast Women And Slow Dancin'," words and music by Michael Lloyd, Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn, sung by Gene Nelson
"He'll Never Fill My Shoes," words and music by Michael Lloyd, Al Kasha, Joel Hirschhorn, sung by Michael Lloyd
"Blind Faith," words and music by Michael Lloyd, sung by Gene Nelson
"Stay With Me," words and music by Michael Lloyd, sung by The Hues Corporation
"Run To Me," words and music by Michael Lloyd, John D'Andrea, sung by The Hues Corporation.
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
8 February 1981
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 8 February 1981
Los Angeles opening: 13 February 1981
Production Date:
15 September--early November 1979 in Australia
Copyright Claimant:
American International Pictures
Copyright Date:
10 February 1981
Copyright Number:
PA95204
Physical Properties:
Sound
Color
Duration(in mins):
96
MPAA Rating:
PG
Countries:
Australia, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
25947
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

Patrick Foley returns to Australia after a forty-year absence and hitchhikes to his tiny hometown of Dungog. He drops his backpack on the porch of the general store and wanders to a nearby farm. The vacationing Daley family stops at the store for gasoline and food; while parents Ross and Bettina go inside, their ten-year-old son, Shawn, waits on the porch. He sees Foley’s satchel and notices a Native American medicine bag inside. Meanwhile, Foley swallows pain medication and visits his old friend, Christian Neilson. Foley tells Christian that he is heading to his father’s farm and although Christian wants to spend time with him, Foley says he is leaving right away and will not return. Christian realizes that Foley is ill and wants his friend to stay in Dungog, but Foley refuses. They argue until Christian’s wife, Meg, interrupts and welcomes Foley to stay. Christian does not want his friend to die alone and cries, but Foley is determined to return to his remote homestead. Before leaving the Dungog area, Foley visits another friend, Red, and presents him with fishing lures wrapped in the medicine bag. In return, Red provides a horse for Foley to ride partway home. The next morning, Foley releases the horse at a river and starts hiking. Meanwhile, in Dungog, Red stops at the general store. The Daley family is at the store again, and as Shawn waits for his parents, he notices the medicine bag. Red sees Shawn’s interest and gives the bag to the child, claiming it will keep evil spirits at bay. The Daleys, guided by ... +


Patrick Foley returns to Australia after a forty-year absence and hitchhikes to his tiny hometown of Dungog. He drops his backpack on the porch of the general store and wanders to a nearby farm. The vacationing Daley family stops at the store for gasoline and food; while parents Ross and Bettina go inside, their ten-year-old son, Shawn, waits on the porch. He sees Foley’s satchel and notices a Native American medicine bag inside. Meanwhile, Foley swallows pain medication and visits his old friend, Christian Neilson. Foley tells Christian that he is heading to his father’s farm and although Christian wants to spend time with him, Foley says he is leaving right away and will not return. Christian realizes that Foley is ill and wants his friend to stay in Dungog, but Foley refuses. They argue until Christian’s wife, Meg, interrupts and welcomes Foley to stay. Christian does not want his friend to die alone and cries, but Foley is determined to return to his remote homestead. Before leaving the Dungog area, Foley visits another friend, Red, and presents him with fishing lures wrapped in the medicine bag. In return, Red provides a horse for Foley to ride partway home. The next morning, Foley releases the horse at a river and starts hiking. Meanwhile, in Dungog, Red stops at the general store. The Daley family is at the store again, and as Shawn waits for his parents, he notices the medicine bag. Red sees Shawn’s interest and gives the bag to the child, claiming it will keep evil spirits at bay. The Daleys, guided by a local map, drive their van into the mountains toward what they believe is a special camping spot. When they stop by a river for lunch, Ross jumps into the water but Shawn refuses to join him, fearing the water is too cold. Later, the family drives further into the hills and they stop at a cliff’s edge for dinner. Shawn gathers firewood as Bettina cooks inside the van. Realizing that he has parked too close to the edge, Ross tries to move the van to safety but the vehicle rolls over the cliff and crashes onto the rocks below. From a nearby peak, Foley sees Shawn scramble down the cliff to rescue his parents, but they are dead. Shawn finds the medicine bag, tucks it into his shirt and huddles by the van, but he becomes scared by the wildlife surrounding him and hides among nearby rocks. The next morning, Shawn sees Foley by the river and follows him. When Foley stops for a nap, Shawn tries to steal food but Foley hits the boy with a stick and Shawn runs into the river, yelling for his parents. Foley leaves, mumbling aloud that he cannot take the boy with him and there is not enough time to take him back to Dungog. However, Shawn draws closer when Foley roasts meat over a fire. Foley asks for the boy’s name, but Shawn is too traumatized to speak. Foley is angry to be saddled with a child who is alone and helpless. Although Foley orders Shawn to follow the river back downhill, promising that someone should find him within a few days, Shawn shadows the man and sleeps near him that night. The next morning, Shawn is finally able to reveal his name. When Foley learns that Red gave Shawn the medicine bag, he begrudgingly allows the boy to join him. As they hike in the mountains for several days, Foley is stern and teaches the boy survival techniques, including hunting, trapping animals and fishing. One morning, Shawn pulls a rabbit out of their trap and returns to the campsite, but Foley is not there. Shawn follows Foley’s footsteps and finds him climbing a rocky cliff. Shawn is frightened, but Foley will not help him, even when a pack of wild dogs, following the rabbit’s scent, run toward the child. The dogs nip at Shawn’s heels as he climbs out of their reach. Halfway up the cliff, Shawn freezes in fear. Foley orders him to try harder and promises to help Shawn cook the rabbit when he reaches the top, motivating the hungry child to finish the climb. The men continue to hike and hunt until reaching their destination. As they admire the spectacular vista, Foley says he designated the site on a local map forty years ago and Shawn realizes that this is the location his parents were trying to reach. Foley’s family home is falling apart, but he does not care. He reminisces about a wonderful childhood under his father’s tutelage, but admits that when he grew into a young man, he became angry and dissatisfied, so he left to make his own way in the world. Later, Foley came to value life in his homeland and has returned to be buried next to his parents. Foley watches proudly as Shawn catches and cooks a fish, and they form a greater bond while walking the farm and soaking in hot springs. Foley prepares a pack for the boy’s trip back to Dungog and directs him on the route to take but Shawn does not want to leave without him. Foley tells the boy not to be afraid and the two admit their love for each other and then embrace. After Foley dies, Shawn buries his friend and leaves the medicine bag on the grave to keep evil spirits away. Remembering Foley’s words of advice, Shawn shoulders his pack and heads back into the mountains toward Dungog. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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