Director(s): Ubaldo Ragona
& Sidney Salkow
Italy - 1964
A few years ago I read about a tentative film
project based on the popular novel, I
Am Legend. It was going to star Ah-Nuld, and feature a budget
that could feed a third world country. I was intrigued; not by the budget
or star power (tee hee!), but by the story. I had never heard of I
Am Legend. So obviously, how was I to know that it had been adapted
twice before? And imagine my surprise upon the realization that I had
already seen one of them.
The film I knew was The
Omega Man, starring the
ever-loveable Charlton Heston. Before Chuck, thereís The
Last Man on Earth, starring the legendary Vincent Price. I was never
impressed with Omega Man (am I
supposed to be scared of albinos?), but nevertheless, the urge to see LMOE
proved irresistible. So I made a beeline to the Video Vault (have I
mentioned it may be the greatest video store ever?) and picked it up.
year is 1968.
a horrible virus turns the population of Earth into zombified vampires, a
scientist by the name of Robert Morgan (Price) finds himself stuck with
the titular moniker. Everyone he has known and loved is either gone or
become a bloodsucking creature of the night; hell-bent on destroying him.
Morganís existence is merely an everyday
struggle to stay alive. In short, it sucks to be him.
the day, Morgan prowls the city. He collects the necessities of life, all
the while hunting the creaturesí nest; exterminating any stragglers he
happens to come across along the way. At night Morgan holes up at his
house, which has been fortified with the tools necessary to fend off the
hellspawn that craves his blood - crosses, garlic, mirrors, naked pictures
of Rush Limbaugh weightlifting, etc.
day, while burying his dog, Morgan happens across another survivor. Though
she is scared at first, Morgan is able to convince the young woman back to
his swinging bachelor pad (you go, Vince!). Once home, he makes some
startling discoveries. As it turns out, his new friend is, in fact,
infected with the deadly virus. Yet she remains within the boundaries of
sanity through the use of a special serum. But the biggest
shocker was yet to come - there are several other survivors just like her!
Inspired by this revelation, Morganís keen analytical mind goes to work.
He hypothesizes that perhaps with a simple blood transfusion (using his
own mysteriously immune blood) he can cure these tortured souls of their
horrible affliction, and perhaps rebuild Earth as they once knew it! Lo
and behold, the procedure works! Ruth is cured!
happy times soon come to a screeching halt when Ruth drops yet another
bombshell. It appears that her fellow survivors will be stopping by the
house as well. Unfortunately, it wonít be to slug down some 40 ouncers
and watch celebrity Jeopardy! (they really dummy-up the questions for
those morons, donít they?). Morganís vampire hunter lifestyle is about
to catch up to him. After years of staking the Undead, Robert has
inadvertently killed off some of their own. They now intend to return the
when I first saw LMOE, I really
enjoyed it. To an extent I still do. Unfortunately, the film just
doesnít seem to hold up (for me, anyway). I fondly remember the piece
being atmospheric and creepy, but I donít recall it being so slow. Now,
Iím not the kind of guy that needs something blown up every ten minutes
- but throw me a bone here, buddy. A bunch of sluggish zombies beating on
Morganís door may be interesting for the first couple minutes, but
sadly, it wears thin rather quickly.
brings forth an inevitable comparison with Night
of the Living Dead. Like LMOE,
NOTLD has plenty of shambling
zombies; the difference being, the monster mayhem is backed up by
interesting subplots involving the humans - racial tension, domestic
squabbles, etc. Besides Morgan himself, Last
Man gives you little to care about. Zombies attack! Vince makes a
little dinner. Zombies attack! Vince sharpens some stakes. Zombies attack!
Vince ponders if itís time to change the garlic. Not exactly gripping
cinema, you know.
succeed is through mood. Ragona and Salkow do a great job establishing a
heavy sense of foreboding throughout the length of the picture. As Morgan
plods through the excruciating monotony of his doomed existence, there is
an undeniable sense of dread that things are eventually going to get even
worse. Credit is to be given to the eerie black and white photography
(which, granted, may have been inadvertent), the barren landscapes, and
Priceís melancholy performance.
brings about yet another gripe.
I may raise the bar a bit too high, I must admit to being a tad
underwhelmed by Vincentís portrayal of Robert Morgan. Having
complimented him just a moment ago, I realize this makes me sound like a
moron. But we are talking about Vincent Price, and I expect a little more from
him. In comparison
with some of his other films (like, for instance, The
House on Haunted Hill
Ė horrible movie, great performance), Price
appears to be merely going through the motions as Robert Morgan. Perhaps
heís just waiting for his paycheck to go through. But all in all, even
in his poorest showing, Vincent Price is always a pleasure to watch.
makes one appreciate good actors even more is the slew of lame supporting
actors he (or she) is sometimes surrounded by. Besides Price, anyone with
a substantial role in LMOE
basically sucks eggs. Franca Bettoia, who plays Ruth Collins, is just OK.
Same goes for Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, who plays Ben Cortman (Morganís best
friend). But Iím willing to bet that whoever cast Morganís wife and
daughter must have owed them (or someone close to them) a tremendous
favor. Or perhaps there were photos featuring farm animals and/or James
Doohan in a diaper* involved. But enough about that.
is The Last Man on Earth a
horrible movie? Good golly, no. My bitterness probably stems from having
enjoyed the film tremendously the first time around, and then let down the
second. But it is worth a look; especially for fans of Mathesonís novel.
pit downtown where Morgan takes corpses to be burned. Am I supposed to
believe thereís a perpetual
fire down there?
After discovering an infected dog, Morgan is forced to stake and bury
it. When you see Price about to drop the burlap sack into a shallow
grave, one canít help but notice the stake stuck through
the bag and (presumably) through the dog. So, he must have put the dog in
the bag, and then stuck it?
After being ďstruck blindĒ by
the plague, Morganís daughter looks directly at her mother while
blubbering that she canít see. As we all know, the first rule to
playing blind is to stare off into space and wave your arms like an
Cortman: Even after being turned into a zombie, his hair still looks great!
After being mortally wounded by the vampire half-breeds, Morgan lies
dying in Ruthís arms, all the while repeating: ďThey were afraid of meÖĒ A great ending to an OK movie.
-- Copyright ©
2001 by J. Bannerman
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