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I'm not sure why this film is as underrated as it is. This is an amazing, depressing and in many ways brilliant film based on the Richard Matheson classic novel "I Am Legend". Vincent Price effectively conveys the terror and despair of being the last living man on an Earth that is now overrun with vampires and/or zombies. The depiction of Price's day to day bleak existence is a moving and powerful thing to behold and the continual menace of the hordes of zombies is creepy in the same way as was later depicted in "Night of the Living Dead". In fact, as noted by others here, one can not watch the scenes where the zombies lay siege to Price's boarded up house and attack his car without recognizing how close these scenes would later be copied by George Romero in his classic zombie films. If you are a fan of horror film history or just looking for a classic and unique film with an interesting story, track down this lost gem.
This one seems to be less well known than others in Vincent Price's
filmography -- possibly because the title makes it sound more like a
In this first filmed version of Richard Matheson's superb short novel "I Am Legend", though, Price really shines in one of the best performances of his career. Far superior to its 1971 remake "The Omega Man" -- as if we needed yet another "Charlton Heston vs. the subhuman hordes" outing after "Khartoum" and "55 Days In Peking" -- the script follows Matheson's book almost scene-for-scene, but then, I think the author always wrote with one eye on the movie or TV rights.
Morgan (Vincent Price) is the only survivor of a worldwide plague that kills its victims, only to resurrect them as zombie vampires. (His own immunity was conferred by the bite of a vampire bat infected with a weaker version of the virus, when he was doing research in South America.) By day, he systematically searches out the plague victims and destroys them in the traditional Van Helsing manner, retreating to his fortified house when darkness falls and the vampires come out to play. Worst of all, his best friend Ben -- now a vampire -- is part of the crowd that nightly besieges his house, thirsting for his blood.
Unlike "The Omega Man", very little of this film is devoted to Morgan's one-man war against the vampires, who as others have noted have a kind of "Night Of The Living Dead" ambiance, minus the gore. Instead it focuses on his utter isolation, both physical and spiritual, his mission as an exterminating angel the only purpose now left to his life.
A large part of the movie is taken up by a flashback to three years previous, to the beginning of the plague, as his friend Ben arrives at a birthday party for Morgan's daughter bearing an armful of presents. Against the background of the children's shouts and laughter the adults worriedly discuss the appearance of a new virus. The world then proceeds to fall apart in a quietly terrifying re-enactment of the Black Death, complete with National Guard "bring out your dead" units and a 24/7 immolation pit for the anonymous, canvas-wrapped corpses. Morgan's wife and daughter succumb to the virus in a sequence that is quite stunning in its low-key, almost clinical lack of the standard histrionics.
The black-and-white cinematography is as stark and minimalistic as the story (and, admittedly, the budget). The exterior scenes set in a deserted Los Angeles -- well, actually Rome, shot in the early morning -- are often quite effective in mirroring his internal desolation. Cast and crew alike do an excellent job with the material, despite the monetary constraints. Unlike so many in our current "bash you over the head" school of film-making, the real horror of the situation is allowed to speak eloquently for itself.
If you're expecting the high camp of one of Price's Roger Corman flicks, you'll probably be bored stiff by this movie. If instead you're looking for a surprisingly good adaptation of a great story, you can't do much better than "Last Man On Earth".
The Last Man on Earth is a great film to watch alone. Horror veteran Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, a desperate and lonely man who's left alone in an apocalyptic world; A world ruled by zombie-like vampires as a result of a widespread plague. These vampire zombies are highly reminiscent of George Romero's walking dead in Night of the Living Dead. Price does a remarkable job interacting with practically nothing. He's alone throughout the majority of the film. His performance largely carries this low budgeter. When you watch the movie alone, you really feel where his character is coming from and a sense of hopelessness is established. The Last Man on Earth is really a thought-provoking, creepy classic. I recommend it be watched with Charlton Heston's The Omega Man to see another take on the same story (both were based on Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend").
I never read Richard Matheson's novel 'I am Legend' but I'm
particularly intrigued by (science fiction) movies with an apocalyptic
theme. And this adaptation simply is one of the most fascinating
stories of an already brilliant decade for this type of films. Much
more than a grim horror film, this is a gripping drama with an
excellent (as always) Vincent Price as the sole and devastated survivor
of a deadly plague that exterminated the entire human race, including
his own wife and daughter. Price is Dr. Robert Morgan and due to his
immunity to the lethal germs, he's the only one to fight victims who
return in the shape of vampire/zombie-like creatures. Even though it
has already been 3 years, Morgan desperately continues his search for
This is one of the most impressive performances Price
ever gave away, and a lot more difficult than his usual roles of
villains and madmen. Judging by today's standards, I guess the film
looks very dated and you can't really refer to the tame 'vamp-zombies'
as threatening anymore. But the empty streets and depressing cities,
shot in unsettling black and white, still are the ultimate in eeriness!
I love it when a film makes you feel miserable and worried
lower the budget is, the more efficient this effect is reached!
Like several of my fellow-reviewers already pointed out, this also was an immensely influential film. You can't watch 'Last man on Earth' without being reminded of George A. Romero's milestone genre film 'Night of the Living Dead'. If you then realize this movie was made 4 years before Romero's classic, you can't but reckon the underrated brilliance of this film. The same hopelessness-aspect that made Romero's film so tense features HERE first, in 'Last Man on Earth'! This production offers an ideal proportion of frights and sentiments, luckily without too many tedious scientific speeches or faked drama. 'Last Man on Earth' has to be seen by every SF/horror fan on this planet. For some reason this is one of the most underrated genre efforts ever, and that urgently has to change.
Richard Matheson's seminal sci-fi horror novel, "I Am Legend", published in 1954, is first and foremost, a character study, and any film producer must come to terms with that, if there is to be a successful adaptation from print to screen. The novel was adapted to screen in 1964 as "The Last Man On Earth"; producer Sidney Salkow, hampered by a tiny budget, intuitively did the best he could and came close to pulling it off! What Salkow did was convey the novel's mood, tone, atmosphere and plot in primitive fashion, crudely capturing the gist of the novel - that of one man, Robert Neville's confrontation with a horrendous existential dilemma - to be, himself, that is; or not to be, a plague- induced vampiric shell. While "TLMOE" was not entirely successful in translation, especially in the ending - co-scripter Matheson ultimately distanced himself from the final product - it nevertheless, clearly outshines a later, technically superior 1971 remake, "The Omega Man" in the aforementioned aspects. "The Omega Man", taken on it's own, is an interesting, entertaining film; but when referenced against the novel, falls flat on it's face. (Matheson himself stated that that film and his novel are two completely different animals.) In contrast, "TLMOE" fares much better when referenced: it shows that Morgan's (Neville's) battle is more with reactions within himself than with the vampires as a physical threat per se, as it becomes obvious that the vampires are slow-moving, dull-minded individually, and disorganized as a group, each instinctively and savagely interested only in HIS blood. Besides the perpetually nightmarish nuisance of the vampires, who have a collectively demoralizing effect on him, Morgan (Neville) must fight against the horror generated by the desolation and doom of a post-apocalyptic world, against the loneliness of being the last human on earth and against the agony of tragically losing his wife and daughter to the plague. In the final analysis, "The Last Man On Earth" could be likened to a series of crude, but brilliant brush-strokes of feeling-tones. As such it fully deserves cult-classic status.
Made four years before Night of the Living Dead, The Last Man on Earth
tells a very similar story. Based on Richard Matheson's novel "I Am
Legend", the film tells the tale of a terrible plague that has wiped
out all of mankind and replaced them with vampire-zombie like
creatures. Well, it's almost wiped mankind out - one man, Vincent
Price, still remains. Now that he has inherited the Earth, the last
surviving human has to hunt these creatures by day and then hole up in
his house during the night. Vincent Price says most of dialogue in
voice over, which gives this apocalyptic horror film a great element of
pessimism, which is essential in order for the film to work. The way
that Price reads his lines is done in such a way that it seems he has
simply given up all hope, and this helps the tragic element of the
movie, which is this film's main backbone. The dreary black and white
cinematography helps this element of the film also, as it adds the
degree of hopelessness and pessimism, which this story thrives on.
Quite how this film has reached the ripe old age of forty and still not garnered the praise and respect it deserves is beyond me. While Night of the Living Dead deserves the praise for 'really' creating the zombie movie that we all now know and love, this film got the theme first, and thus deserves it's place in the annals of film history. The story, even without the horror of the zombie creatures, still makes for fascinating food for thought. The idea of being left all alone on the Earth is simultaneously fascinating and horrifying, and by showing us the things that the protagonist has do every day to ward off the vampires (mirrors and garlic on the doors, hunting them by day), along with such quotes as "another day to live through" show the true horror of the idea behind the film. Of course, Vincent Price is one of the greatest actors of all time and his presence in the movie is easily one of the highlights. Price's great screen presence helps to offset the obvious low budget of the film and even during the slower moments, The Last Man on Earth still ensures that we are interested in what's going on, just by the fact that Price is there. On the whole, this is an extraordinarily brilliant film and one that deserves your viewing!
When a plague devastated life on Earth, the population died or became a
sort of zombie living in the dark. Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is
the unique healthy survivor on the planet, having a routine life for
his own survival: he kills the night creatures along the day and
maintains the safety of his house, to be protected along the night. He
misses his beloved wife and daughter, consumed by the outbreak, and he
fights against his loneliness to maintain mentally sane. When Dr.
Morgan finds the contaminated Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia), he uses
his blood to heal her and he becomes the last hope on Earth to help the
other contaminated survivors. But the order of this new society is
"The Last Man on Earth" is a frightening and dark view of the fate of mankind. In those years, the preoccupation with radiation and biological weapons due to the cold war leaded people to this type of fear and preoccupation; later with AIDS; and presently with the disease in chickens. Fortunately science has developed means to cure or at least avoid epidemic situation, but I do not know how far we might be from such sad end of mankind. Vincent Price has a great performance in this movie, and I particularly liked the beginning of insanity of his character showed when he sees a shooting of his family. The screenplay is very well developed, but I did not like the violent conclusion. I always thought that George A. Romero was the creator of the "zombies", because of his excellent 1968 "Night of Living Dead". But now I can see that the origin of these creatures was in "The Last Man on Earth".
When I was a teenager, the remake "The Omega Man" was a very successful film in the movie theaters. I had not had the chance to see the original movie, since "The Last Man on Earth" (and "The Omega Man") had not been released on VHS or DVD in Brazil. Fortunately a minor Brazilian distributor has just released "The Last Man on Earth" on DVD, giving me the chance to see this great unknown movie. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Mortos Que Matam" (Dead That Kill")
Obs: On 25 May 2008, I watched this great classic movie again.
I like this film, and definitely associate it with my childhood, via
the inside cover of an old issue of Famous Monsters that pictured a
vampire arm groping around the door for Vincent Price. I gazed at that
photo as the magazine wore out, for years before I actually got to see
Vincent Price is always good to see. But as he is not a terribly physical actor, he looks awkward doing some of the things he is called on to do here, like dragging a body to the edge of a pit and heaving it in, pounding a stake into a vampire heart, or hurling a mirror across the room in disgust and despair. Not standing about with cocktail in hand, dressed to the nines and oozing wicked sophistication, he looks about as out of place as Cary Grant would setting a trash can out at the curb.
I ask, in the title of this review, if we like this film "for all the wrong reasons" because, inescapably, I find it pitched at a sort of self-pity, tapping into the allure of images of yourself alone at the center of the human universe, of satisfied contemplation of the stupid folly of Man the Scientist, the Politician, the Warrior, that will bring the end of his own species. --In a word, it seems to inhabit a place that is the near-exclusive province of the truly isolated, disaffected and fantasy-prone adolescent.
Being aware of this demographic skew doesn't invalidate the real and strong emotional place the film creates and enables anybody else to inhabit. But I do wonder about the effusive, near-idolatrous over-analysis this film has been known to elicit. I think it would be a pity if, through the growing cult of this film, we come to be less moved by horror --the whole precept on which Matheson's novel and the film are based-- than seduced by the film's image of post-apocalyptic solitude, which can lapse into full-blown gloating misanthropy with just a slight nudge.
I find Last Man oppressively tragic and sobering and depressing-- and always, always utterly absorbing. Even tenth time watched, it feels like you are watching your own funeral, listening to nothing less than taps being sounded for your own species. This is, not to be too glib, the films greatest strength AND weakness.
"The Last Man on Earth" is an early example of how fantastic, even on a minimal budget, a movie set in a post-apocalyptic world can be. This movie starts with Morgan (Vincent Price) waking up to another day of being the lone survivor of a vicious worldwide plague...disposing of bodies, stocking up on mirrors and garlic, crying over his lost loved ones, and battling the undead. There are lots of silly parts in this movie...but there are also lots of really cool innovative aspects. And talking zombie-vampires?! "The Last Man on Earth" is a nifty precursor to the Romero trilogy. The movie tends to drag after the first 15 minutes or so, but it really picks up from the middle on. Definitely recommended to anyone who enjoys apocalypse movies and zombie movies. My Rating: 8/10.
Why haven't I heard about this film. Matheson's "I am legend" comes to
life in this truly scary film. I have never wanted such small bits of
happiness to occur in my life. I found myself cheering for a wormy
poodle for damn's sake, that is how much this movie has gotten to me.
Price once again shows he belongs with the masters. Everybody is
comparing this to NOTLD and Omega man. This movie is in a separate
league, even if based of the same story. The latter 2 go for the 30
second attention span of todays movie watchers, while Last Man gets you
really thinking about how to go on if you were the last man, looking
for simple joys such as watching home movies, and finding frustration
to the point where you can't help but laugh to keep from crying.
Not that this movie is not without faults. Apparently once you become infected you lose all body mass and a person can tuck a full grown man under his arm and throw him into a station wagon. Also the infected citizens could have been a little more convincing. I realize this is a spaghetti horror film but come on, it is easy to see how Price can sleep at nights. Finally as with most movies like this they apparently were running out of film so somebody hollered " wrap it up" and plop - there is the ending - ruining an expertly filmed first 2/3 of this movie.
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