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People knock this film. Yes it has many flaws but some slack should be
cut. It was 1971, Hollywood was in a desperate time of recession and
change. 'Easy Rider' had blown a hole in the side of the school of
thought that the studios had subscribed to. Suddenly, story material
that would never have been tackled by the major studios prior to this
time was emerging.
'The Omega Man' was of course an adaptation of Matheson's novel and is a second film version of it. But the technical challenges were vast. Find a time of day when L.A.'s deserted? Do me a favor! It's a miracle they got anything decent on film. Yes there are distant cars in the back of that zoom out at the top of the film but these guys didn't have computers did they?
Anyway, Heston looks amusingly dated in the role of Neville wearing his safari jacket and skintight tracksuit while he prowls the 'deserted' streets. The thing about Chuck is he just LOOKS like a film star. Just driving a car he grabs your attention. The supporting cast here are less engaging. An afro and 'Hey man' too many perhaps. The writers seemed desperate to tap into 70s pop culture. A sure-fire way to date your film.
The camera crew on this film must have gone straight onto 'Quincy' after they'd finished this. It's bizarre. There are dolly moves for no reason whatsoever (when Heston first enters his apartment and later before he discovers the sardine tin), zooms that hit the end stop so hard they almost bounce back and roving pans where you actually feel for the operator while he tries to find where the hell Chuck's car's gone. But this is one of the things that makes 70s cinema so great. The raw elements of film-making are on display.
Ron Grainer's score is genius in places and god awful in others. It goes from the brilliant main title theme to the woeful chase music when Heston pursues the leading lady. There's also the typically almost pink-tinted blood. Why couldn't they get blood right back then?
'The Omega Man' is an engaging, thought-provoking but very dated piece of cinema. The last image of Heston is immortal even if the film's hair-dos are not. Watch it, enjoy it and cut it some slack.
A film that can't help but aim too high, "The Omega Man" suffers from
the very thing that makes it great. Set in a post-apocalyptic future
(for the audience of 1971) the film attempts to show a world populated
by a single solitary man. Well, a man and a cult of malcontented
zombie/mutant/vampire beings. Robert Neville (Heston) is the lone
survivor of a germ war that turned the population of the world into
freaks. Based on the amazingly brilliant book "I Am Legend" by Richard
Matheson, the film shares most of the qualities of the book, yet
excludes the portions that make "Legend" fantastic.
The idea of being the last man is intriguing. I used to fantasize about being Neville as a child (probably not the healthiest thing for a kid). Neville has paradise, but with the highest price possible. He can have anything he wants, but no one to share it with. And come night time, he must hide in his fortress away from the angry mob of mutants.
The apocalyptic world that makes the first half so captivating is destroyed by the second half's plot device. I won't go into details for those who haven't seen it. However, I will say the film starts to slide downhill from the mid-way point. But the lesser parts can be enjoyed as early 70's camp.
Even with its faults, "The Omega Man" is a great Sci-fi movie. It also gives Heston a chance to play his quintessential role of a man at the end of civilization. The film's weaknesses don't ruin the experience entirely. It is a film that myself and my friends talk about to this day despite the fact that most of my friends only saw it once or twice (when forced by me).
Related note: I Am Legend was also made into the film "The Last Man on Earth" starring Vincent Price. "Omega Man" is discussed in the first scene of indie-film classic "Slacker."
This action packed and thought-provoking sci-fi drama has been one of
my personal favorites for over 30 years. Charlton Heston found his
definitive role here, as the last man on earth, a scientist fighting a
single handed battle against hundreds of mutant creatures of the night.
On the basic level, this movie has some of the most explosive action I have ever seen. Heston is at his best as a bloodless technocrat, a stone killer, "exterminating" mutants with machine guns, pistols, grenades, and his bare hands, all the time giving off an icy air of detachment. Put Chuck up against Clint Eastwood or Charles Bronson and he definitely holds his own purely as a Seventies action hero.
On the other hand, this is also Chuck's best performance as an actor. The fact that he literally has the screen to himself for the first half hour allows him to do things he never did in his "epic star" mode. Watch him buy that used car, making small talk with a rotted corpse. Chuck puts across so much loneliness and yet entirely avoids self- pity, as in "thanks a lot, you cheating bastard." It's a scream to watch the bigger than life Moses dealing with life's everyday hassles, not in reality but in wistful fantasy.
Then watch the WOODSTOCK scene in the movie theater. Here's right wing idealist Charlton Heston watching left-wing hippies dance and frolic. Here's the last man on earth watching huge mobs of people crowd up the world that is now empty. The ironies are razor sharp, and Heston just lies back and lets the dialog work for him. "Just to see, just to really realize, that if you have to be afraid to smile at someone, if you have to be afraid to walk down the street, what kind of world is that? Right?" Note well the master's restraint. He doesn't sneer, he puts much more sadness into the lip-reading bit, with a little self-loathing on the side. The dialog and situation are tailor-made for Heston's cold decisive vocal style. It's not hammy stuff, it's Heston giving you the same kind of chill Deniro achieved in TAXI DRIVER. It's the paranoid loner as tragic hero. This cold withdrawn stuff is right down his power alley, and Chuck sends this scene into the upper decks.
Once the movie gets started, Heston gets superb assistance from Anthony Zerbe as the religious fanatic Brother Matthias. Zerbe is superb and the commentary on religious fanaticism is even more relevant today than it was thirty years ago. Then there's the sizzling racial subplot, the kill-whitey fanaticism of Brother Zachary striking far too close to home in 1973 but remaining as provocative as ever today. It's disturbing indeed to note the subliminal message of the inter-racial love affair -- the nice white man is happy to take care of the black woman and her children, but only after the assertive black man is dead. A movie that provokes, entertains, and combines scorching social issues with rip-roaring adventure, THE OMEGA MAN is Heston's best.
"Nope -- they sure don't make pictures like that any more."
One of these days soon we will see another remake of Richard Matheson's
seminal Horror novella. If we do, I hope the marquee will read: "I Am
Legend." This should be done for no other reason than to make it easier for
Sci-Fi nerds to argue and champion their personal favorite. But I have this
feeling the producers will take the easy way out.
Boris Sagal, the veteran television director, who died under the most grisly of circumstances--he walked into a helicopter blade--helms a brilliant adaptation of the book. Sure, they changed the vampires into psychotic albinos. And they also injected a heavy dose of the Seventies counter-culture. But the essential themes resist the tampering by the new screenwriters and remain solid story chestnuts. No one handles a weapon with such verve as Mr. Heston. He fires at random and generally hits something. Always a good approach in this type of movie. I enjoy his conversations with Caesar's bust in his "Honky paradise". The sculptures and paintings on the walls are actual reproductions of the immortals they represent. Also, check out the art work on the back of "Dutch's" jacket. It packs a wallop. Ron Grainer's score is legendary and has a elegiac feel punctuated by strange sounds from obscure instruments. The action scenes rival the best. Catch Heston's despair and loneliness when he jogs by a large office building along side a reflecting pool. Every scene is chock full of memorable lines and quirky bits of business. The bodies of the dead pop up randomly with a wild note on the soundtrack. There is a brief nude scene that for once fits into the plot. A standing ovation is in order for anyone left alive.
Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet, so the "Omega" Man is a
round-a-bout way of saying The "Last" Man. Indeed, this violent science
fiction actioner is a remake of a 1964 movie called The Last Man On
Earth; in this version Charlton Heston assumes the role played by
Vincent Price in the earlier film. It is a depressing - and in many
ways thought-provoking - story set in a future where the human
population has been wiped out.
Robert Neville (Heston) is the only remaining survivor of a worldwide plague, other than a race of vampiric mutants who come out at night. When the plague was first reaching epidemic proportions, numerous scientists were given serums to try - Neville was the one who got the correct serum, but he never managed to get back to HQ in time to report the good news. Most of the world's people went on to be killed by the plague, but those who survived have evolved into light-sensitive mutants. Every day, Neville drives around the empty streets of LA scavenging for food, fuel and useful objects; every night he returns to his ultra high-security house from which he fends off the creepy minions who come out to taunt him and, perhaps, one day kill him. The mutants are led by Matthias (Anthony Zerbe), formerly a TV newsreader, now an anti-technology crusader who encourages his followers to destroy the scientific and technological items they find, as he blames meddling scientists for ultimately decimating the world's population.
What's so chilling about The Omega Man is that Neville is gradually shown to be the real "mutant". He is the only man left from the world as it WAS; Zerbe and his mutant hordes are the evolutionary creatures of the world as it IS. Distressing as it is, The Omega Man is saying that in the event of a worldwide catastrophe human life would find a way to prevail, but the remnants of previous human life might need eradicating first. From the sensational opening - in which Heston screeches his car to a halt on an empty street and starts shooting at an unseen being in a skyscraper - to the climax (which is simultaneously happy AND sad), The Omega Man constantly raises questions and manipulates our fears. It has weaknesses - sometimes the metaphors and morals are too heavy-handed; parts of the film are slow-going, with an excess of talk which merely goes over plot details already mentioned; there are dated elements (music, decor, costumes, vehicles, slang speech) which deny the film its topicality over 30 years on. But, in spite of all that, The Omega Man remains a worthwhile sci-fi actioner and another cult flick in the Charlton Heston "shock sci-fi" canon (see also Planet of the Apes '68 and Soylent Green '73).
This is personally my favorite film. However, I can understand why this
one-time sci-fi/horror flick views more like a comedy today. The film has
dated more than other films from '71/72, and with the special effects bar
haven risen astronomically since that time there is little hope for the
to grow even older gracefully. And a shirtless, oily, middle-aged, often
over-acting Charlton Heston doesn't exactly shout hero or Academy Award.
But THE OMEGA MAN has its moments, in particular its unexpected, and
unexpectedly touching, finale. Add to that worthwhile ending a legendary
Ron Grainer (Dr. Who, The Prisoner) soundtrack and some very quotable
dialogue ("Thanks alot, you cheating bastard") and THE OMEGA MAN rounds
itself out into a very memorable movie.
Unfortunately, Warner Bros. has continually delayed the release of OMEGA MAN on DVD - 4 years now counting. Maybe during the wait someone there will realize the potential this movie has a video game. Our heroic player must track The Family down by day and fend them off by night in a bunkered-up penthouse. Like the DVD, it's wishful thinking.
This movie rocks, right from the opening scene where our hero leaps from his car and sprays mutants with a machine gun, to the final frame where... but enough of that. A great flick, one in a line of Charlton Heston post-apocalyptic movies. If you like this you'll love Soylent Green and, of course, the first two Apes films. Heston's like John Wayne in space. Nobody does it better. In this one disease-ravaged mutants stand in for the hippies- that fixes up society's problem with the riff raff, and Charlton has an inter-racial relationship. So there are mixed messages. Charlton Heston chews the scenery in every frame. Oh well, damn you all to hell.
In 1977, the American scientist and colonel Dr. Robert Neville
(Charlton Heston) is the last man on Earth. All the human race died or
became mutants due to the use of biological weapons in a war. During
the war, Dr. Neville was researching an experimental vaccine, and in a
flight to a hospital to use his latest experiment, the pilot of his
helicopter died and the helicopter crashed. Dr. Neville used the
vaccine on himself and it worked, making him the last survivor of human
race. The race of mutants self-calls 'The Family' and is leaded by the
fanatic Matthias (Anthony Zerbe) in the middle-ages standards, without
the use of any facility of the Twentieth Century. Dr. Neville finds
some other survivors and intends to use the anti-corpus of his blood to
prepare vaccines for them. The apocalyptic story has a tragic open end.
Yesterday I saw this movie maybe for the tenth time. In my opinion, it is one of the best Apocalyptic Sci-Fi movies of the 70's (together with 'Soylent Green'), when the world had the cold war to threaten and the population had a great fear of a biological weapons. In Brazil, 'The Omega Man' has not been released on VHS or DVD, and I have a VHS, recorded from the open Brazilian TV in the 80's, dubbed in Portuguese, with a terrible image, but what else can I do to see this movie if the distributors and the cable TV do not show interest to release it in my country? For persons of other native languages like me, I would like to explain the original title of the movie. In accordance with 'The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary', omega is not only the 24th and final letter in the Greek alphabet, but also means the ending, the last of anything. I hope that Tom Cruise does not spoil this magnificent story, since I heard he had the intention of preparing (or spoiling) a remake. Remake of good movies should be forbidden! My vote is nine.
Today (06 September 2006) I have watched "The Omega Man" again, now in the original language.
Title (Brazil): 'A Última Esperança da Terra' ('The Last Hope of the Earth')
In typical rock-em, sock-em Heston style, he
battles the bad guys in a not to shabby, but now
somewhat dated sci-fi adventure. Still, an
excellent movie with a terrific premise, and
great plot, as mankind is nearly destroyed by
nuclear/biological warfare, and Heston struggles
to survive as the last sane man in a diseased
and dying world.
Flashbacks of events leading to this disaster really make this movie come alive. A little melodrama, however is apparent in the scenes of "the family", and the movie does show its age with the language and color of the 70's culture.
I'm not sure how some people may take the ending of this movie. I don't remember any big fuss about it in 1971, so I guess it won't be an issue now. A good movie, with a sad, yet hope-filled happy ending, this film is yet another feather-in-the-cap for Charlton Heston when he was in his sci-fi movie making period (Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green) in his great career, and this particular "social statement" movie of the 70's remains relevant to this day.
This is one of my favourite sci-fi movies with Charlton Heston making credible the whole story for me. Anthony Zerbe is tremendous as the family leader as is the now deceased Lincoln Kilpatrick as Zerbes sidekick. Heston as seemingly the last man on earth brings feeling to the film in some cleverly scripted conversations with himself! In fact the script is punctuated by some great one liners! Quick-paced & tense with good supporting performances from Paul Koslo as "Dutch" & Rosalind Cash as "Lisa" Dated now it is, but still stands the test of time as a truly great 70's sci-fi & if you haven't seen it, then you are in for a treat. Great music too from Ron Grainer! Do not miss this one! A full 10 out of 10!
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