Last Man on Earth (1964)

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Cover of "The Last Man on Earth"
Cover of The Last Man on Earth

Tagline: Alive among the lifeless… alone among the crawling creatures of evil that make the night hideous with their inhuman craving!

Director: Ubaldo Ragona & Sidney Salkow

Actors:  Vincent Price (Dr. Robert Morgan),  Franca Bettoia (Ruth Collins), Emma Danieli (Virginia Morgan), Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (Ben Cortman), Christi Courtland (Kathy Morgan)

It’s based on the fine novel, I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson.  There are two other film versions: The Omega Man (1971) with Charlton Heston and I Am Legend (2007) with Will Smith.

The book by Matheson is amazing and worth reading because the 2007 and the 1964 versions don’t come close to it in intensity and bleakness.  I haven’t seen the Heston version.

Story:  After a plague destroys the earth’s population, a lone survivor dedicates himself to eradicating the undead plague victims.

The victims have vampiric symptoms but they act a lot more like zombies.  I’m going to call them monsters.

Comments: The movie is atmospheric and Price does his best but the pacing is leaden to say the least.  Ruth eventually shows up and Morgan has to solve her mystery.  Is she the ‘last woman’ or is she infected too?  She wasn’t especially interesting or believable, though.

The movie focuses on Morgan ‘quiet life of desperation’ rather than any kind of last stand against the monsters.  He seems so clumsy and inefficient in his daily routine that it’s surprising he’s lasted for three years. It also puzzled me that he said he’d killed 14 monsters in three years.  That seems like a low body count, especially since they’re unconscious and don’t appear that hard to find.  He finds them lying on the streets and outside his door in the morning.

Personally, I felt uncomfortable and not moved by Morgan’s emotional breakdown in the movie.  I think it’s because I think he could have done so much better in fending off the monsters.

I kept wondering why he stayed in such an indefensible place, a small house that all the monsters knew about.  Why didn’t he have his watering system full of garlic juice and spray the suckers as they approached? Why didn’t he have bright lights shining at night? Why didn’t he have bigger mirrors or reflective metal all over his house?  Why couldn’t he soundproof his house?  Why didn’t he drive a van or some bigger vehicle?  Why didn’t he have more guns?  Why didn’t he have bolt holes all over the city?

All in all, it was OK but not a must see.

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