The Last Man on Earth
I hadn’t been aware that Richard Matheson’s excellent 1954 novel I Am Legend had been made not just twice, but three times, until I saw this listing for the MGM Channel’s “Price of Fear” festival on Halloween night. I had seen Charlton Heston in The Omega Man (awful, just awful) when it was new, and saw the Will Smith re-make (but for some reason, it looks like I didn’t review it), the first to use the original title. (I recall being unimpressed.) As in all three films, they screwed with the original concept and lost the original ironic intent of the book. If you’ve never read it, the idea is that there are two types of plague victims: the zombie-like, brainless bloodsucking vampires, and a second group who have some immunity to the virus and are able to remain quite human, though they avoid sunlight. These people are trying to rebuild civilization, and Our Hero, Neville, has been killing them indiscriminately (well, he didn’t know about the two types). At the end, as he’s about to be executed, he realizes the New Race, the intelligent vampires, see him as the deviant … and they’re right. They fear him. He is the bogeyman vampires used to be. He is legend, or soon will be. Parents will scare their children with tales of the Neville Monster. All three movies missed this, which is really the point of the novel.
This movie is the worst of a bad lot. Everything about it stinks. It was shot on a low budget in Italy. It has some of the worst day-for-night scenes since Plan Nine From Outer Space. One minute Vincent Price will be driving along in what looks like broad daylight in an exterior shot, then we see him in his car and it’s night. The vampire-zombies have all night to attack his house, every night for three years, and they have made no headway against his totally pitiful defenses, which include boards nailed haphazardly on his windows, with gaps big enough for a small zombie to crawl through. Okay, they’re dumb, but in three years nobody ever thought of a Molotov cocktail through the window? I could go on and on, but what’s the use? This is a bad, bad film. Avoid it, even if people tell you it’s a classic, unless you get off on bad movies.