Thursday, October 3, 2019

31 Days of Halloween: "The Last Man on Earth" 1964


It funny to reflect that Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" was adapted into a movie three times.

The first adaptation of the book was called "The Last Man on Earth," a fairly generic title, but since this was the 1960's, its really not that surprising. It starred Vincent Price. If you know your horror history, that's not very surprising either. Much like guys like Robert Englund, Brad Dourif, Bela Lagosi and Boris Karloff, Vincent Price was an actor known for horror movies. There's a reason why he appeared in Michael Jackson's "Thriller" song. He's that potent of a horror icon. Out of the three adaptations that were made, it really was Price's movie that got closest to the books.

Yes, Will Smith's version, simply titled "I Am Legend" was a modern update. While in retrospect, it got many elements of the book right, it kinda rubs me wrong that they had completely change the meaning of the story to stroke Smith's ego. The version from the 1970's entitled "Omega Man" starred Charlton Heston and was way more of action movie than the book ever really was. That's one of the many reasons why "The Last Man on Earth" holds a special place in my heart.

That, and its just a freaking goofy watch.

If you've read the book or seen any of the movies I listed above, "The Last Man of Earth" is fairly straightforward. There was a cataclysmic event which killed most people and turned many people in vampires. There is one known human survivor, a man named Dr. Robert Morgan. In the book and other movie adaptations, the man's name was Dr. Robert Neville. We learn little by little what happened to Earth in the film's flashbacks, and how the world slowly slipped into a vampiric dystopion future.

 Dr. Robert Morgan is a man of routine in this Apocalypse world. He wakes up early in the morning. He replaces garlic strings along his house, if he has to make a trip to a super market to get more, he will. He uses a machine to sharpen pieces of wood into deadly stakes. He keeps himself fit and makes sure to get three meals a day, even though he admittedly doesn't eat to savor food anymore, he eats simply to survive. If he has to collect other essential supplies, he will do so. Then he goes hunting, hunting for vampires. Because once night falls, he is attacked every night by vampires. Friends and people of a world that no longer exist anymore. Rinse, wash, repeat.

It's funny to note that the vampires different immensely from the Will Smith movie. In the 2007 movie, the vampires are zombie-like because they mumble when they speak. In "The Last Man on Earth" the vampires actually have personally, vicious versions of the humans they once were. But they move like your standard zombie, which makes for some big laughs along the way. I do wonder just how scared people were of this back in the 1960's.

Vincent Price is his typical self here. That voice of his so iconic, but it doesn't distract from the movie itself. All in all, "The Last Man on Earth" is a fun look at old school horror. 

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