Friday, October 24, 2008

#102: The Last Man on Earth


The Last Man on Earth
Directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow
Written by William F. Leicester, Furio M. Monetti, Ubaldo Ragona and Richard Matheson (from Matheson's story "I Am Legend")
Released March 8, 1964

"Another day to live through. Better get started."

While clearly it would be impossible to hit every important figure in the Horror genre this month, I think I've done a fairly good job. However, failing to include Vincent Price in any October feature would be a tragic mistake.

With Price, there's so much to choose from that it's ridiculous. You could practically do an entire year of daily reports on his career as a Horror icon. In most of them, he plays the bad guy. But not in the 1964 adaptation of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend." In this, Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, seemingly the only survivor of a plague that has turned the world's population into one of two things: a pile of corpses or a surviving - and starving - group of vampires.

Morgan spends his days in a depressed funk, amassing his collection of garlic and wooden stakes, and then going out into the world to burn bodies and slay the vampires in their sleep. At night, he comes home, drinks and listens to records as the zombie-esque (George Romero apparently got his idea of the slowly creeping, flesh eating zombie from this movie) vampires bang on his windows and doors, howling out his name.

I'm pretty sure once a giant crew of vampire zombies knows me by name and hangs outside my apartment at night, I'm going to be spending my days finding a new apartment.

The constant narration at the beginning of the movie is almost maddening. I know I complain about narration a lot on these pages, and I should especially cut a movie like this, where there are virtually no other speaking roles, some slack. If there's one thing I will give the Will Smith version of I Am Legend credit for, it's in the way they got the story across without having Smith's voiceover explain his every move.

Luckily, that irritating device is abandoned for a lengthy flashback that tells us the story of how the virus started and how it overtook the world. Here, we learn about the tragic fate of Morgan's wife and daughter, and just who that vampire is that knows the Doctor's name.

Much like Romero's Night of the Living Dead, this movie putts along at a very slow pace. While I have to respect it as the inspirational material for Romero's flick, I just found it so much more boring. Unfortunately for Price, he was typecast as the personification of evil in most of his films for a reason: he just makes a better bad guy.

For more on The Last Man on Earth:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Buy the DVD, paired as a double feature with Ray Milland's Panic in Year Zero.
- Download the movie, which is public doman, for free here.

The trailer for The Last Man on Earth:

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