Halloween Scene: The Last Man On Earth (1964)

Even though I wasn’t 100% invested in The Last Man On Earth, it did have several things going for it that I did like. First off, you’ve got Vincent Price, one of my all time favorite actors. Secondly, the film is based on Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend, which I haven’t read, but I did really like The Omega Man which is also based on that same story. And third, as I mentioned in my Omega Man review, I really dig when movies include scenes of large cities completely devoid of people. That’s no small feat.

All of these elements played pretty well for me. We open with Price long into an existence where he believes himself to be one of the few survivors of a plague that either killed people or turned them into zombie-vampires (they’re called vampires and can be killed with stakes, but act a lot more like zombies). He goes out for supplies, sharpens stakes, takes dead zombie-vampires to a giant fire, etc. The movie even does a good job of explaining how all this happened, the toll it took on Price’s character and why he’s still alive and not a zompire.

After that, things get a little complicated. First he finds a dog which was well kept, but carries the virus (he was a scientist working on a cure when the poo hit the fan). He later comes upon a woman who seems to carry the virus but isn’t all zombie-like. She explains SPOILER that she’s part of a group that was infected, but has a serum flowing through her veins that keeps them human. She and her people intend to destroy the zompires and restore humanity. Price discovers that his blood can completely cure them, but then the woman’s people show up and a chase ensues, one that does not end well for Price.

As if the layers of confusion weren’t enough when it came to the woman’s true identity, there’s just a lot of “huh” moments in the last reel. Price could have hidden and gotten away completely, but he does a few things that bring him back to the group’s attention. He also steals a gun and fires wildly at them. Why didn’t he just try to explain himself? Worse yet, there’s a scene where Price breaks into the police station’s armory and only grabs smoke bombs (or maybe tear gas?) so you’re treated to scenes of a 53 year old man running hunched over and tossing these seemingly useless bombs. It makes little sense, especially when he had so many guns he could have picked.

This film actually shares a lot with The Omega Man, but doesn’t really nail the whole point of I Am Legend as far as I know it to be. Like I said, I haven’t read it, but I’ve talked to people who have and the point is that the protagonist has been running around killing these vampires and is actually a legendary bad guy to them and their society. Price doesn’t do a lot of killing in this book, more like cleaning up (unless the ones lying on the ground aren’t actually dead, but just asleep?). So, while the message of the original might have been lost and the end was kind of jumbly, I still enjoyed my time with this film, though more so the first part than the last.

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