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31 October 2011

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Being a shameless fan of Richard Matheson's "I am Legend", it was only a matter of time before I hunted down the DVD of The Last Man on Earth.

Vincent Price sports a 'Vincent Price' for Movember
The Last Man on Earth, 1964 American International Pictures

But before I talk about the film, I want to remind you that as well as being All-Hallows-Eve, it is also the eve of Movember. Now is the time for men everywhere to do a little something for men everywhere. You too can grow a mo and raise some cash for The Prostrate Cancer Charity. In honour of The Last Man on Earth, I will be attempting a 'Vincent Price'. To find out more about Movember and to donate some much needed money, please visit the official site.

Back to the DVD...

Just in case you're wondering what-letterbox-within-letterbox looks like
Orbital Media... Hang your heads in shame!

I feel cheated.

The original film is actually widescreen but for some reason Orbit Media have formatted their DVD presentation to fit on 4:3 with black bars top and bottom. I watched it on a widescreen so I had black bars left and right too! The picture was tiny!

I should have done my homework!

Vincent casually disposes of the Dead
The Last Man on Earth, 1964 American International Pictures

The film itself isn't too bad. The story sticks pretty close to that of the book and that is probably because Richard Matheson was involved in writing the script. He wasn't that impressed with the end result and refused to be credited, but that's another story altogether.

As you would expect for a film of this time, it's all a bit tame by today's standards; The vampires are some of the most lethargic and weak individuals I've ever seen. The fight scenes are more like drunks pushing each other around.

The Last Man on Earth, 1964 American International Pictures

I didn't get the same sense of claustrophobia in the film that I got from the book. And more generally, there just wasn't the intensity. Take the sequence with the dog for example. It was over too quickly and didn't add anything to the overall tale.

Vincent Price is great. He pretty much single-handedly carries the film, which is probably what you would expect seeing as he is 'the Last Man on Earth'. He's not called Robert Neville as in the book, but Robert Morgan. I haven't been able to find out the significance of the name change. I'd hate to think that there was no reason for it.

What do you mean you don't like garlic?
The Last Man on Earth, 1964 American International Pictures

Hold on a second... I've gone and leapt right in assuming that you know the story! You probably do. But just in case...

A strange disease has swept the world, killing all in its path. The dead have returned from the grave as vampires. Robert Morgan has survived. By night he holes up in his house. By day he hunts down and kills vampires. Only, the world is changing. A new order is emerging. Is there room in it for Robert Morgan? Watch this film and find out!

These vampires are more New Wave than Goth
The Last Man on Earth, 1964 American International Pictures

The DVD cover suggests that "this film was a primary influence on George Romero's Night of the Living Dead." It seems like a bit of a tenuous link to me. But what do I know? I do like the cover. The DVD cover I have is based upon one of the original posters and manages to look vampirish and sci-fi at the same time.

One last thing before I close off...

Having recently watched The Omega Man I'm wondering if the telephone ringing scene at the start was a deliberate homage to the ringing alarm clock in The Last Man. I'd like to think so, but perhaps I'm starting rumours again.

To sum up...

I have to say that I was a little bit disappointed by The Last Man on Earth. The picture quality was poor and it ruined it for me. Even though Vincent Price rocks, he's let down by a script that fails to deliver much of a punch. It's a shame really, because this is a great story!

On the Triple-B I'm going to chase off 4 vampires with a mirror. Yeah, I'm bad! Borrow this film... but make sure that it's the widescreen version...

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