The Last Man on Earth (1964 film)

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The Last Man on Earth (1964), AKA I Am Legend, The Damned Walk at Midnight, and The Naked Terror; the movie was later remade as The Omega Man (1971), and I Am Legend (2007)

Summary

"Alive among the lifeless... alone among the crawling creatures of evil that make the night hideous with their inhuman craving! By night they leave their graves, crawling, shambling, through empty streets, whimpering, pleading, begging for his blood!" When a disease turns all of humanity into the living dead, the last man on earth becomes a reluctant vampire hunter.

The 1964 version, starring Vincent Price as the last man on Earth, is considered the most faithful adaptation of the three, and features the last man besieged each night by a cult of bloodthirsty vampires which beats on his door and calls his name in taunts until the sun rises, allowing the last man to hunt the undead through a post-apocalyptic landscape of empty streets, crumbling buildings, and Gothic imagery such as crosses, crypts, tombs, strands of garlic, etc. The 1971 remake The Omega Man stars a more action-friendly Charlton Heston as a soldier-scientist who, as the last man, in a world where humanity has been exterminated by a biological weapon, hunts a medieval-style book-burning anti-technology albino mutant cult through an abandoned city in a sports car full of machine guns, while the 2007 remakes stars Will Smith as a soldier-scientist trying to find the cure for a humanity-exterminating disease caused by a well-meaning attempt a genetically engineering a cure for cancer which goes terribly wrong, turning the survivors into animalistic CGI "fast zombie" mutants.

Details

Promotional image for The Last Man on Earth (1964 film)...
  • Release Date: 1964 (remakes in 1971 and 2007)
  • Country/Language: US/Italy, English
  • Genres/Technical: Horror, Sci-fi, black-and-white
  • Setting: Cthulhu End Times (post-apocalyptic 1960s USA)
  • Runtime: 1 hr 26 min
  • Starring: Vincent Price (the remakes star Charlton Heston and Will Smith)
  • Director: Ubaldo B. Ragona, Sidney Salkow (remakes directed by Boris Sagal and Francis Lawrence)
  • Writer: William F. Leicester and Richard Matheson (as Logan Swanson) (screenplay), based on the novel I Am Legend (fiction) by Richard Matheson
  • Producer/Production Co: Associated Producers (API),Produzioni La Regina (remakes Walter Seltzer Productions; Warner Bros.,Village Roadshow Pictures,Weed Road Pictures)
  • View Trailer: (1964), (1971), (2007)
  • TVTropes: (1964), (1971), (2007)
  • IMDB Page: (1964), (1971), (2007)

Ratings

MPAA Ratings

  • Rated: not rated (perhaps a PG for Violence and mild Profanity)

The 1964 movie somehow earned an X rating in the UK in its day, but has aired with minimal editing as the equivalent of a 1970s or 1980s "G", and would be the sort of horror movie I watched all the time as a kid without thinking of it. The 1971 and 2007 remakes ramp up the sex/nudity and violence, respectively, to the equivalent of a PG-13.

Tentacle Ratings

A rough measure of how "Lovecraftian" the work is:

  • S____ (One Tentacle: Debateably Lovecraftian; has almost no direct connection to Lovecraft's work)

Though not explicitly Lovecraftian, the 1964 film's bleak updated post-apocalyptic Gothic setting with the last human in a world inherited by ghoulish monsters would surely fit right in alongside Lovecraft's vision, and might be taken as a sort of early Cthulhu End Times story. The 1970s film, though even less "Lovecraftian", might suggest an interesting End Times doomsday cult.

Note: This rating is not intended as a measure of quality, merely of how closely related to Lovecraftian "Weird" fiction the work is.

Reviews

Review Links:

  • Discussion/Review by the Orphaned Entertainment Podcast (link)
  • Review by David Becker at 2,500 Movies Challenge (link)
  • Review by Richard Cross at 20/20 Movie Reviews (link)
  • Review by Jerry Renshaw at the Austin Chronicle (link)
  • Review by Richard Schieb at The Science Fiction, Horror and Fantasy Film Review (link) - (2.5/5 Stars) "The Last Man on Earth has some occasional moments of interest, certainly more than it has been credited for."


Synopsis (SPOILERS)

 Spoiler Section (Highlight to Read)

Vincent Price stars as Dr. Robert Morgan, the titular last man on Earth, who was bitten by a vampire bat at some point in the past and developed an immunity to the so-called "European Disease" sweeping the world: vampirism, which has rendered humanity extinct, and left the streets filled with the starving living dead. Morgan's sanity has begun to slowly erode between the isolation and loneliness, and the nightly siege of his home by bands of ghouls who beat on his door and taunt him while he tries to drown out the horror with alcohol and loud jazz music. By day, Morgan drives the deserted city streets in a hearse, armed with garlic and stakes, searching for the hiding places of the ghouls, until one day he encounters what seem to be other human beings, who try to flee, but, left with little choice, meet Morgan and speak with him. Morgan soon discovers that the people he has met are actually evolved vampires, who have raised up their own, peace-loving civilization, which tells horror stories by night about the legend of the last man on earth, a monster who kills harmless vampires in their sleep. Morgan realizes his error, and then finds his blood can cure vampirism, but it's all too late: death squads of the living dead hunt him down and kill him, destroying the cure for vampirism at the same time, ending the movie on a bleak and hopeless note....


Notes

Comments, Trivia, Dedication

  • The 1964 film is often considered the most faithful adaptation of the novel, with the screenplay partly written by the novel's author; nevertheless, author Richard Matheson was not happy with the final film, requesting his role in writing the script be attributed to a fake name; Matheson was unhappy with the final script, and felt Vincent Price was miscast as the last man.


Associated Mythos Elements


Keeper Notes

  • After The End, the investigators must wander a deserted Earth by day hunting for cults of the undead, and hiding at night from their relentless counter-attacks.