12 July 2015

"THE LAST MAN ON EARTH" (Chilling 20 Movies Pack, #10) - THE OMEGA MAN + I AM LEGEND + I AM OMEGA

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH

Alternate Titles:
The Damned Walk at Midnight

Alternate German Title:
The Last Man on Earth - Der Beginn der Legende

Italy / USA, 1964
Directors: Ubaldo B. Ragona,
Sidney Salkow (uncredited)

9/10



Vincent Price was an incredible workaholic who appeared in countless theatrical and made-for-TV features, TV series and TV shows as actor or narrator. Although I have only seen a fracture of his work, I'd say that this is the most impressive performance of his entire career, if not the best: "The Last Man on Earth", the very first adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 sci-fi novel "I Am Legend", following scientist Dr. Richard Morgan, the only survivor of a world-wide plague that wiped out Earth's population only to resurrect them as undead and vampiric semi-humans. Morgan spends his days searching for survivors and killing these creatures. One day, he finally stumbles upon a young woman who seems to be as normal as him. Little does he know that she is actually something different, something new...


The production history of "The Last Man on Earth" is quite fascinating. Originally, the film was supposed to be produced by Hammer Films, based on a screenplay written by Richard Matheson himself. For some reason, British censors didn't allow the production, and so Hammer sold the script to producer Robert L. Lippert (Lippert Pictures / Regal Pictures / Associated Producers Inc.) who decided to shoot the film in Italy, simply to save the money.

The film was directed by some guy called Ubaldo Ragona (writer and director of only four films between 1955 and 1966) and low-budget filmmaker Sidney Salkow ("Twice-Told Tales") who, for whatever reason, remains uncredited. Matheson was quite unhappy with the final product, as well as with all the script re-writes by William F. Leicester ("Lawman"), director Ragona and some guy called Furio M. Monetti, he eventually decided to use a fake name in the credits: "Logan Swansson", according to Wikipedia "a combination of his wife's mother's maiden name and his mother's maiden name".


Ok, enough with all the trivia. How is the movie, you may ask? Oh my goodness, it's just awesome. I daresay, "The Last Man on Earth" is one of the greatest post-apocalyptic movies ever made. It's excellently directed, beautifully written, brilliantly paced. It's tense, gripping, suspenseful, and as I already mentioned, Price's performance is overwhelming. Seeing him in the opening crawling out of bed, mumbling the lines "Another day to live through. Better get started."... Seeing him carrying the dead bodies into his car's trunk and later throwing them into a burn pit, wearing a creepy gas mask... Seeing him watching old 'home videos' of his family at the circus, starting laughing hysterically until he breaks down into tears... *goosebumps* Price delivers a gobsmackingly chilling performance as lonesome and devastated creature who desperately tries to continue doing the same things over and over: waking up, gathering his weapons, searching for survivors, killing the vampires, removing the bodies, going back home, defending his house from intruders, going to sleep. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat ad infinitum.


The whole movie possesses an intriguing, almost hypnotic atmosphere, thanks to all the haunting-looking abandoned buildings all over post-apo L.A. (actually, Rome...). The opening sets the mood, showing depressing images of forlorn places with dead bodies lyring around. Kudos to the fabulous photography by Franco Delli Colli ("Macabro", "Zeder") and the wonderfully dramatic score by Paul Sawtell ("The Fly") and Bert Shefter ("Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea"). Also, very fine acting by Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and Emma Danieli + an unexpectedly shocking and super-depressing ending.


Yet, the most interesting thing about "The Last Man on Earth" are the vampires, or let's say, the not-so-vampiric vampires. Of course, their behavior is highly vampiric (they hate garlic, they only come out at night, they hate to see their own reflection in the mirror...), but the way they move, the way they walk towards Morgan's house, the way they try to get in... no, these aren't vampires, these are zombies and everything about them just screams "George A. Romero". I'm not saying Romero copied them for his groundbreaking masterpiece "Night of the Living Dead", but I'm sure this undead semi-humans influenced and inspired him. Also, the scenes where the army disposes of dead bodies look slightly "The Crazies"-esque to me...

A way too underrated, way too overlooked 60s gem everyone should see. One of many examples that prove how great these movie packs are. Thanks Mill Creek :-)




THE OMEGA MAN

German Title:
Der Omega Mann

USA, 1971
Director: Boris Sagal

6/10








"The Omega Man" is the second adaptation of "I Am Legend" - though it's hard to call it an adaptation because it differs so much from the source material, even author Richard Matheson didn't bother. Screenwriter couple Joyce Hooper Corrington (who holds a doctorate in chemistry!) and her husband John William Corrington (both were responsible for the horrid "Battle for the Planet of the Apes") replaced the zombie-vampires with a REALLY weird albino-mutant cult-like 'sacred society' called "The Family", replaced the deadly bacteria with biological warfare as the cause for the plague, and turned the desperate, depressed scientist into a funky one-liner-delivering semi-action-hero. And that's where the film's getting
a tad dissatisfying.


Prolific director Boris Sagal's (who died a horrible death 10 years later - read here!) feature isn't exactly bad. It's well directed, very well produced and contains a fabulous cast (sole exception: Eric Laneuville who is just annoying). Unfortunately, it's at times really silly, its tone is all over the place and there's hardly a moment where you're able to experience a sense of tension or creepiness. The music is way too bombastic, way too over-the-top, the albinos with their oh-so-eerie contact lenses look unintentionally hilarious, and aside from a few bleak scenes in the beginning, I never got the feeling that humanity is extinct and Charlton Heston's character is the last man on Earth.

That said, it's a massive joy to see Heston acting the hell out of his version of the 'last man on Earth', whether he's playing chess with a bust of Napoleon, talking to his own image on a TV screen ("Hi Big Brother, how's your ass?"), doing some car shopping ("How much for a trade-in on my Ford? Oh, really? Thanks a lot, you cheating bastard."), imagining dozens of payphones ringing simultaneously around him, or simply sitting in a movie theater watching "Woodstock". Brilliant!


There's also a splendid and super-hot Rosalind Cash as badass Black Power activist ("If you just have to play James Bond, I'll bust your ass."), a cool Anthony Zerbe as cult leader Matthias ("Definition of a scientist: a man who understands nothing until there was nothing left to understand."), as well as some more nice performances by Paul Koslo and Lincoln Kilpatrick. Plus: lots of fire and gun action, blood and ugly dead bodies, and a terrific finale.

Far from being a real classic, but decently entertaining. Just don't expect Vincent price awesomeness.




I AM LEGEND

USA, 2007
Director: Francis Lawrence

7/10












I remember when this came out, many people wondered why I didn't wanna check out "I Am Legend". The reason is simple: back then, I just couldn't stand seeing anymore Will Smith solo outings. He's a good actor, but he's terribly overrated IMO, and after the lame "Men in Black II" and the even more lame "I, Robot",
I just needed a break.

So, aside from my ID4 rewatch last year, this is actually my first Will Smith movie since 2004 - and to my surprise, I enjoyed it way more than expected! The third adaptation of Richard Matheson's novel is a pretty cool new version, better than "The Omega Man", more in tune with "The Last Man on Earth", especially when it comes to atmosphere, dread and suspense. It's a quite gripping movie with lots of really intense sequences (the hunt for the deer in the dark building... creepy as fuck!), emotional scenes (dog transformation) and terrific action (explosive and nervewracking climax).


Contrary to Boris Sagal, director Francis Lawrence ("The Hunger Games 2 + 3") puts great value on a world that is abandoned and clear of Humans. I had absolutely no doubt that Will Smith's character is the only person left alive, and omg, I loved how all the streets in New York are overcrowded with empty cars, overgrown with plants, and that there are lots of animals running around,
like deer or lions.

Smith was a surprisingly good choice for the main character, and it was an even better choice to give him a dog - even though me as a cat-person would have preferred a cute kittie ;-) We've already experienced a lonely last man two times before, so it was a nice change to see him interacting with and caring for that nice German Shepherd. Also, Smith's performance is really awesome and extremely believable, maybe one of his best performances in entire career + great music by James Newton Howard ("Batman Begins", "The Dark Knight") and beautiful cinematography by Andrew Lesnie ("Lord of the Rings" & "The Hobbit" Trilogy).


3 issues prevented me from giving it a higher rating:
Too much CGI (at times decent-looking, at times just plain horrid), Alice Braga (hot girl, but weird, dissatisfying performance, and her character is just dumb - doesn't know Bob Marley, but knows his son Damian? WTF???) and the frustrating, slightly implausible ending.

Other than that, "I Am Legend" is a great contemporary post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie, entertaining from start to finish. Well done, Will! ;-)

Wiki ~ Imdb



I AM OMEGA

USA, 2007
Director: Griff Furst

4/10











Similar title? Shitty cover? Same release year? Yup, "I Am Omega" is obviously just another direct-to-DVD mockbuster, produced by the notorious The Asylum studios to capitalize on the success of "I Am Legend". It's not a good film, boring and cheaply made, but compared to most other Asylum crap, "I Am Omega" is surprisingly quite okay.

Based on a screenplay by regular Asylum contributor Geoff Meed ("The Amityville Haunting"), Asylum's ex-resident-director Griff Furst ("Universal Soldiers", "100 Million BC") created something that feels like a Best-Of of "Last Man on Earth", "Omega Man" and "I Am Legend", combining various elements and plot points from all three films into a mildly diverting lowest-budget post-apocalyptic flick.


The first half is pretty okay, thanks to main actor Mark Dacascos who gives a rather solid performance, playing a character that could be described as Vincent-Price/Charlton-Heston mash-up, and a few slightly tense, slightly atmospheric scenes. The second half ranges from ok to god-awful, due to the horrid performances of Jennifer Lee Wiggins and writer Geoff Meed himself. Also, a few shitty-looking CGI effects and a bunch of really lame zombies - no match for any of the previous films' creatures, be it semi-vampires, cloaked mutants or zombie-like monsters.

One of the better Asylum / Furst films, but far from being a must-see.

6 comments:

  1. I love The Last Man on Earth, and quite enjoyed I am Legend, too.

    Great review :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I saw 'The Omega Man' on TV when I was a kid! It made a big impression on me at the time... I wonder what I'd think now?!! I enjoyed 'I am Legend'! I haven't seen 'The Last Man on Earth', but I really must.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pretty much the same thing happened to my Mom. She was really impressed when she first saw it in the 80s, but was highly disappointed when she rewatched it just a couple of weeks ago...

      Yes, you MUST see Last Man On Earth. You'll love it!

      Delete
  3. I pretty much completely agree with you across the board here. Last Man is amazing for being a public domain flock available on so many cheapie sets. The Omega Man is okay as it's own thing, but suffers compared to the versions on either side of it. I Am Legend is surprisingly good, with Will Smith well cast and as you say suffering from a terrible "filmmaking by committee" ending. I haven't seen I Am Omega yet but it's in the video vault on a multi pack. I'll watch it eventually though I'm in no hurry...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. *high five*
      *fist bump*

      (There's no need to check out I Am Omega. Stick to the first three.)

      Delete

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