The Las Man on Earth Review: This 1964 film is the first of three productions based on the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. The other two are The Omega Man, and the more recent film starring Will Smith. Last Man on Earth tells the story of a plague that wipes out the entire population of the world except for one man played by horror icon Vincent Price. Most of the people who die eventually rise from their graves and roam the world as vampires, drinking the blood of the living.
These are very traditional vampires in many ways. For example, they don’t like garlic, and they avoid sunlight, but they’re also somewhat unique. The vampires in this film are much more “undead” than usual. In many ways, they’re more like zombies than most Hollywood vampires. They shamble about, moaning and hitting things with sticks while occasionally muttering uninflected words. This is somewhat unique, especially for the time, and it works pretty well.
The movie also has some pretty severe weaknesses. The opening is slow and ponderous, and the director uses a very detached style that doesn’t always work with the material. For a large portion of the film, there is only a single character on screen, and he’s simply wandering around doing menial tasks. These scenes are meant to grab the audience’s attention by showing an empty desolate world, but the director seems largely unwilling to take advantage of the visual possibilities. A detached style can be great, but there are ways to do it that don’t bore the audience, and this movie sometimes fails to clear that hurdle.
The second half of the movie is actually pretty decent, and it helps a little to make up for the miserable first half. Once the movie gets going and starts moving towards something substantial, it become more engaging, and occasionally even a little disturbing.
Overall, this may not be great, but it’s probably worth seeing for serious horror fans. It’s the weakest adaption of Matheson’s novel, but it’s also kind of important. The way the apocalypse is depicted in this movie has definitely been influential, and there are strong indications that the behavior of the vampires in this movie may have helped inspire George Romero’s zombies in Night of the Living Dead.