Friday, September 24, 2010

"Fright Flix" presents- The Last Man On Earth. (1964)

The Last Man on Earth is a 1964 horror/science fiction film based upon the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend (1954). The film was directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow, and stars Vincent Price who is one of my all time favorite "cheesy horror film" stars.

Dr. Robert Morgan is the only survivor of a devastating world-wide plague due to a mysterious immunity he acquired to the bacterium while working in Central America years ago. He is all alone now... or so it seems. As night falls, plague victims begin to leave their graves, part of a hellish undead army that''s thirsting for blood...his!

This one seems to be less well known than others in Vincent Price's filmography. In this first filmed version of Richard Matheson's superb short novel "I Am Legend", though, Price really shines in one of the best performances of his career. Far superior to its 1971 remake "The Omega Man" the script follows Matheson's book almost scene-for-scene, but then, I think the author always wrote with one eye on the movie or TV rights.

The black-and-white cinematography is as stark and minimalistic as the story (and, admittedly, the budget). The exterior scenes set in a deserted Los Angeles -- well, actually Rome, shot in the early morning -- are often quite effective in mirroring his internal desolation. Cast and crew alike do an excellent job with the material, despite the monetary constraints. Unlike so many in our current "bash you over the head" school of film-making, the real horror of the situation is allowed to speak eloquently for itself.

If you're expecting the high camp of one of Price's Roger Corman flicks, you'll probably be bored stiff by this movie. If instead you're looking for a surprisingly good adaptation of a great story, you can't do much better than "Last Man On Earth". 

It was released theatrically in the United States by American International Pictures. It has since fallen into the public domain.

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