|release date||March 8 1964|
|studio||Associated Producers Inc.|
|director||Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salko|
|writer||Logan Swanson (Richard Matheson), Furio M. Monetti|
|starring||Franca Bettoja, Emma Danieli, Vincent Price, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Tony Cerevi|
|tagline||By night they leave their graves, crawling, shambling, through empty streets, whimpering, pleading,|
Fans of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend will recognize a lot in this movie. Judging by what’s in the trailer of the upcoming Will Smith adaptation (the third movie version so far), Last Man On Earth may be the closest we get to a definitive screen version of Matheson’s classic vampire story.
The word “vampire” used lightly.
The movie relies heavily on voice-overs, as if ninety minutes weren’t enough for the filmmakers to show us what was happening instead of telling us. This is Complaint #1: too much talking, not enough doing.
Complaint #2: why does the main character claim they are vampires when they are so obviously zombies? That they have sun allergies is coincidental; I know a zombie when I see it. Was giving each actor a set of plastic fangs too much for the special effects department’s budget? My neighbors used to give out plastic fangs for Halloween.
It doesn’t matter. Forget the ambiguity. Forget the heap of continuity errors, like when the main character’s car shape shifts between a Chevy and a Ford. Forget the other movie versions. And, for a little over an hour, forget the novel ever existed. You might just enjoy it.
Robert Morgan, played by Vincent Price, is the last man on earth. By day, he’s king of the world. By night, when the vampire-zombies (Vambies?) come out, he withdraws into his fortified house. He keeps track of the days on a calendar. Because it’s been three long years since he “inherited the earth,” calendar companies are no longer around and he’s forced to draw new ones on his living room wall.
Sleep is barely an option. All night long he’s tormented by the dead who scratch and pound at his house and beg him to come out so they can drink his blood. Sometimes Morgan considers the invitation. You think that’s bad? The man who used to be his best friend is the zombie who makes it a point to be there each and every night.
Vincent Price, somewhat young and maybe a little green, plays Morgan as a no nonsense kind of guy. If he’s not battling insanity, he races to beat sundown as he gathers supplies, fashions wooden stakes, and slays the living dead in their sleep. There’s a pit where Morgan burns all the dead bodies. He keeps the fire so well fed, it never goes out.
In Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, two characters have fun with the doomsday scenario. They rob a bank and even strike poses as the useless security camera snaps pictures of them. I wish Morgan had a little more fun like that. Sure, a station wagon is functional, but wouldn’t you drive around in a sports car? Wouldn’t you live in the Playboy Mansion?
Forget about it. This movie does what it can with its budget and time constraints. It’s a good picture even if it isn’t legendary.