Director – Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow
Cast – Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Christi Courtland, Antonio Corevi
Release Year – 1964
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I admit that I saw I Am Legend before I got my hands on The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man, all adaptations of Richard Matheson’s novel “I Am Legend”. This being the first adaptation of the novel, I expected it to be the best of the three, and in my honest opinion it is. The storyline is one that gives us great terror, and the always awesome Vincent Price accompanied by two directors makes for a true horror classic.
After a mysterious disease wipes out nearly all of the world’s human population, Dr. Robert Morgan(Vincent Price; House on Haunted Hill, The Masque of the Red Death) is left alive due to an immunity he received while working in Central America years ago. He appears to be all alone in the world, but that changes when night falls as the dead begin to leave their graves and stalk Dr. Morgan for the one thing they crave…his blood.
This may be one of the first post-apocalyptic films to hit wide audiences, and the film deliver a very positive post-apocalyptic feel. The storyline involving a disease wiping out the world is not a new one, but throwing in the very positive idea of a lone survivor fending off against the dead that won’t stay dead is just plain awesome. I applaud Richard Matheson for his original novel that this was based on, and while he personally did not enjoy his screenplay for this film(to the point that he credited an unknown name instead of his own), I feel that he did more than enough to sell this film as a legitimate and ever-lasting horror film.
Nearly all of the story follows Dr. Morgan, and nearly half of his dialogue comes in voice-over form, which helps sell the hopelessness the film successfully attains. The storyline is fairly simple, and evolves around Morgan doing what he can to survive with the undead world outside of him, and delves successfully into the backstory behind the virus and the harrowing decisions he was forced to make, decisions that haunt him still to this day. Constant developments abound, and somehow instead of making this 86 minute experience move quickly they made this film feel a lot longer than it was, but in a positive way. Most of the horror that we get comes in the form of internal character horror involving Morgan and the physical/mental/emotional horrors that he must endure, but we get a decent amount of creature action written in as well.
Directors Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow did a fantastic job bringing this awesome story to screen, with amazing sets(Italy) and perfect atmosphere that artfully succeeds at providing the solemn and lonely atmosphere that has consumed the world Dr. Morgan lives in. Vincent Price is amazing as usual, even though Richard Matheson himself felt that Price was miscast. I mentioned earlier that we get a fair amount of creature action, and while they did little to really scare me they looked good for their time and seemed to provide a blueprint for the zombies used in Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead, which debuted a mere four years later. The filmmakers did much with what little they had to work with, and while low-budget can show at times and give the flick a “dated” feel it was properly executed and resulted in what we seek in every horror film…HORROR.
Overall, The Last Man on Earth is a fantastic horror classic that gives us a tremendous story and comes with great direction/execution. The horror is real thanks to a well-developed character portrayed by Vincent Price, making this one of the best post-apocalyptic films of all time.