Monday, June 02, 2014

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.  I have made a few modifications here.

I first became aware of this movie through Epinions. I had done a review of Omega Man and decided to read a few of the other reviews, which mentioned Last Man on Earth. Both movies are based on the same novel, I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. When I saw a collection of movies that included The Last Man on Earth, I had to buy it. (I got this and 8 other movies for $7.99 plus tax.)

Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, a scientist who is literally the last normal human on Earth. You see, there was this worldwide plague that affected every other human on the planet. Many were killed and burned to prevent the spread of the disease, but to no avail. Those that are infected become sick and die only to reanimate shortly thereafter. Dr. Morgan’s best guess as to his immunity is a bat bite that he sustained many years ago.

Either way, he lived and had to watch his wife and daughter die while his coworker thinks that everyone’s turning into vampires. Morgan dismisses it at first, but thinks twice when his wife comes home…after he buried her. He realizes that humanity may really be doomed.

For several years, Morgan has spent his days looking for supplies and his nights scared out of his wits, hoping that the 'vampires' don’t get him. Morgan finds out that garlic and wooden stakes have the same effects as in legend and the zombies also have an aversion to mirrors. (Amazingly, mirrors and fresh garlic are easy to come by, even after three years.) He finds hope when he discovers a woman watching him. If he can help her, there may yet be hope for humanity.

The first thing that I noticed was that the acting left something to be desired. Granted, most of the characters were zombies, but Vincent Price was the only one who seemed to give much of a performance. Even with the zombies, the acting seemed more rigid than one might expect from the undead, but I’ll get to that later.

The picture quality also wasn’t that great. The quality was good, considering that it’s a black-and-white movie from 1964. However, there were several points in the movie where the transfer was terrible. It wasn’t a major point, but it was a little distracting at times

I don’t know if this is to be expected from all versions of the movie or just the DVD that I got. The name of the collection I got was called “The Living Dead”. It’s from St. Claire Vision, which is known for distributing public-domain material.  They don't seem to put a lot of effort into restoring the movies or getting the bet versions.

Even though I liked the movie, I didn’t think that the story was developed very well. I realize that 86 minutes isn’t a lot of time to go into detail, but how was it that out of a total population of several billion, only one person was lucky enough to have immunity?  I always find it odd when exactly one person survives.  He also had plenty of food, garlic and other supplies. I would think that after three years, either the food would have gone bad or the zombies would have gotten to most it.

On that note, why was it that the zombies were so one-dimensional? All they did was moan and make a very weak effort to get to Morgan. The only reason they even seemed interested in Morgan was that he was unaffected by the plague. In The Omega Man, the zombies and their relationship with the last human survivor were both developed more.

Overall, I’d give the movie three stars. It was entertaining to watch, but I don’t think that the movie would hold up well to today’s standards. For what I paid for it, it was worth it. If you’re interested in this movie, I’d actually recommend getting Omega Man.

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