Sunday, October 16, 2005

31 Days of Des' Horror Favourites: #16 The Last Man on Earth

Why I like it: This entry is due to the work of one Rick Geerling alone. For he was the one that shamed me into finally reading Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. He also pointed me to the right edition (Thanks Rick!). This has now become one of my favourite stories of all time. I have always loved "last man" stories but a last man story where he fights vampires? I'm in.

Also, what Top 31 list of horror films would be without a film featuring the master: Vincent Price. The Fly, Return of the Fly, The Oblong Box, The Masque of the Red Death, The House on Haunted Hill, Journey into Fear, Madhouse, Witchfinder General, Green Hell and The House of Wax. Any of these are worth the viewing. Incidentally I was introduced to Mr. Price musically. But not through Michael Jackson's Thriller; through various Misfits songs that use his movies as titles. In fact, if you haven't seen any of them go watch a few of them now.

You're back? Good! By now you know that Vincent Price is the undisputed master of terror. However, I think 1964's The Last Man on Earth showcases his talents like no other film. He actually seems human in this one.

My one problem with Price is that he's so damn spooky and awkward looking that it's hard to take him as anything else other than "eccentric old man who knows more than he's letting on". Here, he does "normal" quite well.

Adapting the Robert Neville character to screen is rather difficult (note: he's called Robert Morgan in this fiolm for some reason) as there is very little dialogue. In fact, the only words uttered by Price's character in the film's first half hour (beside the voice-over) are calls over the radio searching for another human. He is a tortured man who has been locked into a terrifying routine.

Robert Morgan is a man who has barricaded himself into his neighbour's home at night while his former neighbours (now vampires) call for him to come outside at night. His days are spent searching for provisions, killing sleeping vampires and dumping bodies in a burning fire pit. The entire middle third of the movie tells us that he used to be a scientific researcher who tried to uncover the cure to this spreading plague as it was attacking Europe. Naturally he was unsuccessful. The grimness of this movie is shocking for an American film in 1964 and carries through to the ending.

The rest of the cast (minimal as it is) seems to be rounded out by unknowns. In fact the entire film is casted by Italian actors, and rather unprolific ones at that. Just click on some of the cast on the IMDB page of the film and you'll see that this was clearly a Vincent Price vehicle with a low budget.

While the ending is not as good as the novel's (how could it be?) this movie is almost a perfect adaptation of a perfect masterpiece of horror literature.

Check these out:
-The Omega Man-Charleton Heston fights off the "damn dirty vampires" in this 1971 adaptation of Matheson's film. Not anywhere in the ballpark of the Price film but this is still pretty good.
-Night of the Living Dead-Romero directs this ultimate classic with a similar isolationist theme. More about this one later.
-Any of the previously mentioned Vincent Price films-he really was the master of horror so anything with him in it gets a gold stamp from me.

1 Bitching, Moaning and Praise

Blogger Rick Geerling said...

Yes! YES!

1:56 am  

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