Movie Review: The Last Man on Earth (1964)

The Last Man on Earth
The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth, Directors: Ubaldo Ragona (as Ubaldo B. Ragona) , Sidney Salkow (uncredited)
Writers: William F. Leicester (screenplay), Richard Matheson (screenplay) (as Logan Swanson) 
Stars: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli 

Based on Richard Matheson’s literary masterpiece, I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth makes the first of three attempts (the second being The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston and the third the CGI fest I Am Legend with Will Smith) at bringing Matheson’s book to the big screen.  Such a simple idea with minimal characters, yet Hollywood can’t seem to get it right.  While the other two adaptations may have been more visually stunning (well, if you like your monsters full blown CGI; poorly done I might add), The Last Man on Earth is the most similar to the book, yet fails horribly in its delivery.  I blame the writer and director.  And I’ll punish them more later.

Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, the lone survivor in a world that has succumbed to a world-wide plague that has turned the living into shambling, weak vampire/zombie hybrids.  While the sun sleeps, Dr. Morgan spends his nights spinning vinyl, reminiscing, and giving his best effort to keep his sanity intact, all the while the undead relentlessly pound on his residence in an attempt to gain access and make the doctor one of their own.  Once daylight breaks, the doctor attends to his daily ritualistic chores and preparations including filling up on gas for his vehicle and generator, disposing of plagued bodies of those he has destroyed while sleeping, restoring expired garlic, and fixing mirrors and boards broken from the beating the house took the night before.

Ultimately the doctor runs into a female.  There is a twist, and we find out a theory the doctor has regarding why he’s still alive.

Let me say this.  In 2012, Matheson’s book received the Vampire Novel of the Century Award from the Horror Writer’s Association.  If you have yet to read it, this really should encourage you to skip all film versions and do so.  I’ve yet to find someone who disliked the book.  That being said, let’s get back to punishing the filmmakers.

The-Last-Man-on-EarthI think the biggest error the creators of the film made was to have Price narrate his actions.  This dumbed down the movie significantly and pointed out the obvious instead of trusting the viewers.  The narration in this case was just lazy filmmaking.  Yes, Mr. Price has a hauntingly beautiful voice, but this is a movie.  These tales are told visually and by using necessary dialogue, leaving the viewer’s mind to fend for itself and to help create and sometimes interpret.

While there is one genuinely creepy scene in which a plague victim who had recently been buried (rather than thrown into a burning pit normally used for disposal of bodies) scratches at the doctor’s door asking to be let in, overall the acting is poor, the actions and reactions are not believable, and potential is ruined.  Surely the theme will attract this generation due to the abundant interest in post-apocalyptic scenarios; however, unless they are in it for nostalgia, I think viewers will find themselves disappointed.


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3 Replies to “Movie Review: The Last Man on Earth (1964)”

    1. Very interesting. I hadn’t heard of it before, but after doing a little bit of research on it I can see why. Seems like a borderline sleazy way to try and cash in on someone else’s hard work. Reminds me of a large handful of books I’ve seen recently using variations of zombies with hunger games and fifty shades of them all. It is my opinion that those are the types of books we’re allowed to judge by the cover 🙂

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