July 02, 2004

Would the last person alive please turn out the lights?

You've probably seen The Omega Man, the post-apocalypse film starring Charlton Heston. But did you know that the movie had been done before? Both movies were based on Richard Matheson's classic book "I Am Legend", and tell the story of what may be the last human alive and his battle to survive against zombies who roam the night looking for blood.

Wake up, make coffee, gas up the generator in the garage, clear the zombie corpses off of the porch, go grocery shopping, then spend the day killing zombies and burning their bodies. It's a big city, so the routine goes on each and every day. You're half-crazy from the solitude, so you practically welcome the company at night as the zombies try to break into your house.

That's the plot of Last Man On Earth, an Italian chiller made in 1964. Starring Vincent Price, the black and white cinematography and eerie scenes of an empty city littered with corpses go a long way to set the dark tone. This movie is a downer right from the beginning, which feels right considering the concept. There's a lot more background story than in Omega Man, and more psychological depth to the characters.

The Omega Man is one of those wonderfully cheesy SciFi thrillers that you either love or hate. Adapted from the same story as the first movie, both share the main plot line, but where Vincent Price is borderline crazy from his situation, Charlton Heston seems to thrive on it. Details differ, but the most obvious change is recognizing that by being the last man alive, you pretty much own everything. Heston stocks his penthouse apartment with fine art, liquor and food, and as long as he remembers to keep gas in the basement generator, then life is good (except for the being alone part).

Sharing the title, but not the storyline, is the 1924 flick, The Last Man On Earth. This forgotten classic examines the situation from a more literal point of view. What happens if, after all the men die, you find a fertile male? The obvious (and cheesy) answer is "breed".

Similar storylines can be found in such classics as Hell Comes To Frogtown, among others, but here...

Ok, now I'm pissed off. The box gives the synopsis for that movie, but the actual flick included is the Vincent Price version - again. Son of a bitch. Hang on... all right, I've double checked everything, and they switched movies on the DVD.

So now I can't recommend it based on personally seeing it myself, but I am going to be looking for a copy of the original. Ya know what? Go watch Hell Comes To Frogtown.

Posted by Ted at July 2, 2004 09:00 PM
Category: Cult Flicks

I suppose I could go to the IMDB, but let's see how much my mind has atrophied: Doesn't Frogtown star Rowdy Roddy Piper?

Posted by: Victor at July 3, 2004 07:09 AM

Yay! Perfect recall Victor.

Posted by: Ted at July 3, 2004 08:32 AM

Very cool. I didn't realise that "I am Legend" had been done as a film prior to Omega Man, and with Vincent Price no less. Going to have to grab that DvD next time I'm out shopping for old movies. Thanks, Ted.

Heh heh heh. "Hell comes to Frogtown" is a favorite "guilty pleasure" flik. It's just so cheesy, and so much fun. ;)

Posted by: Ironbear at July 5, 2004 02:55 AM
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