Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Public Domain Cinema: The Last Man on Earth

At last, the origin of the original.  Today's film is The Last Man on Earth, which has been Public Domain for quite a long time.  Does that make it bad?  No, of course not.  Many Classics are Public Domain- many just suffer from business changes over the time since they were made.  The Universal Horror Films have stayed out of it, since Universal is still around to renew its copyright.  In contrast, the ownership of the infamous Poverty Row Films became anyone's guess and entered the Public Domain.  So let me break this film down for the five of you who don't know about.  It is the earliest adaptation of 'I Am Legend' by the late Richard Matheson, a work more famously known as The Omega Man.  While also famous for the 2007 Will Smith film (which I do like alot), the most famous version is not an official one- Night of the Living Dead.  There's no denying it- even George A. Romero says so.  Oddly, neither of the film's two Directors went on to do that much.  I will admit to being a bit biased here since the film stars Vincent Price.  Even so, I will give this film a fair, historical assessment.  Since the story has been redone so many times since then (including by The Asylum!), I will be less detailed and more comparative.  To find out more about a film you may not know (or don't remember that well), read on...
The world is not a good place.  Bodies are everywhere, cities are in ruin and life as we know it has ended.

More importantly, Feng Shui is dead!!!
Like he would do in all (I believe) versions, our Robert (last name changed for no reason) tries to call people on the radio, but never seems to get a response.
It is bad enough having to take out the trash all of the time.  Now imagine that you have to lug dead bodies into a fire to keep them from coming back to kill you.

Fun Fact: Price apparently lifted real bodies for all but the dumping scenes, since he wanted it to seem real.
If you doubt the Living Dead comparisons, I will just show you this and remind you that this film came out in 1964.  Moving on...
Okay- that was a lie.  Here we see Robert watching some talking heads (not the band) talk about the crisis (in a flashback btw).  Seem familiar?
One thing the 2007 Version has on this one is their choice (and use of the) dog.  In this one, it is a cute one.  In that one, it is a useful companion.

Of course, it still beats what The Asylum did- they just showed a picture of a dog (implying its death)!
Our lonely hero finds some company, but there has to be a catch here.  She probably wants to deliver a subpoena or something.
As it turns out, she is being treated for the Vampire/Zombie-like disease on a daily basis, but is not cured.  Her group wants Robert dead since he has apparently been killing people that could actually be cured.

He doesn't take the news well.
In a bleak ending, he is killed by the group.  There is at least some hope as his blood cures the lady and cold possibly lead to the salvation of mankind (just without him).

Feel free whether to discuss whether this is better than the 8 different endings used in 2007.  The End.
It is a bit creaky, but still a Classic.  Let it be said that The Last Man on Earth is a good movie.  It has many small faults that you could pick it apart by.  The tone is often too bleak, the Acting is not always great and the Pacing is odd.  It is notable that Matheson himself apparently didn't like Price being cast as the Lead.  I'm not sure who to agree with- I highly respect both men.  I have seen people tear this thing apart, while other still have called it 'Price's best film.'  To me, at least, that is still The Abominable Dr. Phibes.  The best way to describe Man is as the prototype for a great movie.  Due to budgetary issues (it was almost a Hammer film!) and issues with direction (it is competent, but that's it), it did not live up to its potential.  Even so, what other film has Vampire/Zombies, but replaced Steven Seagal with Vincent Price?  Yeah, exactly.  Man is an important part of Film History (even if it isn't great) and that's not just me making an ass out of myself...
Next up, another Vincent Price film that is in the Public Domain (on the same DVD).  Is the 3rd time the charm for this crime tale?  Stay tuned...

1 comment:

  1. Ha, I've just seen this yesterday for the very first time. Guess who's just working on a Last Man / Omega Man / I Am Legend post? ;)