STARRING: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart, Tony Cerevi

1964, 86 Minutes, Directed by: Sidney Salkow

British horror movie legend Vincent Price is the last human survivor of a mysterious and unexplained plague that left most of humanity either dead or turned them into brainless vampires in this 1960s Black & White movie.

The vampires only come out at night so during the day Price systematically kills them off one by one; while in the evenings a mob of vampires who are allergic to the things normal movie vampires are allergic to, namely garlic and mirrors unsuccessfully try to break into his boarded-down house (foreshadowing Romero’s influential Night of the Living Dead a few years later).

Sadly one of the vampires futilely trying to break into Price’s house used to be his best friend . . .

If the story seems familiar: it is of course based on SF author Richard (Incredible Shrinking Man, Twilight Zone) Matheson’s story I Am Legend, and it was filmed again in the mid-1970s as The Omega Man with a post-Planet of the Apes Charlton Heston as the title character.

At the time of writing, another version of the story has been filmed in 2007, this time under its original title of I Am Legend and starring Will Smith as the hero, so one can just imagine what sort of movie it is going to be. (And the idea of Will Smith being the sole human specimen left is kind of depressing when one thinks about it.)

More than just a hint of sadness and loss hangs over a huge part of The Last Man on Earth, particularly in an extended flashback scene that recounts how the plague spread and Price lost his wife and daughter in the process.

Needless to say, the ending is a downer too as the film doesn’t even end on the hopeful note that the Charlton Heston movie did. (Price himself comes over as a kindly albeit chronically depressed uncle you might have instead of one of his usual over-the-top characters.)

Never unintentionally campy, the movie is too much of a downer for Mystery Science Theater 3000 types hoping to poke fun at a late night cheesy horror flick. In fact, Last Man on Earth deserves a critical re-evaluation when it comes to cheap (for make no mistake, it is quite a low budget effort) horror movies of the era.

Worth seeing for fans of older genre movies, even though the film’s pacing is often a bit too languid for its own good.



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