The Last Man on Earth (1964)
I hesitate to admit that I tend to stay away from movies made in the 1960s or earlier. I don’t have a great reason for it, either — I finally saw a Hitchcock film (Vertigo) this year and thought it was pretty good, and it’s not like I’ve had many bad experiences that might steer me away from old movies.
For whatever reason, though, I’ve seen very little of Vincent Price and I’d never seen this movie before tonight. I’m happy to say I was impressed by both. I’m embarrassed to say (and don’t really know why I’m saying it anyway) that I don’t think I’d actually heard about this movie until I looked up what was playing on the TV in last night’s movie.
But I have heard about Richard Matheson. I Am Legend has long been a favorite read (and reread) of mine. Unsurprisingly, I’ve never seen The Omega Man. I know exactly why I’ve never bothered with that movie, though: “The HΩmega Man” is one of my all-time favorite “Treehouse of Horror” stories (yes, from The Simpsons) and I figure that’s as close as I’ll ever need to get to the real thing.
I have, however, seen I Am Legend — and while I don’t plan on reviewing it here on its own (please don’t make me watch it again), I will say that I was all for that film until it (spoilers ahead) completely changed the ending of the story in a way that I was not all for and then I was just kind of sad about not having a better film adaptation of one of my favorite stories.
BUT NOW! Now I am not sad (if only I could retroactively apply emotions), because this was a great film adaptation of one of my favorite stories. It’s interesting to me that Richard Matheson didn’t agree — the movie’s Wikipedia entry mentions that he cowrote the screenplay but was credited under the name “Logan Swanson” because he wasn’t happy with the results — because I really liked it.
That said, I can see how Vincent Price wouldn’t be Matheson’s ideal Neville (Morgan in this film) — I on the other hand think the occupational change to scientist and the subtle character changes that went along with that were fine and that Vincent Price played his character very well. I Am Legend isn’t a first-person narrative, but this film feels like one — and for that to work, you need someone who can keep an audience captivated on his own. I don’t know much of Vincent Price, but after tonight’s film, I know that he’s definitely capable of just that.
Of course, if Vincent Price were the only person involved in making this a memorable film it would’ve been a one-man stage play instead. Every part of this film feels well put together. The music complements the story, the pacing keeps you entertained, and the crossfade scenes worked really well here (not a statement I thought I’d ever make).
Anyway, if you can’t tell, I liked this movie. It’s basically the plot of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend in an 86-minute black and white movie, and I love I Am Legend, and I’m happy to say that this is a good film adaptation for fans of the book. And a pretty good film even if you’ve never read it!