The Last Man on Earth is the predecessor to both “The Omega Man” and “I am Legend”, and is based on the novel by Richard Matheson entitled “I am Legend”.
Starring Vincent Price as the main character, Robert Morgan, this movie is about a plague that has swept the world and killed almost everyone; everyone except Morgan. It also turns out that this plague not only kills its victims, but brings them back to “life” as vampires.
Morgan is a deeply haunted man. He is all alone in this world, with no one to help keep him sane. No human contact whatsoever. He spends every day out hunting down the vampires, going block by block, building by building searching them out in their daytime hiding places to strike them through the heart with stakes that he makes himself. Then he spends every night holed up in his house as he listens to the denizens beat on his house and call for him to come out. He must repair the damage done to his house every morning, including replacing mirrors and garlic on the doors.
The movie is done in three distinct parts. The first part being us introduced to Morgan in the present fighting the vampires.
The second part is a flashback to the past to when the plague first broke out, and we learn that Morgan had a wife, Virginia (Emma Danieli) and a daughter, Kathy (Christi Courtland). We are also introduced to his best friend and coworker, Ben Cortman (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart). Cortman and Morgan work in a lab together trying to find a cure/ immunization against the plague. Cortman becomes obsessed with the idea that the victims are becoming vampires, but level-headed Morgan will not even hear of such nonsense. The government steps in and begin taking the sick from their homes, and burning the dead. In a heartrending scene, Morgan’s little daughter cries out for her mother saying she cannot see. Blindness is the first stage of the plague.
Finally we come back to the present. Morgan is out one day and sees a dog, and he realizes how lonely he has been. On another walk he is shocked to see a young woman standing not 10 feet away from him. He cries out to her, but she starts to run away. He runs after her and catches her. She is still frightened, but he is able to convince her to come back to his house with him. He then learns that he is not quite as alone as he has thought.
Being made in 1964, the movie is in black and white, and Vincent Price is fairly young. He is still, however, a powerful presence on screen. The special effects were not heavily relied on back then (as they weren't very developed), so it fell upon the actors to pull the performance along, and Price does an excellent job of this. The film explores what makes a human and what makes a monster. Morgan kills every day, just as the vampires do – does that make him a better man than them, or just a different type of monster?
This film is unrated due to the year it was made. It has no language or sex scenes. Cigarettes are smoked freely, but once again – this was not a big deal at the time. The gore level compared to today’s films is minimal. I would say the entire family could watch this, but be prepared to answer questions for younger ones.
I rented this DVD with my own funds