Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: ‘The Last Man on Earth’

The Last Man on EarthThe Last Man on Earth (1963) Directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow. Starring Vincent Price, Emma Danieli, Franca Bettoia, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart.

After the intensity of the last film I reached for something a bit older and tamer. And after watching House of Wax I realized that, for a horror fan, I have not seen nearly enough Vincent Price films. So I picked up the DVD of The Last Man on Earth that I’ve had sitting around for a while.

Robert Morgan (Price) is the eponymous last man on earth. The world has succumbed to a plague that has turned the rest of humanity into vampires. Well, not literally vampires but the infected are repulsed by garlic and Morgan uses wooden stakes to kill them…. something about the wound staying open keeping the organism from replicating… and while their reflections are visible they cannot stand to see themselves in mirrors. Morgan spends his days maintaining a dreary existence and protecting his home from the angry, shambling undead. He hangs garlic and a mirror on his front door, takes dead bodies to a pit for burning, and dwells on the fate of the world and his failure to save it and his family. If only there were something to live for… perhaps if there were someone else in left in the world… someone to help take off of his mind the horrible fate of his family…

The Last Man on Earth is based on the novel I Am Legend that was written by the great Richard Matheson. A major novel in the horror genre in its own right, it also directly influenced George Romero to film the classic Night of the Living Dead.  This Vincent Price vehicle is one of about four film versions of the book and it holds the truest to the source material of them all, probably because the script was partially written by Matheson himself. However, after his disappointment in subsequent rewrites by others he disavowed himself from the movie. In order to retain residuals he used the pseudonym “Logan Swanson”.

The film is engaging but uneven. The long flashback sequence that reveals how civilization fell drags a bit but contains the film’s most frightening scene. It’s been a while since I’ve read the novel so I can’t say where the deviations from the novel might have affected the movie’s quality. I’ll need to revisit it soon.

Price is the star of the show, of course, and he’s best in the early scenes where we see him going through the day to day business of trying to stay alive in a post-apocalyptic world. Surviving as the last man on earth is a dull, lonely existence. He is weary, bored; he’s had it with dragging the infected into the daylight and killing them. Price’s frustration is catching. He makes us feel for his plight. But there are other areas where he rings a bit false. He sometimes overplays his sorrow to campy levels.

This is another case of me wanting to like the film more but coming away slightly disappointed. Perhaps a more even performance from its star and a tighter script might have helped matters. Still, it’s worth watching if only for the good parts of Vincent Price’s role in what is considered by some to be a minor classic of the horror genre.


One Response to “Halloween Horror Movie Marathon: ‘The Last Man on Earth’”

  1. Michael K Vaughan Says:

    I saw this for the first time on channel 2 when I was just a kid. I thought it was great. Years later, after reading the book, I still liked it but kind of felt the way you do. I have to say that it is far and away the best of the film versions of I am Legend (with all due respect to the entertaining Omega man). I would watch it twenty more times in a row before I again would watch the crappy CGI, Christian propaganda Bullshit version that came out a few years ago.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: