The World of Myth Movie Reviews
Hi, guys. Pixilated Polly here with another round of movie reviews. This time let’s do something different. Courtesy of the Movie gods, we have three film versions of one of my favorite novels, written by Richard Matheson, called “I Am Legend.” I thought it would be fun to compare the three.
(Warning: Spoiler alert! There’s no way to compare them without letting you in on a few key plot points.)
First on our journey, once again taken in Grim’s Wayback machine, is The Last Man on Earth. We’re setting the machine for 1964. Britain’s Hammer Films has declined The Last Man on Earth. They pass the script to their U.S. associate Robert L. Lippert, who produces the film in Italy. Italian director Ubaldo Ragona writes the screenplay and directs. (Back in the future, I checked his credits to see what else we might recognize, but it was all in Italian and nothing looked familiar.) The only name we recognize here is the actor who plays the lead. Polly’s favorite scene chewer: the great Vincent Price portrays Dr. Robert Morgan.
The film opens on a scene of desolation. The city streets are deserted. Everyone has been stricken by a plague. The illness has mutated those it affects into blood sucking monsters. Those few people who were immune became prey. Dr. Robert Morgan is the last man on earth. Even his wife and daughter were struck down by the virus…
By day, Dr. Morgan searches for the monsters. He stakes them and takes them to a big, perpetually burning pit, where he throws them into its depths. By night, he survives by living barricaded inside his home, his phonograph his only joy as he fashions stakes to take on the next day’s run. Shambling bloodsuckers (picture the zombies from Night of the Living Dead) beat their makeshift weapons against the walls and call for him to come out. During one run, Morgan comes across a dog. He chases the mutt, catches it and brings it home with him. Finally, a companion! Sadly, the dog dies.
On another run he finds a woman. Will she replace the dog as his companion or is she something else entirely?
Polly found The Last Man on Earth to be a decent film. The acting was credible, except for Mr. Price, who went beyond credible into excellence (in my biased opinion). The dubbing was distracting… why on earth they dubbed Vincent Price, who spoke English anyway, is beyond me, unless they had to dub everyone to record it correctly. In the tradition of other Vincent Price movies, TLMoE seemed a bit dated, but not enough to take away its entertainment value. There was a truly chilling moment when VP found out who was the real monster.
Pixilated Polly gives The Last Man on Earth 3 ½ howl of pleasure .
* * *
Let’s take another trip on the Wayback machine. Snap, crackle, pop… lights flash… we smell burning electrical circuits, and it’s 1971. Charleton Heston is reading the novel I Am Legend on an airplane flight, and decides he wants to make a “modern movie” of the same. The result is The Omega Man.
Biological warfare has caused a plague on mankind. Dr. Robert Neville is alone and surviving the best he can. To push back the silence, he talks to himself. He talks to a bust of Julius Caesar, with whom he plays chess. His days are spent finding the mutant, flesh-eating zombies. He spends his nights barricaded in his home, the comforts of which are powered by a generator locked in a garage. One day, Neville, while in a precarious position, stumbles upon a human. This is no ordinary woman. She is tough. She gets the draw on him and knocks him out. When he awakens, he finds out she isn’t alone.
There can be no doubt The Omega Man is a Charleton Heston vehicle. We get lots of bare chest shots of the fine specimen of a man. The future president of the NRA uses guns to fight the monsters.
Unlike The Last Man on Earth, there is no dog in TOM. There aren’t any dogs in the dialogue either—this is a smart aleck movie. Here are a few examples.
Robert Neville: (seeing himself on a monitor) Hi, Big Brother, how's your ass?
Little Girl: (looks up at Neville) Are you God?
Lisa: Let's find out if he's even a doctor before we go promoting him, okay?
Lisa: (drawing blood from Neville for a vaccine) Will one bottle be enough?
Robert Neville: It's genuine 160-proof old Anglo-Saxon, baby.
Lisa: It's OK, Tommy. This is the man... and I mean "The Man," but he's cool.
That last snippet of dialogue shows what, depending on your feelings on the subject, will make TOM either lots of fun to watch, or a cheese festival. Charlton Heston’s words “Modern movie” turned out to be the height of irony. What was considered modern in 1971 looks amusingly dated today.
Let’s leave with a bit of trivia. When asked about TOM, Richard Matheson said, “The Omega Man is so removed from my book that it doesn’t bother me.”
Pixilated Polly enjoyed the look back at 1971 and Charlton Heston’s consummate scene chewing made Vincent Price’s seem tame. The Omega Man gets 3 howls of pleasure .
* * *
Now back to the present. Cue special effects on the Wayback machine. We’ve arrived. I Am Legend is out on DVD. Let’s watch.
The film opens with a pair of talking heads in an interview: one a reporter and the other a doctor. The reporter asks the doctor how the clinical trials are going on a new vaccine for cancer. The doctor says the serum was tested on ten thousand and nine human beings. “And how many are cancer free?” asks the reporter. The doctor replies, “Ten thousand and nine.”
Cut to abandoned cityscape. Cue the wild animals. Dr. Robert Neville (Will Smith), driving a badass mustang, is either chasing, or trying to avoid the deer, (I couldn’t be sure) who explode across the screen. His beautiful German Shepherd Sam accompanies him. IAL begins with action and is action filled throughout. Neville captures zombies to take back to his lab as he tries to find a cure. This time there’s no shambling like in TLMoE; these zombies are fast! When Neville captures a female, he earns the ire of the alpha male. And the alpha male is out for revenge!
IAL is a heartbreaking movie. Neville begs a mannequin to speak to him. He loses his last companion (Polly cried). Smith portrays a lost and broken man whom, when he finally does find 2 human beings, rages because they’ve eaten his bacon. He watches Shrek, quoting the dialogue line for line. Movies and mannequins (and Sam) have been his only company for three years, and it shows.
I found IAL somewhat depressing. As the end of mankind might well be. The following dialogue sums up its tone:
Anna: The world is quieter now. We just have to listen. If we listen, we can hear God's plan.
Neville: God's plan.
Neville: All right, let me tell you about your "God's plan." Six billion people on Earth when the infection hit. KV had a ninety-percent kill rate, that's five point four billion people dead. Crashed and bled out. Dead. Less than one-percent immunity. That left twelve million healthy people, like you, me, and Ethan. The other five hundred and eighty-eight million turned into your dark seekers, and then they got hungry and they killed and fed on everybody. Everybody! Every *single* person that you or I has ever known is dead! Dead! There is no god!
I Am Legend is a good, downer of a movie, which ends on a note of hope. It has little to do with the book, but it’s enjoyable all the same.
Pixilated Polly gives I Am Legend 3 ½ howls of pleasure .
Thank you for journeying the movie world with me. Now I’m off to find Richard Matheson’s wonderful novel and give it a good read. I suggest you do the same. Until next time…