THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964)

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The Last Man on Earth Cover In 1972 the comic book legend, Jack Kirby, created a fantastical adventure story called 'Kamandi - The Last Boy on Earth'. In essence, this tale was about a young lad that lived in a nomadic future, which was populated by mutated creatures who wanted to either kill him or aide him. Now I wonder where Jack got the idea for all this from? This film perhaps? This one Directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow, plus Starring: Vincent Price with Franca Bettoia? It was made in 1964, and lasted for a whole 96 minutes.


The Last Man on Earth


THE STORY:
In my most humble opinion, lonely lab-rat, Doctor Robert Morgan (Vincent Price), is a very versatile man indeed. He knows how to drive a car. He can use a lathe to make a wooden stake. Plus he is able to use the radio to figure out if he is last person living on this barren planet.

Well, technically speaking of course, Robert isn't really the 'last person' per-say. By day, he drives himself around pillaging for garlic, mirrors, and other such paraphernalia. So that, by night, he can defend himself from an army of Justin Bieber fans -- also known as 'The living-dead'.

Now believe it or not, life wasn't always' like this for Robert. Three year's previously, he was a happily married man, with a wife, Virginia (Emma Danieli), a daughter, Kathy (Christi Courtland), and a job that entailed him to figure out why a strange air borne virus was infecting the Earth, turning the populous into mindless husks that would attack people during the cover of darkness.

OK. I'm sure that you will agree with me when I say that this does sound like a pretty peculiar turn up for the books, right? But does it sound as bad as when the authorities burn these unfortunate victims in case this plague spreads? Or when Robert suddenly discovers that his own child is infected with this air born malady as well?

Ouch! That's most probably why what next transpires begins when a loving mother comes down with a dose of the Beiber. As a flashback warps Robert to the present day - a stay dog point him in the right way - Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia) turns out to be a spy - and a renegade movement is primed and ready to do or die.




THE REVIEW:
If truth be told, I wasn't really expecting all that much when I sat down and watched 'The Last Man on Earth'. I thought that it would be your normal run of the mill b-movie classic, with low production values, a story that doesn't go anywhere, and an overall through-line that would put me to sleep before the end credits rolled.

But I was wrong. Partly wrong. Even though the effects were just abysmal, and the first twenty minutes of this flick made me pine for my bed, where the story is concerned -- no-no-no -- it slapped me on the back of my head, and forced me to wake up and take notice of this film as I should have done in the first place.


Vincent in The Last Man on Earth


Well, to put it in laymen's terms, this horror movie is aided greatly by three defining factors. Firstly, Vincent Prince is a great actor, and he has managed to convey a hero that is both realistic and mannered, without seeming to coy or cardboard by default. Secondly, the underlining hopeless nature of this film just seems to seep though the celluloid, making the 'feeling of dread' that much more tangible to the touch. And thirdly, as a story in its own right, I felt that this tale was very well structured in hindsight. Beginning at the middle. Then segwaying to the start. And finally flashing back to the present day in a manner that is both engaging and relevant where characterization and plot is concerned.

Granted, to juxtapose this view-point if I may, the initial Vincent Price narration and set-up for this flick was very slow and monotonous to follow. Plus, as I mentioned previously, the 'creature effects' were just crap on so many levels.


The Last Man on Earth Animation


The Last Man on Earth Film Poster
Still, that's not to say that 'The Last Man on Earth' was crap! Right, filmic-facts? (1) 'American International Pictures' first released this picture on the 8th of March, 1964, with very little to no success. (2) American producer, Robert L. Lippert, made this slice of cinema in Rome and Italy, after British film stalwarts, 'Hammer', passed on the idea. (3) Horror legend, George A. Romero, has publicly stated that this film was a visual blueprint for his masterpiece 'Night of the Living Dead'. (4) Vincent Prince wanted to illustrate how hard it was for his character to survive in this adventure by using 'real people' whenever he could -- instead of dummies. (5) This production had two directors on board. Ubaldo Ragona: who was an Italian documentarian that strived to be a filmmaker. And Sidney Salkow: who was a New York based television director, that worked on 'The Addams family' and 'Lassie'. (6) Italian actress, Franca Bettoia, appeared in a number of Anti-communist propaganda films during her career. Most notably 'The Dam Of The Yellow River' made in 1960. (7) This story was based on the novel written by Richard Matheson called 'I Am Legend', and it is more faithful than its other filmic counterparts: 'The Omega Man' and 'I am Legend'. However, there are a number of slight discrepancies in retrospect. Firstly, the main protagonist in the book is called Robert Neville, not Robert Morgan. Secondly, he was a plant worker and not a scientist. Thirdly, the vampires are more adept in the book than they are in the film. And fourthly, in the book, Roberts interpersonal relationships with his dog and Ruth differs quite a bit, plus the conclusion to the story is much more open ended. (8) Not only was scriptwriter, Richard Matheson, dissatisfied with this film -- resulting in him being credited under the pseudo-name, Logan Swanson -- but he also thought Vincent Price was miscast as well.


Vincent Price Speaks in The Last Man on Earth


Overall 'The Last Man on Earth' is what I would call a very engaging piece of cinema. It's well worth the watch for all you nostalgia fans out there. Plus for whoever is curious enough to understand what the 'remakes' were trying to accomplish in raw form. 

THE RATING: B