July 28, 2011

The Last Man on Earth (1960)

"When a disease turns all of humanity into the living dead, the last man on earth becomes a reluctant vampire hunter."

I don't really need to say a lot about this film since it is the classic which inspired "Night of the Living Dead" (1968) and was remade in 1971 as "The Omega Man". The less said about the second appalling 2007 remake ("I am Legend" starring Will Smith), the better. All these movies are based on Richard Matheson's 1954 novella, but this is the only one where the author actually wrote the screenplay (even though he was dissatisfied enough with the final result to have them change his name on the credits to "Logan Swanson").

Although many people consider this to be Vincent Price's best film, I think he was completely wrong for the role in many ways. He acts in a very fussy and impatient manner throughout, often touching everything and flicking his hands as if they are dirty, to the point where he starts to get quite irritating. Also at 49 years old at the time of making this movie (as the IMDb date of 1964 for "The Last Man on Earth" is wrong), Vincent Price may have the excuse of being an older man, but he was beyond awkward in any of the physical scenes and certainly couldn't even run at the end.

Due to the low budget, Italian location, and general sloppiness of the direction, there are a lot of unintentionally funny mistakes and continuity errors. Most of these involve day changing to night and then back again within the same scene, but others highlight the poor quality of the sets particularly towards the end. Some people love looking for things like this though and, to be honest, none of them really spoil the story.

The thing that I noticed most was that the acting is very uneven. Some of it is very "stagey" and dated while other bits are just embarrassing. Most of it is good enough though, and if you are already a Vincent Price fan, you won't care anyway.

Generally, I liked "The Last Man on Earth". Technically, it's not the best movie in the world, it has very little suspense, no scares whatsoever (and absolutely no gore!), but it does have a certain amount of apocalyptic atmosphere. The story itself is good enough to make you want to stay with it until the end.

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