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The Last Man On Earth (1964)

01/04/2012. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

Buy The Last Man On Earth (1964) in the USA - or Buy The Last Man On Earth (1964) in the UK

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region free DVD: pub: Elstree Hill Entertainment/Pickwick Group 763649. 86 minute black and white DVD. Price: about GBP 2.95 (UK) if you know where to look). stars: Vincent Price, Franca Bettoria, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart and Umberto Raho.

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‘The Last Man On Earth’ has a much maligned past, including said bad comments by the writer of the original story, Richard Matheson. Considering there have been two more versions since then and using the less long-winded name ‘The Omega Man’, shows rather uniquely that they didn’t have to rely on this film’s unpopularity to be successful.

But is the first film any good at all or living off a bad reputation because no one has seen it? From the start, it’s obvious that there has been no digital polishing. In some respects, having this film polished might have made it look too good. This is the last man on Earth after all. Things are going to pot, so why shouldn’t it reflect in the grainy footage?

Dr. Robert Morgan (actor Vincent Price) locks himself in his house at night as the walking dead outside smash its exterior, trying to get inside. Although it’s implied that they are vampires, they seem closer to zombies in their smash actions and low IQs. As Morgan himself points out, they aren’t particularly bright or they might have broken in by now. They do have a fear of garlic and a stake through the heart does kill them. I suspect the latter is equally effective against any living thing but don’t try that at home.
During the day, he goes out and stakes any of these creatures he can find. We follow his life and flashbacks to when the plague took effect and his own failure to save his own family. When he comes across another survivor, Ruth Collins (actress Franca Bettoria), he attributes his immunity to being bitten by a bat when abroad. However, the group she belongs to are determined to kill Morgan because although they aren’t vampires they see themselves as the new species.

The desolation comes over rather well on a low budget and Vincent Price puts over the desperation he lives under and the calmness he tolerates things, simply because there is nothing else he can do. You can see some of the elements that were used in the Charlton Heston version but the main difference there was he was a hunter, whereas Price as Morgan is a scientist coping with an unusual position.

Although the rest of the cast is Italian, the lip sinc is sharp enough not to notice the difference. I thought it was a lot better than it was described and certainly no worse than other foreign films from the same time period. Perhaps not a classic but certainly not unwatchable.

GF Willmetts

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