Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) gets up every morning and marks each day on his current calendar with a little “X”. I presume that means to symbolize each day he has successfully lived through. Then, he checks the garlic and mirrors that are placed on his door. If he needs more; then he makes a trip to town/city in his car. He goes for a ride; but not to sightsee. He has important business. Sometimes, he needs gas, sometimes he needs more garlic and another mirror (although he only “takes what he needs; he’s an honest man), and occasionally, he stops at a ditch so that he can unload bodies and watch them burn, burn, burn.
He is the last man on earth. Or so he thinks. Everyone else around him – and there are plenty of seemingly human beings to spare – is a bloodthirsty vampire forever intent on killing him. Every night is the same old routine; the vamps try to break down Robert’s barricades by first evading the traditional vampire phobias (the garlic, the mirrors, and oh, what’s this; even the wooden stakes). Each night, they fail to succeed; and the hero lives another day. Luckily for him, it’s in the day that he can get things done. And to Robert, there’s always much to do about…something.
“The Last Man On Earth” is one of the three film adaptations of Richard Matheson’s “I Am Legend”; and it’s most likely the best you can get when it comes down to the trio. It’s a competently-crafted, well-intentioned, low-budget science fiction horror movie that isn’t necessarily faithful to the source material that inspired it, but nonetheless, it can build atmosphere and tension like a pro. The film keeps building-and-building tension, eventually hoping to lead up to something, and believe me; there’s a conclusion that proves my claim that it DOES indeed end somewhere, and on a satisfying note. Some might disagree, and most will have problems with the film that are difficult to overlook, but as entertainment, “The Last Man on Earth” is a mighty success. But as a narrative, eh…not so much.
I have no problem with the apocalyptic story. I am respectful and very admiring of Matheson’s original novel, which served and still serves to this day as an influential work of sci-fi horror fiction, but most of the emotional impact is taken away here through some distracting dubbing and a scenery-chewing performance from Price; who is always wonderful, and does not intend to change that here. There isn’t much of a point in going in-depth about how much I liked Price in his role here, because really, if I’ve done it once, then I’ve done it more than enough times. One thing that’s worth mentioning might be that Price wasn’t the essential choice for the character of Robert Morgan (who was called Robert Neville in the source novel). Plenty of other, slightly inferior actors could have fit the role just fine. I’m glad that Price did take on the character, but there’s always the sense that here, he lacks the same unforgettable and unique sense of style or wit that he has had in his various other projects (and roles).
It may sound like I wasn’t too fond of “The Last Man on Earth”, and indeed, I am giving a positive review to a movie that probably doesn’t deserve the kind of praise that outweighs the “bad” by a long-shot, but in reality, I did like this film. It’s an excellent piece of entertainment, the production isn’t as bad as it was initially thought to be (really, I’ve seen much worse out of today’s “entertainment”). In the end, through all its imperfections and unfaithfulness, it’s a quality product and I was pleased with it. You might like it too if you are affectionate of “I Am Legend”, the novel, but then again, maybe you’ll find even more to complain about. As a critic, it would be wrong to direct you anywhere other than down your own path. My positive rating entails that I recommend the film, and believe me, I do, but I was *this* close to giving it a slightly lower rating, but a lot of thinking soon changed that. “The Last Man on Earth” doesn’t necessarily delve deep into its thematic elements, but it does create a convincing and nightmarish landscape, and slow vampires scare me more than the fast ones any day (even if the fast ones were the creation of Matheson in the book, and their pace has been changed for the film). Whether this review makes you skeptical or not; this film is worth a good look, if only out of curiosity. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.