After an epic outbreak of disease, a man thinks that he is the last man on the planet. He has gone through so much to reach this point and yet he does not care why he is alive. All he wants to do is stay that way. If this premise sounds familiar to you, then you have probably seen I am Legend, a film that came out a couple of years ago and stars Will Smith. If you are super cool and are into seventies horror films, you have probably seen The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. But unless you know what you are looking for than you probably haven’t seen the original adaptation of the book that two previous films were based on. The Last Man On Earth stars Vincent Price as the only man alive that is still aware of his surroundings. The film was made on a shoe string budget in Italy in the early sixties and due to a couple of copyright issues can be found in those cheap dollar movie bins at Wal-Mart or streaming online. It has never gotten the lauded Criterion treatment or been included in a hidden treasure list of a film critics, but it still floats around waiting patiently to be watched and enjoyed by someone who knows what they are watching and what the limits of the film are.
The limits of this film are many. Vincent Price is the only character for most of the film and this leads to a lot of voiceover in order for the story to advance along. The voiceover can become tiring sometimes especially when it gives no more information than what we would have gotten had we just watched the images pass our eyeballs. The constant score beneath the voiceover can be even more grating because it never really seems to know what kind of film it is. Of course the only good actor in this film is Vincent Price and every other actor or actress looks like they are reading off of cue cards. His wife is only seen in flashback and then only for a few scenes, but by the time each scene reached its end I wanted to slap her. The ideals of the nuclear family are lauded so much I wanted to puke. But by the end of the film, I didn’t seem to care too much about those problems. I cared too much about Dr. Robert Morgan and the half human half vampire creatures trying to get him. His struggles are so mundane yet true to survival. He goes hunting for the vampire-zombie creatures by day, transports bodies to a smoking pit, replenished his reserve of garlic and wooden stakes, and constantly he is searching for a cure. Not that it means a whole lot any more. That is until he finds a woman who seems to still be alive and cognizant. This woman seems to be scared of him, but he rejoices in his discovery and seeks to protect her. But there is something wrong with her.
This film is more about the struggle to survive despite crushing loneliness than it is about the vampire-zombies that threaten to destroy him. He gets no happiness out of killing any of the walking dead or anything else he does. But the fact that he is still alive is all that counts. It is all that ever really counts. If you are alive than you have another chance to fix things. All he wants is to fix things. Then everything will be okay again.