The Last Man on Earth (1964)

lastmanonearth1What’s worse: dying from the plague, or being the only human on Earth immune to it? Tough question, right? I guess that’s why Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend has been filmed more than a few times. My first foray into Matheson’s depressing world is the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth, which scores points right away for starring Vincent Price.

It’s probably been at least two or three years since the plague hit and Dr. Robert Morgan (Price) lost everything and everyone. Instead of fun-filled, smiling days with his family, he spends the daylight hours sharpening wooden spikes and raiding abandoned grocery freezers for whatever garlic is still left. His nights are spent hunting the vampires. They come for him in droves, but are so slow and dumb, they don’t present much of a fight.

lastmanruthThere is always the hope that he will find someone else, another human who hasn’t succumbed to the plague. Years of pleading into the radio have yielded nothing, but one day, he runs into a young woman named Ruth. That’s when things get really interesting.

See, turns out, some of those monsters he’s been indiscriminately killing aren’t exactly monsters – at least, not yet. As Ruth explains to our hero, she’s part of a society of folks who have found a cure, sort of. It works for a few hours until the illness starts to set in again. She’s been sent on a spy mission of sorts, to try and figure out the story behind the boogeyman murdering all her friends!

Though the film itself is a little slow-paced and grainy, the concept is compelling and terrifying enough to fuel the film for its 86 minutes. It sure is much more interesting and thought-provoking than your average vampire flick. And, I mean, come on, who doesn’t want to watch Vincent Price: Vampire Hunter? Of course, now I’m curious about the other adaptations as well as the source material. Guess I better get to researching…


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