“I Am Legend” redux

| January 21, 2008

Having seen and reviewed “I Am Legend” (2007) last month, and having re-read the original novella by Richard Matheson, I thought I’d watch the two earlier movies based on that same novella: “The Last Man on Earth” (1964) with Vincent Price, and “The Omega Man” (1971) with Charlton Heston.

I now have a much, much greater appreciation for Will Smith’s version, my complaints about the film’s ending notwithstanding.

The Last Man on Earth” is much closer to Matheson’s novella than the other two films, but that doesn’t make it any better. It was filmed in Italy, and the production values are low, to say the least. Ditto for acting and directing and, oh, just about everything else. Even Price doesn’t do himself any credit with his performance. I dozed off briefly while watching it, but did wake up in time to see Price discover first the dog and then the woman, then run around ahead of a group with guns, then finally die saying “Mutants! Freaks!” Bad film. Bad, bad film.

The Omega Man” is so much a film of the 1970s that it hurts. The music (which is wretched in and of itself, not to mention horribly inappropriate for most scenes where it is used), the clothing, the styles, the camera angles and moves, the lighting — Ack! Thbbt! And then we get to the script itself: “He has the stink of oil, of electrical circuitry about him.” “I just made my move.” “I’m not sure I remember how this goes.” (Thank you, thank you, thank you for not for not putting that last sequence in “I Am Legend”.) “Where did you ever see a stream full of fish in Harlem?” “It works! It works!” “Tonight! Tonight! Tonight!” And so on.

Plus Charlton Heston keeps taking his shirt off and wearing clothes that no sane adult would wear. (At least I like to believe that, though evidence suggests otherwise.) Oh, and the word “honky” is used in a straight line. And the female lead has a serious afro and wears a shiny leather (vinyl?) pantsuit with a turtleneck. And there’s a slo-mo motorcycle jump. And a really stupid kid who screws everything up. And lots of unsubtle Christ/crucifixion symbolism and references (sweet little girl to Heston: “Are you God?”), including the infamous final shot.

I watched these films so that you don’t have to. I may go out and see “I Am Legend” again just to cleanse my palate. ..bruce w..

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Category: Main, Movies, Reviews

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at bwebster@bfwa.com, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.

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