Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Last Man on Earth

I have never read I Am Legend, but I have seen all the films based on the book. I don't think the author Richard Matheson, or Logan Swanson as he is known on this screenplay, likes any of the versions that have been made so far.

The Last Man On Earth starts with Dr. Robert Morgan(Vincent Price) waking up and going about his day. With the help of a lot of what I believe to be unnecessary narration, we find out that Dr. Morgan believes he is the last man on earth after a world wide plague has seemingly wiped out everybody else. The only other survivors have been turned into a type of vampire. His daily chores consist of burning the bodies of the vampires that have died and to replenish his supply of mirrors and garlic, since we all know that vampires hate garlic and can't stand to see their own reflection. I once thought I was a vampire because I could not stand my own reflection, but I just realized it was just because I was ugly!

Once the sun sets the vampires try to get into his house and kill him. These vampires do not wear capes or turn into bats. They look more like the zombies from Night of the Living Dead. This movie came out 4 years before LOTLD, so it seems to have influenced Romero's walking dead. They shuffle along and are easy to get away from as long as there are not too many of them. They are smarter then the Romero zombies, with one vampire being an old friend and fellow scientist Ben Cortman, who actually tried to tell Dr. Morgan that the plague was creating vampires. As he tries to get to Morgan each night he says "Morgan! We're going to kill you!" Not until Dr. Morgans wife dies and comes back from the dead after being buried does he truly believe that they are vampires. Due to the fact that they can come back if simply buried, the "dead" are all burned as soon as they die, including Dr. Morgan's own daughter.
The story is told with flashbacks to the times before and during the beginning of the plague. According to Richard Matheson, this was also used in the book. We also see this in the latest version with Will Smith. It is used effectively when we discover that the vampire telling Morgan he is going to kill him was once his friend. It also shows his reluctance to believing that a plague was creating vampires.

Eventually Dr. Morgan and the audience finds out that he is not the only survivor. However, the other survivors have the plague but have found a medication that will help them deal with the symptoms and not make them completely vampires. During this time we also find out something that I wish this movie would have spent a little more time exploring. These infected people are actually afraid of Dr. Morgan due to his killing and disposing of so many bodies of the infected. In the Will Smith version they also filmed an ending where this was explored, but they ended up going with a more standard ending where the infected where just monsters without any redeeming qualities. Also in that version they show Will Smith using these infected for experiments while trying to find a cure. He is seen as the monster for not realizing that the infected may not be human but they have feelings. I believe that this is explored in detail in the book, even the name comes from the fact that he has become a sort of Legend for his cruelty and lack of compassion.

This was an Italian production, with a cast of all Italian actors except Vincent Price. As with most Italian horror movies, the dialog is all dubbed, sometimes rather badly. At first this is a bit off putting, but I think it adds to the weird sort of vibe that this movies creates. I first saw this as a kid and I always remember it kind of freaking me out. Not only the idea of being the last man on earth, but also seeing the shuffling zombie/vampires for the first time. I was also a huge Vincent Price fan and probably would have liked anything he was in!

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