Django Unchained – Wife vs. Hubby

My wife and I went to see Django Unchained yesterday. This is part of an exchange deal where I take her to see Les Miserables on our next date.

My wife’s take on Django:

“This is Tarantino at his most self-indulgent.  Long, long-winded, poorly paced.  I went in knowing that it would be enormously offensive (it wasn’t nearly as offensive or difficult to watch at Killing Them Softly) and was surprised to find that it was instead mostly just … dull.  Any editor with sense could have cut at least an hour from this film and made it better.  Instead we have long, lingering shots of plantations, mountains, guns, snowmen, and more that don’t propel the story forward in anyway.  And then, two thirds of the way through the movie, it goes from buddy-flick (two wacky bounty hunters on the road to fame and fortune) to sadistic revenge flick (they enslaved him, and took his woman, now they’ll pay) without much transition.  And finally – this is the very first Tarantino flick I’ve ever watched and not thought I MUST GO BUY THE SOUNDTRACK RIGHT NOW.  There wasn’t a single song in this one that worked for the film (or for me).

So very disappointed.  I hope next week’s viewing of Les Mis is more satisfying.  If only I can keep people from spoiling it (further) for me between now and then…”

My take: Were we even watching the same film? Django was an utter delight. Tarantino has an amazing talent for mashing up and updating genres. To borrow from Kellogg, his dialogue snaps, crackles and pops. The violence was done in an amusingly over-the-top spaghetti western style and the cameo from the original Django, Franco Nero, was a hoot.

The acting ranged from good to amazing. Jaime Foxx carried the film quite well, channeling the quiet reserve of an early Eastwood. Christoph Waltz was fantastic as the bounty hunter as were Samuel L. Jackson and Leonardo DiCaprio. Less good but still a lot of fun were Walton Goggins, Dennis Christopher, and Don Johnson. In addition to Franco Nero, other cameos include Quentin Tarantino, Jonah Hill, Michael Parks, Russ Tamblyn, Amber Tamblyn, James Remar, James Russo, Zoe Bell, Tom Savini, and Robert Carradine.

Having extolled Django’s virtues (and there are many delights to be had here), I have to agree with my wife on a few points. The music appears to have been haphazardly chosen. There wasn’t a single spot on tune. Can you hear “Stuck in the Middle with You” without imagining the ear scene in Reservoir Dogs? All of the songs in Pulp Fiction make me think of their individual scenes yet none of Django’s songs made an impression.

The editing is clearly the sore point. Django runs over two and a half hours. Sally Menke, who expertly edited all of Tarantino’s films passed away in 2010. Sally was nominated for Academy Awards for Pulp Fiction and Inglorious Basterds (losing to Forrest Gump and The Hurt Locker, sheesh). That loss is clearly felt here as almost every scene ran on too long. I love an epic but Django desperately needs to lose about an hour of running time. Some of the dialogue becomes repetitious and establishing shots linger past their expiration date.

Tone is all over the map. The first two-thirds of the film turn Django from a slave into a bounty hunter and then the movie screeches to a halt as we reach Candyland, the plantation DiCaprio reigns over. None of the women make a strong impression – not that the actresses aren’t good, the roles are simply underwritten.

Django is weak Tarantino but weak Tarantino is better than most filmmakers on their best day. It is a lot of fun but it could have been a lot better.

 

More Netflix Before the New Year

Well I had better hurry up with this last update of new Netflix movies. January 1st always brings an avalanche of new titles (and the expiration of plenty of others). Here’s what Netflix added while I was away for the holidays:

Action: Fire with Fire

Comedy: One for the Money, Jeff, who Lives at Home, Felipe Esparza:They’re Not Going to Laugh at You, Sassy Pants, Nantucket Film Festival’s Comedy Roundtable, The Do-Deca-Pentathlon, and Sleepwalk with Me

Documentary: How to Survive a Plague, Marley Africa Road Trip, Kevorkian, False Witness, My Trip to Al-Qaeda and General Orders No. 9

Drama: Red Hook Summer, Hide Away, A Bag of Hammers, and The Loneliest Planet

Family: A Charlie Brown Celebration

Foreign: The Well-Digger’s Daughter, Sign, Manny, Sun Yaar Chill Maar, Camp 14: Total Control Zone and Ek Tha Tiger

Horror: The Theater Bizarre, Bedevilled, A Little Bit Zombie, and Death Tube

Television: The Lying Game, The West Wing, Masterpiece Mystery: Wallander, Girls with Low Self Esteem (ad for Arrested Development) and new episodes of Wicked Attraction, Pound Puppies, Nightmare Next Door, and Army Wives

Planet of the Vampires

Planet of the Vampires is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Planet of the Vampires (1965)

“A spaceship lands on the mysterious planet Aura to search for a missing vessel. They discover the wreckage and realize that the crew members killed each other. The planet is populated by disembodied beings who need host bodies so they can leave aura and conquer Earth. Like zombies, the dead crew rise and kill off the search team.”

Planet of the Vampires is an Italian movie. The original title translates as Terror in Space. Like many European movies of the time they had an American star so that they could sell the overseas rights. Typically the aforementioned star was on loan because they had passed their prime or had problems with pills or alcohol. Word has it that Brian Donlevy used to constantly have a coffee cup filled with booze on the set of Quatermass.

The nominal star here is Barry Sullivan. Sullivan had made a career in movies in the 1940s and 50s which led to two television series Harbormaster (1957-8) and The Tall Man (1960-62). By the time Planet of the Vampires came around, Sullivan’s days as a lead actor were numbered. After Planet, his career consisted of smaller distinguished parts, mostly on television.

Barry Sullivan adds a bit of gravitas as ship Captain Mark Markary. The acting by the Italian crew is fine as is that of the voice actors. There are several female astronauts (yay for forward thinking). One of them collapses in fear on the captain (okay maybe not so forward).

The real star of course is Mario Bava. He not only wrote and directed but also did the cinematography and special effects. The look of the film is fantastic, even if some of the story is lacking. Planet of the Vampires looks like a comic book come to life and this was decades before they started doing justice to comic book adaptations.

Ib Melchior and Louis M. Heyward handled the English translation. Melchior was writer/director of The Angry Red Planet and The Time Travelers and wrote Reptilicus, Journey to the Seventh Planet and Robinson Crusoe on Mars so it is not surprising that he would be tapped to assemble this as an English-language film. Heyward was a producer and, among other films, produced Die, Monster, Die!, the other half of Vampire’s double bill in the United States.

Set design is awesome. I love how none of the myriad switches, lights, and dials are marked in any way. The alien ship is even more mysterious with all sorts of circular doorways and conic controls.

The wonderful black leather spacesuits with yellow striping are not that dissimilar from superhero outfits in the X-Men movies (except for the rad cowled section). Later in the film an away team changes into orange and gray leather outfits. I’m not sure whether the color change affords them more protection or not.

After a shaky landing on the planet that damages the ship, the crew investigates the rocky, foggy, eerily lit alien landscape. They discover an over-sized spaceship, complete with over-sized ancient alien skeleton.

While it seems obvious that Planet of the Vampires heavily influenced Alien, both director Ridley Scott and writer Dan O’Bannon stated in a 1979 interview that they had never seen the film. There are a number of other films that seem to have been directly influenced by Planet of the Vampires such as Pitch Black and Prometheus.

Witchfinder General / Conqueror Worm

Witchfinder General is currently available on instant Netflix and Conqueror Worm (essentially the same film) is available on Amazon Prime.

Witchfinder General (1968)

“Set in 17th-century England, this chilling tale follows corrupt official Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price), who claims an ability to discover witches. But he uses his power to gain money and favors from people he’s fingered in return for declaring them innocent. When he arrests and tortures Father Lowes (Rupert Davies), Lowes’s niece’s fiancé (Ian Ogilvy) decides to put an end to Hopkins’s sleazy practices and goes on a quest to seek vengeance.”

“They swim… the mark of Satan is upon them. They must hang.”

Witchfinder General is the British title. In America it is called The Conqueror Worm after the Poe poem. Other than the presence of Vincent Price, Witchfinder General has nothing to do with the series of Roger Corman / Edgar Allan Poe films. They throw in a few snippets of the poem to use Poe as a selling point but also the poem has nothing to do with the movie. The movie is instead based on the novel Witchfinder General by Ronald Bassett.

Witchfinder General was director Michael Reeves fourth and final film. He had previously directed the horror movies Castle of the Living Dead (1964 with Christopher Lee and Donald Sutherland), She Beast (1966 with Barbara Steele and Ian Ogilvy), and The Sorcerers (1967 with Boris Karloff and Ian Ogilvy). He was chosen to direct The Oblong Box but died at age 25 from an overdose of barbituates.

Reeves wanted Donald Pleasance for the titular role but American International Pictures insisted on a proven box office draw, Vincent Price. While I am sure that Pleasance’s take would have been interesting, this turned out to be Price’s best role in a long line of great roles.

Vincent Price believed his portrayal of Matthew Hopkins to be his finest performance and I concur. This is largely because all camp is removed from his portrayal. His Matthew Hopkins is real evil – a man who uses his office to go around the countryside killing people, settling scores, and taking advantage without actually believing in witchfinding. Vincent Price is ugly and chilling.

Our protagonist Richard Marshall is played by Reeves regular Ian Ogilvy. Ogilvy is a good and stalwart leading man here. He went on to play Drusus in I, Claudius and The Saint in the 1978-79 reboot of the television series.

While they may seem quaint today, Reeves’ scenes of torture and violence were very brutal for this time. It was clear that Reeves wanted to make as authentic feeling a film as possible. Although this story is fiction, there was an actual Matthew Hopkins who claimed to be a Witchfinder. In reality, Hopkins and Stearns tortured and hung Lowes as in the film.

This is another showcase for Price but it is not a fun film to watch as the Poe adaptations were. Watching the pre-credits sequence will give you a feel for whether you want to watch the rest of the film. I recommend this film both for what Reeves was trying to accomplish and for Price’s superlative performance – however this film is ugly and may not be for all audiences as it were.

People Watch: Margaret Nolan plays girl at inn here. She is better remembered as the Bond girl Dink and the golden girl in the opening credits in Goldfinger.

Twins of Evil

Twins of Evil is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Twins of Evil (1971)

“Frieda and Maria, orphaned identical twins are sent to live in a small village with Puritan relatives. But once there Frieda is turned into a vampire by the bite from Count Karnstein. In HD.”

Once again borrowing from AIP Poe lessons, the British Hammer poster is titled Twins of Dracula to tie it in to to their Christopher Lee Dracula pictures. Hammer would go a step further in their The Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires (1974) by adding bookend scenes involving Dracula.

Twins of Evil is the final film in Hammer’s trilogy of Karnstein pictures based (sort of) on Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla. The Vampire Lovers (1970) starred Ingrid Pitt as Carmilla/Marcilla/Mircalla Karnstein and featured Peter Cushing as General von Spielsdorf. It is pretty good and at least tries a little to work with some of the book. Carmilla seems a far more sympathetic vampire than Dracula.

This was followed by Lust for a Vampire with Yutte Stensgaard filling in as Carmilla/Mircalla Karnstein. Ingrid Pitt turned down the role after reading the script. Ralph Bates took Peter Cushing’s role when he had to bow out. Jimmy Sangster replaced director Terence Fisher at the last minute. Mike Raven’s voice ended up being dubbed by Valentine Dyall. This was practically a cursed production. The only thing noteworthy about Lust is the most bizarre use of a bad song in cinema history – the scene is positively surreal.

Twins of Evil is only tangential to Carmilla and is set in the Puritan era, which seems prior to the first two films. Katya Wyeth appears briefly as the Countess Mircalla to tie the films together (Ingrid Pitt again declined). Damien Thomas is the evil Count Karnstein but, depending on how you view Twins of Evil, the star is either Peter Cushing as Gustav Weil or the Collinson twins as Frieda and Maria Gellhorn.

Twins of Evil represents a wonderful melding of Hammer’s traditional vampire stories with the then fairly recent Witchfinder General. Count Karnstein may be the true villain but it is clear that the witchhunter Gustav Weil matches him in evil.

Although Christopher Lee is better known now, Peter Cushing was always Hammer’s biggest star. In spite of being in some terrible films (and plenty of good ones), Cushing never gives a bad performance. Here he has a juicy role as the overzealous Gustav Weil, a stern Puritan with a penchant for burning witches.

Mary and Madeleine Collinson were chosen as Playboy’s Playmate(s) of the month in October 1970, the first identical twin Playmates. The producers of Twins of Evil saw this and built a film around them, dropping The Vampire Virgins premise for the third Karnstein film. Mary and Madeleine were eighteen when Twins was filmed and they have an innocent, ethereal look about them. They are alternately dressed in adorable, fancy matching outfits and suggestive negligees. The twins are quite charming on screen. Their accents must have been thick though, as Ingrid Pitt was in Countess Dracula, their voices are dubbed.

Damien Thomas’ Count Karnstein does well to hold his own against Cushing’s Gustav Weil. Horror character actor Dennis Price (Horror of Frankenstein, Theater of Blood) has a brief juicy role as Dietrich.

The biggest surprise I found was how good Kathleen Byron was as Katy Weil, Gustav’s wife. She had a very long career from her debut in 1938, through the Michael Powell films of the 40s and 50s (Sister Ruth in Black Narcissus), and on into 2001. She played Lady Waddington in The Elephant Man (1980), Mrs. Goddard in Emma (1996), and the elder Mrs. Ryan in Saving Private Ryan (1998).

If you like Twins of Evil, I cannot recommend Synapse’s Blu-Ray. Not only does it present the best picture (though Amazon’s version is quite good), but there is also an 84-minute documentary on the making of Twins of Evil and a featurette on the few surviving Hammer props.

People Watch: Roy Stewart, who appears briefly here as bodyguard Joachim, played tiny parts in a number of Hammer productions: The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb, She, Carry on Up the Jungle, and Prehistoric Women. He later got to play Quarrel in Live and Let Die and Sentor in I, Claudius.

My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine is available on Amazon Prime

My Bloody Valentine (1981)

“There’s a big Valentine’s day party planned in the little mining town of Valentine’s Bluff. It is the first Valentine‘s party in 20 years, because then there was an accident in the mine, and the accident happened because the men responsible for the security were at the party. The sole surviving miner killed them, and told the town NEVER to arrange a valentine party again. The party begins, and so does the killing.”

“From the heart comes a warning, filled with bloody good cheer, remember what happened as the 14th draws near.”

“We’ll have a party in the mine! “

Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (both 1960) were the progenitors of the slasher movie. Strangely Peeping Tom was reviled and ruined Powell’s career while Psycho was quite popular and a departure from Hitchcock’s standard. There were other proto-slashers that followed in the wake but it was not until John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) that the slasher became popular.

Sadly directors did not understand what Carpenter had created and only took away from it, ‘masked maniac kills teenagers’. Friday the 13th (1980) took that formula and added scenes from Italian giallo films, courtesy of budding makeup artist Tom Savini.

By the time 1981 rolled around the slasher genre was in full swing. Tom Savini turned down Friday the 13th part 2 because he was busy working on The Burning. George Mihalka was supposed to direct a slasher called “The Secret” but naturally the title was changed to cover one of the holidays.

Unfortunately the MPAA, perhaps due to the rising popularity of slashers and/or backlash from the death of John Lennon (yes I know he was shot and not stabbed but still), had stiffened their guidelines. My Bloody Valentine had to cut part of each of the kill scenes just to get an ‘R’ rating. Mihalka claimed that 8-9 minutes overall had to be trimmed (though the restored version only adds about three minutes – I’m not sure how that math works). The Amazon version certainly brings the gore.

My Bloody Valentine is a prime example of the slasher genre. It is a simple formula – gather a group of people in an isolated location and kill them off one by one, preferably in a gruesome manner with sharp implements. One thing that sets Valentine apart is that instead of teens, we have working stiffs (admittedly most of them are young) in a mine.

The cast does just fine, not as bad as in some slashers but no standouts either. Paul Kelman plays T.J. Hanniger. Lori Hallier is Sarah, our love interest without a last name. Neil Affleck, who plays Axel Palmer, has gone on to some success behind-the-scenes with a little show called The Simpsons.

A large part of the success of My Bloody Valentine is the setting. The real life mines make a great chase location and the equipment not only provides our requisite mask for the killer but also supplies handy pickaxes. Another reason for the success is probably the volume, frequency and tone of the killings. This was a pretty brutal film back then, even with the MPAA mandated cuts.

Remake-itis: My Bloody Valentine was remade as My Bloody Valentine 3D in 2009. It starred Jensen Ackles from Supernatural which is funny because his Supernatural co-star Jared Padalecki starred in the Friday the 13th reboot. Valentine 3D was good cheesy fun with lots of gore and nudity. specifically designed to take advantage of the 3D.

The Blair Witch Project

The Blair Witch Project is currently available on Amazon Prime.

The Blair Witch Project (1999) – Rated R

“The Blair Witch Project follows a trio of filmmakers on what should have been a simple walk in the woods, but quickly becomes an excursion into heart-stopping terror.”

“It’s not the same on film is it? I mean, you know it’s real, but it’s like looking through the lens gives you some sort of protection from what’s on the other side. “

I hate shaky cam. I loathe that shaky cam action often replaces a well-choreographed fight scene. I abhor that shaky cam is used as shorthand for the director not knowing what to do next.

I am tired of the found footage genre. Found footage can be great (the [REC] series) or lousy (the Paranormal Activity series) or even lousier (various Asylum attempts like Alien Origin). It does not matter – it is time for found footage to go away now.

Neither of those things had worn out their welcome in 1999. Sure, shaky cam had been around for decades as cinema verite but, honestly, how many people watch French art films? The Blair Witch Project was a breath of fresh air in the horror genre.

The public responded well to this very different film. Blair Witch cost about $60,000 to make and raked in just shy of $250 million in global box office. The faux documentary style serves the story well.

The three leads are quite engaging. Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams play characters named after themselves. None of them look like Hollywood actors which helps increase the fiction. Their bantering and bickering seems very natural and later, their terror is pretty well sold.

Writer/directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick crafted a fascinating film. Everything they do serves the fiction that this is a student documentary gone wrong. They use multiple cameras, terrible camera angles, and poor lighting and yet all of it helps increase the tension as something unknown stalks the crew.

Unfortunately if you are of the Paranormal Activity generation, you are unlikely to appreciate what made this film special. Everything that makes Blair Witch work (non-Hollywood actors, faux documentary style, shaky cam, etc.) has been copied ad nauseum. Eduardo Sanchez went on to write and direct the excellent alien film, Altered. Daniel Myrick went on to make the interesting Believers and The Objective.

Sequel-itis: Naturally such a successful movie spawned a sequel. Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 came along the following year. Never mind that it was not written or directed by the same people nor did it star any of the three actors from the original, it was still a license to print money. By the way, it was not a good film.

Near Dark

Near Dark is currently available on Amazon Prime.

Near Dark (1987) – Rated R

“A young man reluctantly joins a traveling “family” of evil vampires, when the girl he’d tried to seduce is part of that group.”

“What you people want? ” – “Just a couple more minutes of your time, about the same duration as the rest of your life. “

Please note that I have used some of the older poster art for this film. The new art is absolutely ridiculous. They spend a good deal of time trying to make Near Dark look like Twilight, even going to the extent of making you think that the man is the vampire by changing his skin color. I seriously laughed out loud the first time I saw that art.

Near Dark was directed and co-written by Kathryn Bigelow. Yes, the Kathryn Bigelow who would become the first female to win an Oscar for Best Director (The Hurt Locker). Bigelow’s writing creates complex characters and gives you that wonderful feeling that this world existed before the movie began.

One of the best things about Near Dark is the mini-Aliens reunion. The main vampires are Lance (Bishop) Henriksen as Jesse Hooker, Jenette (Vasquez) Goldstein is Diamondback, and Bill (Hudson) Paxton is Severen. Near Dark is not as good as Aliens but Near Dark is quite good and those three actors work great together.

Honestly the three of them are the best thing about Near Dark. The leads are not bad but any time the vampire family is not on screen, you miss them. The Aliens veterans really chew up the scenery. James Cameron suggested she use his cast and Cameron and Bigelow would later (briefly) marry.

Adrian (Heroes) Pasdar is our protagonist, Caleb, who really gets to pay for hitting on the wrong girl. The quirky Jenny (Young Guns II) Wright has mixed feelings as the newly vampirized Mae. Joshua John Miller is cute as an eternally too young vampire, Homer. Genre veteran Tim Thomerson has a brief role as Caleb’s father.

Near Dark makes wonderful use of the American southwest, even more so than John Carpenter did in Vampires. Bigelow creates some incredible set pieces here, particularly a grueling yet humorous bar scene and a daylight assault on a hotel room. Action is quite good and the only thing I found lacking was the romantic plot. Tangerine Dream contributes a decent score but it is not iconic like the ones for Sorcerer or The Keep.

People Watch: James Cameron has a cameo as the man who flips off Severen.

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Black Sabbath (1963)

“In this 1963 trilogy of chilling tales, a beautiful woman’s ex-lover terrorizes her, a father returns home a vampire, and a ghost haunts a nurse. The vampire story — probably the most famous of the three — stars a poignant Boris Karloff, who also plays host for the anthology. Italian horror impresario Mario Bava served as writer, director and cinematographer for the film, and composer Les Baxter serves up the martini-soaked lounge score.”

First off I have to admit that having an aging Boris Karloff narrate the film as a disembodied head is more than a little cheesy. I love portmanteau films but having Karloff narrate as a framing device for these three stories does not work very well.

As noted in the Netflix description, Mario Bava wrote, directed, and did the cinematography for Black Sabbath. He loved using colored lighting to great effect, something Roger Corman quickly picked up on and many horror directors have since adapted. Bava was extremely influential on modern horror.

Bava was also literary minded. While he was one of the writers for Black Sabbath, the stories themselves are not originals, but adaptations. The first story, “The Drop of Water” is from Chekhov. No, not Anton but rather Ivan though they carefully omit that part. The best segment, “The Wurdalak”, is an adaptation of a story by Tolstoy. No, not Leo but rather Aleksei (though strangely introduced in the movie as Ivan).

“The Drop of Water” is a good tale of greed and, naturally, comeuppance. The distractions are reminiscent of Poe but it is the body of the Countess that is most striking. I could see children having nightmares from it and it is very creepy, especially for 1963. The distorted features of her face appear to have an influence on films as recent as The Gravedancers.

The second story, “The Telephone” is a disappointing mess. It does not fit in with the Italian version of Black Sabbath as it is really just a noir with a lesbian subplot. For the American version, they make it supernatural by stating that Frank is dead (in the Italian version Frank just got out of prison) and completely eliminating all lesbianism, though you can pick up much from the body language and the rather strained, dubbed dialogue.

The final story, “The Wurdalak” is the real reason to watch Black Sabbath. The story is about a rather different sort of vampire. Boris Karloff appears in this story and gives one of his better performances. Mark Damon, who made a career out of being the American ‘star’ in Italian productions, is the male lead here.

People Watch: Yes, this Italian horror movie is where heavy metal rockers Black Sabbath got their name.

The Last Man on Earth

The Last Man on Earth is currently available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

“A plague has wiped out most of mankind, and those who survived have become bloodthirsty vampires. The only “normal” human left on earth, Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) — who was spared by a twist of fate — spends his days methodically hunting down the undead mutants and his nights barricaded against their attacks. But when he meets the beautiful but contaminated Ruth, he discovers a secret that will unravel what’s left of his existence.”

“Another day to live through. Better get started. “

There was a time when I shopped for a car. Now I’m looking for a hearse.”

The Last Man on Earth begins with some wonderful establishing shots of a deserted city followed by more shots with corpses on the ground. The city has a wonderful desolate feel, like London in 28 Days Later.

Richard Matheson’s novel, I am Legend, is not only excellent source material for a horror movie but also an actor’s dream as the central role is essentially the only important one. It also made it ideal as an Italian adaptation since the token American star (Vincent Price in this case) was, again, the only important one.

Strangely, even though he partially adapted his own novel, Richard Matheson was very disappointed in the movie. He had written many of the Roger Corman – Edgar Allan Poe screenplays for Price (Tales of Terror, The Raven, The Pit and the Pendulum, House of Usher). In spite of that, or perhaps because of Price’s hammy performances in them, Matheson felt Price was not right for the lead role in Last Man.

I find Matheson’s criticism misplaced. Price gives a wonderfully restrained performance as the titular last man. His tired, resigned narration adds to the dreary atmosphere. This is not as good as his performance for Witchfinder General but it is one of his best.

Watching The Last Man on Earth, it is clear that the look and feel clearly influenced George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. While the creatures in Last Man are treated as vampires (mirrors, garlic, wooden stakes), they behave much more like what we now think of as zombies. They are fairly mindless and only dangerous in number.

Remake-itis: Richard Matheson’s I am Legend was adapted again in 1971 as a science fiction vehicle for Charlton Heston. It is fun but the groovy aspects, such as the weird albino vampires and the then-novel African American love interest, make it more of a novelty than a good film.

It was adapted once again in 1997 as a vehicle for Will Smith. He did a great job portraying the loneliness and isolation and they let Matheson’s title stand but I am Legend suffers from an overuse of really goofy CGI and a poor conclusion. Asylum also made a mockbuster in 1997 to cash in on I am Legend. It is called I am Omega and stars martial artist/actor Mark Dacascos.