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.

Jaws 3 – Shark week

With this being 4th of July week and all the tar balls from the BP spill scaring people away from the beaches, I thought I would spend the week covering other reasons to scare you away from the beaches. This is Shark week. Jaws 3 aka Jaws 3-D is currently available on instant Netflix.

PASS: Jaws 3 (1983) – Rated PG.

“When a baby great white shark accidentally finds its way into a Florida theme park, the manager (Louis Gossett Jr.) decides to keep it as the centerpiece for a new exhibit. But he did not anticipate that its angry mother would come looking for her child. As the deadly creature wreaks havoc, park employee Mike Brody (Dennis Quaid) works with his brother and girlfriend to destroy it — with the assistance of two dolphins named Cindi and Sandi.”

“But tell me, how do you contain the sharks in this part of the lagoon? “

Jaws 3 begins, as all 3-D movies must, with an object floating in front of the audience. In this case after a little underwater photography, we have a severed fish head in front of us. Is this supposed to have been a shark attack? If so it is not a very impressive one. We then segue into a 3-D credit for the movie.

This was the first 3D movie that I saw in the theater. We arrived late (normally I am freakishly early) and had to sit all the way to one side. The 3D effect did not work very well at all from our angle so this was hard to enjoy on that level.

Of course it is 2D on Netflix but I still get a kick out of watching the 3D money shots. My younger daughter and I have a game of shouting out “3D” when they occur. Here some of them are particularly bad – an early severed limb comes to mind.

The writing credits are pretty funny. “Suggested by Jaws by Peter Benchley” – yeah in the sense that there is a shark involved albeit one down in Florida this time. Also the Brody children from Jaws are grown up here and the heroes.

The listed writers are Carl Gottlieb, who worked on the first two Jaws movies, and the marvelous Richard Matheson. That would seem to be a good combination but if you go to imdb, they show that Guerdon Trueblood and Michael Kane also as writers and in writing a script, too many cooks do spoil the broth.

Dennis Quaid has an early starring role (with his Enemy Mine co-star no less) here as Mike Brody and is certainly engaging enough. John Putch plays the other Jaws holdover, Sean Brody.

Bess Armstrong plays Kathryn Morgan who thankfully is not just a love interest but actually seems to be more in charge here than anyone else. Unfortunately it is her bright idea to have a great white in captivity. Doubly unfortunately it is a baby great white. I wonder where momma could be?

Well since we have a strong gal to go with our hero Mike, I wonder if we could wrangle one up for little brother Sean. Say I have an idea – lets hook him up with this cute waterskier who is doing her first movie. Lea Thompson makes her film debut as Kelly Ann Bukowski.

Louis Gossett Jr. plays the pompous park owner Calvin Bouchard but is not given much to do besides mug in the first 2/3 and look worried in the last third. Simon MacCorkindale and P.H. Moriarty add a little acting muscle as hunters of a sort.

The premise (giant shark attacks underwater park) would have been wonderful for an over the top B movie (think Deep Blue Sea). Unfortunately they choose to go the serious route with this. The shark attacking the park does not even begin until there is only a half hour left in the movie.

As with Jaws 2, the final half hour is a delight – only here it is a pure cornball delight. Hint: when you have a ridiculous premise, do not spend 2/3 of your screentime setting it up – just run with it.

This movie could have been a cheese classic but it only rates a pass as you have to sit through over an hour of exposition before getting to the good stuff. Hint: when making a third film in a franchise, you do not really need much exposition.

Also another note: if everyone in the movie is an acknowledged expert in their field then perhaps the average age of these people should be over 30. See the ridiculous remake of The Andromeda Strain for the worst case scenario of this.

Okay once again the instant watch transfer is pixelated in spots. I guess this means that all 4 films were transferred lazily. It is a shame because normally their transfers are spot-on and the only fault I find is where they have chosen a full-screen transfer.

People Watch: Dan Blasko, one of the dolphin/whale wranglers, actually gets to play Dan in the movie.