Throwback Thursday – Last Man On Earth (1964)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back.

A personal favorite guilty pleasure type movie from the 70s is the Charlton Heston flick The Omega Man. which I’ll be writing about soon, and which was the second film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend. So for today’s Throwback Thursday I thought I’d revisit this article from Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest first posted Feb 9, 2010.

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Tuesday Terrors – The Last Man On Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price

lmoe1Hello?! Is there anyone out there? Oh, thank goodness. For a moment I was afraid that there was no one left but me and Richard Morgan. (Morgan! Morgan! Come out Morgan!) Who’s Richard Morgan, you ask? Why he’s the character played by Vincent Price in today’s feature. He’s The Last Man on Earth.

In 1964, Italian director Ubaldo Ragona and American Sidney Salkow set out to adapt Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend to the big screen. Hiring Matheson himself to write the screenplay (though he eventually decided he was disappointed with the outcome and had the credit changed to “Logan Swanson”) and Vincent Price to star, the duo felt they had a sure-fire hit on their hands. Unfortunately, the film was hampered by an obviously low budget and some of the Italian actors were very badly dubbed, and it wasn’t until later years that the film came to be seen as anything more than a minor Price effort. Now, however, it has a 73% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and is considered by many to be the best of the three major adaptations of the novel. The other two being the 1971 Charleton Heston starring The Omega Man, and 2007’s Will Smith actioner I Am Legend .

Set in the then-near-future time of 1968, Price stars as Dr. Richard Morgan, the last survivor of a plague that has turned most of humanity into near-zombie like vampires. Since the plague hit, Morgan now finds himself spending each day making wooden stakes, hunting the vampires, and burning them in a communal pit. Each night is a torment to be endured as he tries to keep the continually persistent vampires from breaking into his home, which has become his last refuge.

Morgan, as played by Price, becomes a very sympathetic figure as we learn that he has not only lost his daughter to the plague, but he has had to put a stake through the heart of his wife who returned as one of the vampires after he could not bear to throw into the fire pits when she, too, succumbed to the disease.

lmoe2When he finally encounters another living human, a woman, who seems to also be immune to the disease, Morgan is at first elated, but his joy soon turns to suspicion and then fear as he learns that she is hiding a dark secret. Will she be the key to helping him resurrect humanity, or will she be the final nail in the coffin of the last true man?

As you can perhaps tell from the above, this is a movie that i like a great deal. Yes, the budget was minimal, but it simply forced all involved to come up with more creative solutions to the presentation. Plus, Price injects a great amount of humanity into a role that would in lesser hands be very flat. We not only hear the increasing desperation of the character in the voice-over narration that guides us through the film, but we see it on his face to an extent that becomes almost palpable.

So, again we have to ask, how did a movie from 1964 starring one of terror-dom’s greats come into the public domain. Again, the answer is simple. Before the law was changed so that everything that is produced is automatically copyrighted, a notice of copyright had to be filed, and that was never done. Therefore, automatic Public Domain.

And here’s the trailer:

Ok, the skinny:
Title: The Last Man on Earth
Release Date: 1964
Running Time: 86 min.
Stars: Vincent Price
Directors: Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow
Producers: Robert L. Lippert, Samuel Z. Arkoff, Harold E. Knox
Distributed by: American International Pictures

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting
-Professor Damian

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.

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