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THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) ****

Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend is one of the greatest horror novels ever written.  It spawned three film adaptations; 2007’s I Am Legend with Will Smith, 1971’s The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, and this film.  The Last Man on Earth is far and away the best of the bunch and remains one of the best horror films of the 60’s.  (The novel also served as the unofficial inspiration for Night of the Living Dead.)

 

The one and only Vincent Price stars as Robert Morgan (Robert Neville in the novel, but why quibble), the sole survivor of a worldwide plague that turned the planet’s population into bloodthirsty vampires.  Morgan spends his days foraging for supplies and killing vampires while they sleep.  At night, he holes himself up in his house and turns up his record player real loud so he can’t hear the screams of the vampires banging on his door.

 

The Last Man on Earth is at its best when it’s chronicling Morgan’s day to day routine of sharpening stakes, hanging up garlic and mirrors, staking vampires, and burning their bodies in a massive pit.  These sequences are powerful, haunting, and unforgettable.  The film kinda loses a little bit of its momentum once (Spoiler Alert) The Last Man on Earth realizes he isn’t really The Last Man on Earth, but the downbeat ending packs a wallop.

 

Director Sidney Salkow does a great job at conveying the apocalypse on an obviously low budget.  Salkow never really got his due as a director, which is a shame because he has a knack for creating atmosphere.  (He also collaborated with Price on the underrated Twice Told Tales the previous year.)  The opening shots of the empty streets are appropriately eerie as are the nighttime sequences when the vamps come a calling on Morgan’s doorstep. 

 

The film really belongs to Vincent Price.  The man gave us many stellar performances over the years, but this is his all time best.  If you’ve grown accustomed to his hammy performances in campy horror flicks, then prepare to be blown away by him in this film.  Price is flat out brilliant and the scenes where he reminisces about his dead family are heart wrenching.  If you ever decide to have yourself a Vincent Price marathon (which is something I’d highly suggest you’d do), then The Last Man on Earth should be the first film on your list.

 

The Last Man on Earth is on The Video Vacuum Top Ten Films of the Year 1964 at the Number 4 spot; which puts it just below 2000 Maniacs and right above At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul.

 

AKA:  Naked Terror.  AKA:  Night People.  AKA:  The Night Creatures.  AKA:  Wind of Death.

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