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The Last Man on Earth

A promotional film poster for The Last Man on Earth.
Directed by Ubaldo Ragona
Sidney Salkow
Produced by Robert L. Lippert
Samuel Z. Arkoff
Harold E. Knox
Written by Novel:
Richard Matheson
Screenplay:
Furio M. Monetti
Ubaldo Ragona
William Leicester
Richard Matheson (as Logan Swanson)
Starring Vincent Price
Franca Bettoia
Emma Danieli
Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
Music by Paul Sawtell
Bert Shefter
Cinematography Franco Delli Colli
Editing by Gene Ruggiero
Franca Silvi
Distributed by American International Pictures
Release date(s) 8 March 1964
Running time 86 min
Country Flag of the United States.svg / Flag of Italy.svg

The Last Man on Earth (Italian: L'ultimo uomo della Terra) is a 1964 Italian horror/science fiction film based upon the Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. The film was directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow, and stars Vincent Price. The script was written in part by Matheson, but he was dissatisfied with the result and was therefore credited as "Logan Swanson". William Leicester, Furio M. Monetti, and Ubaldo Ragona were the other writers.

It was filmed in Rome, Italy, and was later released theatrically in the United States by American International Pictures. It has since fallen into the public domain. MGM Home Video, the current owners of the AIP film catalog, released a digitally remastered widescreen print on DVD in September 2005.

Contents

Plot summary

In the year 1968, every day is the same for Dr. Robert Morgan (Price): He wakes up, gathers his weapons and then goes hunting for vampires. Morgan lives in a world where everyone else has been infected by a plague that turns them into undead, vampiric creatures. They cannot stand sunlight, fear mirrors, and are repelled by garlic. They would kill Morgan if they could, but fortunately, they are weak and not very smart. At night, Morgan locks himself inside his house; during the day, he kills as many vampires as he can, burning the bodies.

Flashbacks explain that his wife and daughter succumbed to the plague. Instead of taking his wife to the same public burn pit used to dispose of his daughter's corpse, Morgan buried her without the knowledge of the authorities. Morgan becomes aware of the need to kill the plague victims with a wooden stake when his wife returns to his home and attacks him. Morgan hypothesizes that he is immune to the bacteria because he was bitten by an infected vampire bat when he was stationed in Panama, which introduced diluted plague into his blood.

One day, a dog appears in the neighborhood. Morgan chases after the dog but does not catch it. Some time later, the dog appears, wounded, at Morgan's doorstep. He takes the dog into his home and treats its wounds, looking forward to enjoying his new friend's company. He quickly discovers, however, that it too has become infected with the plague. Morgan is later seen burying the dog, which he has impaled with a wooden stake.

While out on his daily rounds, Morgan spots a woman in the distance. The woman, Ruth, is terrified of Morgan at first sight, and runs from him. Morgan convinces her to return to his home, but is suspicious of her true nature. Ruth becomes ill when Morgan waves garlic in her face, but claims that she has a weak stomach.

Morgan's suspicion that Ruth is infected is confirmed when he discovers her attempting to inject herself with a combination of blood and vaccine that holds the disease at bay. Ruth then tells him that she is part of a group of people like her — infected but under treatment — and was sent to spy on Morgan. The vaccine allows the people to function normally with the drug in the bloodstream, but once it wears off, the infection takes over the body again. Ruth explains that her people are planning to rebuild society as they destroy the remaining vampires, and that many of the vampires Morgan has killed were technically still alive.

While Ruth is asleep, Morgan transfuses his own blood into her. She is immediately cured, and Morgan sees hope that, together, they can cure the rest of her people. Moments later, however, Ruth's people attack. Ruth initially draws a gun on Morgan, but surrenders it to him. Morgan takes the gun and flees his home while the attackers kill the vampires gathered around Morgan's home.

Ruth's people spot Morgan and chase him. He exchanges gunfire with them, and picks up tear gas grenades from a police station armory along the way. While the tear gas delays his pursuers somewhat, Morgan is wounded by gunfire and retreats into a church. Despite Ruth's protests to let Morgan live, he is finally impaled on the altar by a spear thrown by one of Ruth's people. With his dying breaths, Morgan denounces his pursuers as "freaks," and declares that he is the last true man on earth.

Critical reaction and legacy

Although The Last Man on Earth was not considered a success upon its release, the film has recently gained a more favorable repuation as a classic of the genre.[1] The Last Man on Earth currently holds an 80% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[2] Phil Hall of Film Threat called The Last Man on Earth "the best Vincent Price movie ever made."[1] Awarding the film three and a half stars out of four, Danél Griffin of Film as Art said, "Directors Sidney Salkow and Ubaldo Ragona and star Vincent Price (giving a poignant, straightforward performance) are able to conjure up some genuine chills here, mainly in the use of stark, black-and-white images and the underlining mood of the piece."[3]

Among the less favorable reviews, Steve Biodrowski of Cinefantastique felt the film was "hampered by an obviously low budget and some poorly recorded post-production dubbing that creates an amateurish feel, undermining the power of its story",[4] while Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader remarked, "Some would consider this version better than the 1971 remake with Charlton Heston, The Omega Man, but that isn't much of an achievement."[5]

Among the film's creators, Price "had a certain fondness for the film" and felt it was better than The Omega Man.[4] Richard Matheson, who co-wrote the film's screenplay under the name "Logan Swanson", remarked, "I was disappointed in The Last Man on Earth, even though they more or less followed my story. I think Vincent Price, whom I love in every one of his pictures that I wrote, was miscast. I also felt the direction was kind of poor. I just didn’t care for it."[6]

George A. Romero has acknowledged the source material of The Last Man on Earth as an influence on his film Night of the Living Dead, remarking that he "basically had ripped [it] off from a Richard Matheson novel called I Am Legend."[7] Numerous critics have suggested The Last Man on Earth film itself was also a source of inspiration for Night of the Living Dead.[3][8]

Differences from the novel

The protagonist of the novel is named Robert Neville, not Robert Morgan. The movie also changed Neville/Morgan's profession from plant worker to scientist. The vampires are almost zombie-like, where as in the book, they are fast, capable of running and climbing. The dog that shows up on Neville's doorstep is timid in the novel, and comes and goes as it pleases. The relationship with Ruth also slightly differs from the novel, and no transfusion takes place; a cure seems implausible, even as Neville hopes he will find one. Ruth escapes after Neville discovers that she is infected. He isn't captured until many months later, and even then he barely fights his capture. The book ends shortly before Neville is to be executed: Ruth returns to give him suicide pills, and finds it ironic that he has become as much of a legend to the new society as vampires once were to his (hence the title). The novel implies that the vampire plague resulted from a biological disease. The origin of the disease is not explained in The Last Man on Earth, and is altered in the subsequent adaptations.

Cast

  • Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan
  • Franca Bettoia as Ruth Collins
  • Emma Danieli as Virginia Morgan
  • Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Ben Cortman
  • Umberto Raho as Dr. Mercer
  • Christi Courtland as Kathy Morgan
  • Antonio Corevi as the Governor
  • Ettore Ribotta as the TV Reporter
  • Rolando De Rossi
  • Carolyn De Fonseca dubbed for Ruth Collins' voice in the English release of the film. She was uncredited.
  • Giuseppe Mattei as the leader of the survivors. He was also uncredited.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b THE BOOTLEG FILES: "THE LAST MAN ON EARTH" Phil Hall, Film Threat, April 21, 2006
  2. ^ The Last Man on Earth reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^ a b The Last Man on Earth review by Danél Griffin, Film as Art: Danél Griffin's Guide to Cinema
  4. ^ a b The Last Man on Earth (1964) - Film Review Steve Biodrowski, Cinefantastique, January 29, 2008
  5. ^ The Last Man on Earth review by Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader, December 10, 2007
  6. ^ Reflections of a Storyteller: A Conversation with Richard Matheson by William P. Simmons, Cemetery Dance magazine
  7. ^ "One for the Fire: The Legacy of Night of the Living Dead" — Night of the Living Dead DVD, 2008, Region 1, Dimension Home Entertainment
  8. ^ Thomas Scalzo, The Last Man on Earth (film review)

External links

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Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The Last Man on Earth (Italian title: L'Ultimo uomo della Terra) is a 1964 Italian horror/science fiction film based upon Richard Matheson's best-selling novel I Am Legend.

Directed by Ubaldo Ragona. Written by Furio Monetti, Ubaldo Ragona, Willaim Reischester, and Richard Matheson
Do you dare to imagine what it would be like to be... the last man on earth... or the last woman? (taglines)

Contents

Robert Morgan

  • Another day to live through. Better get started.
  • December 1965. Is that all it has been since I inherited the world? Only three years. Seems like a hundred million.
  • I can't afford the luxury of anger. Anger can make me vulnerable. It can destroy my reason and reason's the only advantage I have over them.
  • [filling up a bag with stakes] How many more of these will I have to make before they're all destroyed? They want my blood. Their lives or mine. I still get squeamish.
  • Better put that garlic back where it belongs. I can't live a heartbeat away from hell and forget it.
  • This is Robert Morgan. If somebody can hear me, answer me. For God's sake, answer me!
  • Your new society sounds charming.
  • Freaks! All of you, freaks! Mutations! I'm a man! The last... man...

Other

  • Kathy Morgan: Mommy, where are you? Mommy, I can't see.
  • Ben Cortman: Morgan, come out!
  • Virginia Morgan: [Virginia has become a vampire] Let... me... in.

Dialogue

Ruth Collins: But you lived through all this. Do you know why?
Robert Morgan: Perhaps I was chosen.

Ben Cortman: There are stories being told, Bob.
Robert Morgan: By people who are out of their minds with fear.
Ben Cortman: Maybe. But there are too many to be just coincidental. Stories about people who have died and have come back.
Robert Morgan: They're stories, Ben, stories.

Ben Cortman: You're whistling past a graveyard.
Robert Morgan: Is that a commentary on my work at the lab?

Ben Cortman: Who is it?
Robert Morgan: It's me, Ben! We're late!
[Ben answers the door]
Robert Morgan: Ben, what's the matter with you?
Ben Cortman: Nothing and I'm going to keep it that way.
Robert Morgan: Ben, look, let's talk about this.
Ben Cortman: There's nothing to talk about. You think I'm out of my mind. You laughed at me and my theory. You might be one of them.
Robert Morgan: Ben, look, you're ill. You ought to see a doctor.
Ben Cortman: No doctors! You take care of your life, I'll take care of mine. Now get away from here. You understand, get away from here!
Robert Morgan: [slams the door]

Dr. Mercer: You're the only one who wasn't afraid to come here today.
Robert Morgan: What's going to happen, Dr. Mercer? Is everybody in the world going to die before someone finds the answer?
Dr. Mercer: No, I don't think so. I don't deny there's some strange evolutionary process going on, but mankind won't be destroyed. The fact that you and I are working here today is evidence of that.

Tagline

  • By night they leave their graves, crawling, shambling, through empty streets, whimpering, pleading, begging for his blood!
  • Do you dare to imagine what it would be like to be... the last man on earth... or the last woman?
  • Alive among the lifeless... alone among the crawling creatures of evil that make the night hideous with their inhuman craving!

Cast

  • Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan
  • Franca Bettoia as Ruth Collins, an infected individual
  • Emma Danieli as Virginia Morgan, the wife of Robert Morgan
  • Giacomo Rossi-Stuart as Ben Cortman
  • Umberto Raho as Dr. Mercer
  • Christi Courtland as Kathy Morgan
  • Antonio Corevi as the Governor
  • Ettore Ribotta as the TV Reporter
  • Rolando De Rossi
  • Carolyn De Fonseca dubbed for Ruth Collins' voice in the English release of the film. She was uncredited.
  • Giuseppe Mattei as the leader of the survivors. He was also uncredited.

External links


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