The Last Man on Earth (1964)Posted: September 7, 2010
Although “The Last Man on Earth” was made with a fraction of the budget of either “Omega Man” and “I am Legend,” the debt both later films owe “Last Man on Earth” is unmistakable. Somehow I barely remember “I am Legend.” I remember “Omega Man” fondly, if only for the way in which Heston would sport a stylish cravat as he drank cognac in his fortress of solitude while the vampires raged outside.
All three films have the same idea — a race of vampires, created by disease, lurk outside at night and are unable to stand the light of day while a single human holes up in a fortress at night and forages for what he needs to survive in the abandoned city by day. Vincent Price, as Doctor Morgan in L.M.O.E., spends his nights drinking, sleeping fitfully, making perfectly tapered wooden stakes on a wood turning lathe and listening to jazz records as the ‘vampires’ rage and moan and beat against the shutters and boarded up windows outside his house. He draws calendars on the wall of his fortress, uses a gas powered generator to power his home and goes out by day to scavenge supplies. He is exploring Los Angeles block by block, staking the vampires he finds in the abandoned buildings while they are helpless in the daytime and looking to find the source of the disease. Through a series of flashbacks we discover that he was a researcher working desperately to come up with a cure while the rest of the world succumbed. Morgan believes that because he was bitten by a bat carrying a weak strain of the disease years ago, he has developed an immunity. Everyone else slowly weakens and dies, and, if their corpses are not burned, they eventually rise as slow moving, wretched vampires who are repelled by garlic, sunlight, mirrors and the like.
Morgan eventually discovers that in addition to himself and the vampires, there is a third faction (people who have the vampire disease but keep it in remission with injections). With the help of one of these “remissive vampires,” he is successful in developing a cure, but the rest of the remissives end up misunderstanding his motives and gun him down at the end of the film.