THE LAST MAN
I don't want you to worry about the Ebola virus. A worldwide epidemic is unlikely because Ebola is too deadly. It's transmitted by an exchange of bodily fluids so you have to come into intimate contact with someone who has it. But someone who has it usually gets so sick so fast that they don't have the time or the energy to spread the disease, and then they die. So just cross that off your list of things to worry about.
Well, unless it mutates, which viruses do. And unless the mutated form is airborne and can be spread by the wind. Hmmmmm....
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, written by William Leicester and Furio M. Menotti (the only writing credit for them both) and directed by Ubaldo Regona (VERGINE PER UN BASTARDO) and Sidney Salkow (THE MURDER GAME, TWICE-TOLD TALES), is based on the excellent Richard Matheson novel "I Am Legend", which was also the basis for the Charelton Heston flick THE OMEGA MAN. It was originally released in Italy and suffers from a very low budget, bad direction and lousy special effects, which is a real shame.
The movie opens with scenes of an empty, deserted city. Yards are overgrown with weeds and buildings are falling apart. In spite of the long abandoned look relatively fresh corpses litter the streets. The first sign of life we see is Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price: HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, THE ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS) awakened by an alarm clock. He begins his daily chores and his voice narrates an internal dialogue. Normally I hate narration because it either states the obvious or tells us things that the movie should show us (both signs of lazy writers) but here it works, relating the depths of his bitterness and despair. We see from the scrawled calendar on the wall that he's been living in this house with boarded up windows for three years, since December of 1965. He goes outside and checks to make sure the garlic hanging from his front door is still fresh. The door also sports two crosses and a mirror. The mirror is broken and Morgan comments on the need to replace it because "they" can't stand the sight of themselves.
There are two corpses in his driveway but he is unsurprised. He loads them in his station wagon and drives them to a huge open pit where a fire is blazing. His narration makes it clear that he has disposed of bodies here many times. After stopping at a gasoline truck to fill up and the local supermarket (he has a generator running there and at home so there's still electricity) to get some more garlic Morgan spends the rest of his day looking for them. Vampires. He finds their daytime sleeping places and kills them with home made stakes. He gets back to his house just as the sun is setting.
When it's fully dark the creatures cluster around his well-protected house in what is clearly a nightly ritual. One of the shambling bloodsuckers (think NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, not DRACULA) even calls out Morgan's name.
The next day is more of the same for Morgan, but this time he makes a stop at a
church and reverently sits next to a coffin. He lays his head on it and
speaks lovingly of someone named Verge. Morgan's exhaustion gets the better
of him and he dozes off. He wakes hours later and to his horror sees that
the sun has set. How could the world have ended up like this?
Whew! Dismal stuff, right? That's nothing. Let's pause for a
"In some cases, as people were looking on each other and talking, they began to totter and fell on the streets and at home. It might happen that a person was sitting at work on his craft, holding his tools in his hands and working and would totter to the side and his soul would escape."
He goes on to describe how everywhere one looked were:
My point is that pandemic diseases are not unknown in human history. They've happened before and will happen again. But a disease that turns you into a vampire? Unlikely, I'll admit, but I have no problem with it here. You don't become a superhuman immortal demigod like Dracula. Instead you become a deranged shambling pitiful creature that feeds on blood.
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH is an excellent story handicapped (or should I say cinematically challenged?) by being a low budget Italian B-movie. I give it three shriek girls.
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