1971: Release of the film "The Omega Man" - Last Remaining Human On Earth
In 1954, Richard Matheson published the novel I Am Legend. The novel was adapted for the film The Last Man on Earth (1964), starring Vincent Price. Then, in 1971, a second adaptation of the novel was released, The Omega Man. The film was directed by Boris Sagal and stars Charlton Heston as Robert Neville, M.D. You can’t forget the other stars of the film, the mutants, who, as Roger Ebert says, “can't stand light, they all have nasty bruises over their left eyebrows, and they wear the costumes of medieval monks,” are “incompetent and ill-coordinated,” and speak in an “elevated” English.
For this adaptation, the plot was changed, and the author has said, “The Omega Man was so removed from my book that it didn’t even bother me.” In the book, the disease does not come from biological warfare, but is instead spread by bats and mosquitoes. One of the screenwriters, Joyce Corrington, who holds a doctorate in chemistry, thought it was more realistic to have to plague come from biological warfare.
Nocturnal Albino Mutants
Nocturnal Albino Mutants
The biological warfare arose from a 1975 border conflict between China and the Soviet Union. This caused the decimation of humanity. Two years later, Neville believes that he is the sole survivor of the plague, and during the day he wanders Los Angeles, killing members of “the Family”. These plague victims transformed into nocturnal albino mutants and want to destroy all technology. This is another notable difference from the book; in the book, the survivors become vampire-like creatures. The members of the Family also want to kill Neville, as he is a symbol of the science they hold responsible for the plague. As nocturnal creatures, they roam at night and cannot be in the sunlight, so during the night, Neville remains hidden in his heavily fortified apartment and keeps them away using a spotlight. To film the scenes of Neville foraging in a deserted Los Angeles, they filmed on Sunday morning, when the streets were pretty empty. Unfortunately, despite their planning, there were still some cars and people in the background.
Finding More Than He Expected
During one of his foraging trips, he is in a store, taking new clothing, and he spots a woman, but she runs away. This woman, Lisa, (Rosalind Cash) and Dutch (Paul Koslo), a former medical student, later save Neville from being burned at the stake in Dodger Stadium after the Family captures him and sentences him to death.
A Little Romance Before The End
Neville joins Lisa and Dutch who are with a group of survivors, all of whom are children. Neville comes to believe he can extend his own immunity by creating a serum from his blood. When Neville and Lisa return to Neville’s apartment and start to treat Lisa’s brother Richie who is sick. Neville is able to treat Richie with the serum, which cures him. Lisa and Neville share a brief romantic moment, which was one of the first interracial kisses on film. Unfortunately, their love is not meant to be. When Richie tries to convince the family to take the serum, they don’t believe him, and so they execute Richie. Meanwhile Lisa succumbs to the disease and becomes one of the Family, betraying Neville to the Family. Jonathan Matthias (Anthony Zerbe), the head of the family, manages to hurl a spear to kill Neville, and just before Neville dies, he gives his serum to Dutch, who leaves the city with the rest of the survivors.
The Critics Didn't Love It
The film received mixed reviews, with Howard Thompson of The New York Times saying that “the climax is as florid and phony as it can be,” and A. D. Murphy of Variety describing it as “an extremely literate science fiction drama.” Meanwhile, Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times said that it was "strictly a potboiler, but it's without pretensions and never runs dry. Director Boris Segal has captured some stark apocalyptic images and gotten some suitably vivid performances. Most importantly, he keeps things moving so fast that there's not enough time to ponder credibility gaps big enough to fly a Boeing 747 through."
The Film Did Have Fans
However, Tim Burton said in a 2009 interview that “If I was alone on a desert island, I’d probably pick something that I could relate to—probably The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. I don’t know why it is one of my favorite movies, but it is.” He has also noted the “cheesy one-liners” in the film. It has lived on a bit in popular culture, as Rick Moranis states at the beginning of Strange Brew, “I was kind of like a one-man force like Charlton Heston in Omega Man. Did you see it? It was a beauty.” The Simpsons also created an homage to the film in the first short in The Simpsons’ Treehouse of Horror VIII special, “The HΩmega Man;” the writer, Mike Scully was a huge fan of the film when he was a child.
Tags: Charlton Heston | Vincent Price
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