31 Horror Films #19: The Last Man on Earth 1964 Dir. Ubalda Ragona, Sidney Salkow

Last year I did a series of daily micro blogs going through the history of horror films by year. This was meant to give people an example of the high points of the genre. This year I'll be doing the same thing, but going off the beaten path to provide some films you may not have heard of. These films may not be up your alley, but they're all interesting.

The Last Man on Earth 1964 Dir. Ubalda Ragona, Sidney Salkow

Richard Matheson's 1954 horror novel "I Am Legend" inspired several films, including The Omega Man, The Night of the Living Dead and I Am Legend starring Will Smith. However, the most faithful adaptation is perhaps the 1964 film The Last Man on Earth.

Matheson originally wrote a screenplay for an adaptation of "I Am Legend" that was sold to Hammer Pictures, unfortunately the British censors squashed the film and it moved from hand to hand before finally landing in the possession B movie producer Robert Lippert. To save money, the production was moved to Italy and shot with a mostly Italian cast and crew, with the exception being the film's star, Vincent Price.

The movie follows scientist Robert Morgan, the last human on Earth in a world that has turned everyone else into vampires. Morgan spends his days tracking killing these creatures of the night and his nights he spends locked inside his house for safety.

While I say that this movie is the most faithful adaptation, it's certainly not perfect. The film occasionally features poor dubbing with regard to the supporting players, the voice over can get a little hokey, and while I like Vincent Price's presence, I think he was probably miscast. However, The Last Man on Earth does an excellent job of conveying the loss and loneliness found in Matheson's original work. We feel for Morgan and are terrified by his situation. Watching him go from house to house with nothing but death on his minds both heart wrenching and creepy. There are also some genuine horror filled moments in film. When Morgan forgets to wind his watch and has to traverse a landscape of graves and shambling undead to get back to his car.

I have enjoyed the other two adaptations of the novel for various reasons, but The Last Man on Earth is still my favorite, it is an effective synthesis between sci-fi, horror and humanity.

Watch the trailer HERE