I Am the Last Omega Man on Earth: A Franchise in Review

Most people don’t know that 2007’s I Am Legend was actually the third film adaptation of Richard Matheson’s  classic horror book.  All three versions are different in many ways: the leading man, the blood-thirsty monsters, and even the ending.  Here, I will review each of them, pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of both, and ultimately revealing which I believe to be the best film.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

This classic horror flick has Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan.  Price’s character is particularly haunted by memories of an old colleague who has fallen prey to the world-wide disease.  Unlike the two later performances of Charlton Heston and Will Smith, Price presents himself more as a scientist than a survival expert.  Not to say that Morgan doesn’t have some good ideas.  But his methods are usually more crude and primitive than bearing a machine gun (he uses a hammer to drive stakes into the chests of the monsters).  The creatures of The Last Man are identical to the traditional depiction of a zombie; they still wear their human clothes, their faces are hideous, and they walk slowly in pursuit of their prey.  I was surprised how entertaining this all was though.  It may have been a little corny, but if you enjoy Matheson’s story enough, you may really enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Omega Man (1971)

However much I love Vincent Price, I do believe that Charlton Heston has the role down much better.  Heston brings more confidence, and it becomes obvious that his chances of surviving should be a lot better than Price’s.  But there’s a catch: this time the murderous creatures are more of a cult than a horde of zombies.  They set traps for the doctor and constantly attempt to convert Heston to their side.  Because I have a sweet tooth for zombie pictures, the human-like intelligence of the monsters made the film less satisfying.  Even with Heston’s performance, I prefer The Last Man to this remake.

 

 

 

 

I Am Legend (2007)

It’s easy to see why I enjoyed this one: dumb-witted zombies, great suspense, an intense leading performance.  For once, I think that Mathson’s story gets the credit that it deserves here.  Smith’s determination and physicality are excellent for the part and the addition of a partner for our hero (a German Shepherd) was a nice idea.  The agility of the monsters also gives us a better sense of danger.  This is by far the darkest and most action-packed film of the franchise, bringing us closer to the doctor’s world than ever before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion:

Best Film: I Am Legend

Runner-Up: The Last Man on Earth

Best Leading Man: Charlton Heston, The Omega Man

Runner-Up: Will Smith, I Am Legend

Best Zombies: I Am Legend 

Runner-Up: The Last Man on Earth

Film Review: The Tingler (1959)

During his sixty-three years on earth, William Castle made movies that had no other purpose than to entertain.  The best of his mostly-forgotten works were a series of horror pictures released during the late ’50s and early ’60s.  While they admittedly were not very well-made, their appeal to the audiences of that time made them hits at the box office.  (One of these cheaply-made successes, House on Haunted Hill, even inspired Alfred Hitchcock to make his own low-budget classic, Psycho.)  Castle was not a great filmmaker, but instead, an excellent showman.  The gimmicks that he created for a small number of his films gave the audience an experience in the movies that they had never had before or since.  One such example is his campy horror flick, The Tingler.

During showings of this Vincent Price vehicle, certain viewers experienced short electrical shocks due to small vibrators planted on the bottom of their seats.  Not only did this deepen the audience’s fear, but it also helped to sell tickets.  Thanks to clever advertising, many moviegoers were intrigued to see the new Castle film because it featured the director’s newest gimmick called, Percepto.  Today however, Percepto no longer exists, and those watching The Tingler at home will not have any reason to jump.  The fright that this film inspired of its audiences in 1959 has not survived either, yet there are still reasons to see it.

Despite being completely in black-and-white, there is one one memorable scene in the last half of the picture that displays a small splash of bright red.  This brief image of blood is surprisingly effective.  Perhaps the most significant landmark that The Tingler reaches lies within the scene in which Price’s Dr. Warren experiments alone in his lab.  Earlier in the film, Warren discovered a centipede-like creature called the “tingler” that lives clinging to the spinal cord of every human being.  This horrid creature grows larger at the sign of fear in their host, making it medically possible to die of fright.  At the beginning of his experiments, the doctor does what no other movie character in cinema history had done before.  Warren used LSD for the purpose of experiencing fear and ultimately, the full impact of the tingler.

With a combination of Percepto and a desperate scene in which the tingler enters a movie theater full of unsuspecting watchers, Castle produced interactive entertainment.  His gimmicks and his amusing references to his viewers treat us as one of the characters.  Even though it has many visible flaws, it adds up to a film that B-movie fanatics should not miss.

Rating: 3.5/5