Sunday, December 23, 2007

I Am Legend or The Last Man On Earth

Haven't seen Will Smith's I AM LEGEND yet but I'm incredibly fond of the original low budget film adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel. THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (ULTIMO UOMO DELLA TERRA) was the first of now 3 versions and is the most faithful to the book (Matheson even contributed to the script but was disappointed with the final version). Until recently this public domain title has circulated in inferior copies. Last year MGM released a nice widescreen version coupled with the first DVD release of another neglected gem of mid-60's apocalyptic cinema, PANIC IN YEAR ZERO. You can watch the entire film online through Google Video ...

LAST MAN is not as well known as the bigger budget 2nd adaptation, the enjoyably campy THE OMEGA MAN (1971) which at least retains Los Angeles as its locale (LAST MAN swapped Matheson's own LA suburb of Gardena for Rome's EUR district, site of Mussolini's never completed Fascist urban project). LAST MAN is often cited as a primary influence on George Romero (auteur of the LIVING DEAD). Originally a Hammer film project Matheson's script Night Creatures was to have been directed by Val Guest (QUATERMASS, DAY THE EARTH CAUGHT FIRE, etc). A threatend ban by British censors already worked up by Hammer's DRACULA and FRANKENSTEIN films had the film property sold to AIP (interestingly Matheson would have preferred Jack Palance to Vincent Price for the role of Robert Neville). Will Smith's LEGEND derives from a script written by Mark Protosevich and John Logan (and now rewritten by Akiva Goldsman) which was planned as a Warner Bros. vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger and once had Ridley Scott attached as director.

Veteran Hollywood composer Paul Sawtell crafted an effective score that employs ethereal female vocals and jazzy themes to underscore protagonist Robert Morgan's (aka Robert Neville) unrelenting alienation.

1000 MISSPENT HOURS AND COUNTING Review: The Last Man on Earth/Wind of Death/L'Ultimo Uomo della Terra/ Vento di Morte

The Coven Organization's Review: Dread Reckoning: Legends of the Fang