THE LAST MAN ON EARTH1964)
THE OMEGA MAN(1971)
I AM LEGEND(2007)
I watched these three movies yesterday, the latter two for the first time. I must say I wasn’t really impressed by any of them. As i’ve said in other places, I watched the Vincent Price version on late night television when i was a mere strippling. I enjoyed it, but watching the move years later, from a more adult perspective, it didn’t hold up nearly as well.
I’ve read and enjoyed Matheson’s novel several times over the years.
I have read that Matheson wrote the script for THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, but substituted an alias when he didn’t like their rewrites. All the elements were there: vampirism, the garlic, mirrors, the wooden stakes, the abhorrence to light. It just didn’t mesh for me.
Having watched THE OMEGA MAN finally, the first thing that struck me was the Heston was trying to create another PLANET OF THE APES. He didn’t. Lightning rarely strikes twice. I found that he didn’t even realize the novel had been filmed just seven years earlier . The vampire elements were gone, except for the light thing. The creatures were infected with the virus, all albinos, and had formed a society to expunge science and weapons that destroyed the world. Inconsistently, they didn’t seem averse to using weapons or violence to achieve their aims. How were they different?
At least the Will Smith version retained the title, I AM LEGEND. Here the victims of the plague were fast moving zombie-like creatures. I think this was just another Will Smith action vehicle. First he wrecks I, ROBOT(though I think, despite the use of Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, this story was more akin to Eando Binder’s story of the same title), now he screws up Matheson’s tale. Let’s hope Mr. Smith stays away from SF literary properties in the future.
One thing I noticed in the latter two was that Neville was a military scientist. I’m not sure why, unless they wanted to show that civilian scientists were more careless. I mean, in the Will Smith vehicle, it was a scientist’s cure for cancer that mutated and killed the world. I don’t know. Just a thought.
I don’t know whether anyone will ever try I AM LEGEND again. So far, it’s been three strikes and you’re out. But give it time. Someone will try again.