On the DVD: The Omega Mancomes to disc with some interesting special features. There's a television "making of" that was shown at the time, as well as the trailer and an interesting short retrospective documentary containing interviews with the surviving screenwriter Joyce Corrington and a couple of the younger actors. The anamorphic widescreen picture is fine, as is the digitally remastered mono sound. --Roz Kaveney
The story is simple. Charlton Heston plays a USAF Doctor who, when an un-named enemy launches a biowar strike on the US, labours to produce a vaccine. He makes a breakthrough, but on the way to a city centre hospital to test it both he and his pilot catch the disease and crash.
Cut to some time later. By day Heston roams the streets, becoming more and more affected by the solitude, even to the point of watching "Woodstock - The Movie" over and over again. By night he retires to his fortified apartment, while people who have been driven mad by the disease but not killed lay siege to him.
The victims come out only at night because they have been made super photo-sensitive by the disease. Insane enough already, they are organised by the clearly barking Matthias, recognisable as the sanctimonious newsreader from the films opening sequences. His mission is to destroy all technology and learning, which is lucky for Heston as it prevents him going after him with a tank.
When Heston discovers some sane, apparently uninfected people scavenging in the city, he gets another chance to save humanity by using his blood as a serum.
This film has everything. Great "empty city" settings, fantastic 70s music, a brilliant story and plenty of action. An underrated masterpiece. Never let anyone tell you it's about vampires.
The survivors infected with the plague are hooded mutants that cannot see in the daylight, and are bent in destroying all the attributes of civilization that remain on earth, crying "burn, burn, burn !" as they pile books in a fiery heap. Their leader is a former news anchor played to the hilt by Anthony Zerbe, who warns the zombie "Family" of the evil created by the "users of the wheel".
It is all quite thought-provoking, and has several connotations to terrorism today, and also has symbolism relating to Christianity; at one point Heston is tied up in a crucifixion pose, and his blood, turned into a serum, can save the remnant of humanity. There are a few reminders from the Book of Revelation, where of course, Jesus said "I am the Alpha and Omega".
Rosalind Cash is lovely as Lisa, one of the remnant hiding in the hills, and her relationship with Heston is a rare instance of an interracial love affair from that era. Films from the 1970s fascinate me, with the hair and fashion styles, and 8-track tapes in the cars.
This film has fabulous cinematography by Russell Metty of a deserted, devastated Los Angeles, a good score by Ron Granier, and fast-paced, disquieting direction by Boris Segal that will occasionally make your heart skip a beat with fright.
Total running time is 98 minutes.
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