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Customer Review

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Underrated film, 5 Jun. 2009
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This review is from: The Omega Man [DVD] [1971] (DVD)
The Omega Man is the second film version of Richard Matheson'snovel I am Legend, the first being a low budget Vincent Price vehicle. Whereas the first version was true to the book, Boris Sagal's version is simply loosely based on the novel. A couple of concepts were changed such as the antagonists no longer being vampires but zombie-like victims of biological warfare. Vampires in 1972 were really no longer a concept for horror films. The other reason is that Neville had to be a morally ambiguous character. In the book it turns out in the end that really he was the monster or that fighting monsters turned him into a monster. Neville in The Omega Man is an officer who was actively involved in developing biological warfare and so his personal hell seems to be a fitting punishment. The film is very much about innocence vs. experience. Neville remains in the city and kills his oponents in meaningless fights because tha's all there is left in his life. His life is validated by having an oponent- an almost Kafkaesque concept. So naturally, when he meets a group of survivors they are children. Some critics thought that his was a document about American fixation youth and being young. In fact, they plan to go t "a new Eden" but there is no place for Neville, because he is -as one boy puts it- hostile. So although in the end we see him as crucified (and more or less resurected through his blood) he is more like Virgil who lead Dante to the gates of paradise but was not allowed to enter himself. The film is very well written in terms of creating sympathy for Neville and then bit by bit deconstructing his character. Neville is very complex, a scientist, a ruthless killer and yet a man who recites poetry and loves art. Heston gives an overall fine performance. There is one beautiful scene where Heston plays chess against a bust of Caesar and you really wonder if he is aware of the fact that he is playing both sides. Visually the film is very well made: In the first 9 minutes we just watch Neville driving through LA and as a prime example of showing vs. telling without any dialogue we begin to understand what has happened so that the following flashback really is unnecessary and relatively crude for such a well made and well written film. In spite of the technical limitations of the early 70s Sagal manages to create a feel of emptiness about LA that is masterfully executed. On the other hand the film does have some incredible holes in the logic and some continuity bloopers. But all in all I would say that The Omega Man is a highly underrated film which works both as an action film and as a statement on the human condition.
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