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Two good looks at life after the Apocalypse...
on 14 December 2007
NB: As usual, Amazon have bundled all the reviews for various editions of the Last Man On Earth together. This review refers to MGM/UA's Region 1 NTSC DVD that double-bills it with Panic in the Year Zero.
Despite the author's well-known dislike of it, The Last Man On Earth is surprisingly good version of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, and makes a fascinating comparison with Chuck's insanely enjoyable version The Omega Man. It may have less action, a much lower budget, a score considerably less funky than Ron Grainer's, and what looks like the suburbs around Rome's Cinecitta Studios standing in for the USA, but it offers a much more disturbing account of civilisation gradually breaking down around its powerless hero (a restrained and very convincing Vincent Price). And for anyone familiar with the remake, the even bleaker ending here is a real surprise. Recommended - it's not an all-time great, but it's well worth a look.
MGM/UA's Region 1 NTSC DVD's 2.35:1 widescreen black and white transfer is superb - easily the best on the market of this much-issued title - with a six-minute interview with Richard Matheson as the only extra.
So too is Ray Milland's forgotten post-Apocalyptic directorial effort Panic in Year Zero!, which takes a surprisingly sober and convincing look at the possible effects of an unexpected nuclear attack on the survivors. Confusion and denial gradually give way to a determination to survive at any price, as Milland's family everyman, so busy looking for the darkness in others he doesn't see it in himself, takes charge with a coldly logical determination to put his family first that naturally leads to cold-blooded murder. Yet he's not a maniacal stereotype: he genuinely thinks he's helping society survive by separating himself from it and keeping any other survivors at gunpoint, insisting "The law will be back. I just want us to survive until it does" as he moves further from it and what's left of civilization.
Being a low-budget AIP movie, the action is confined to the hills and mountain roads, but it's an effective and fairly unsensationalized look at the All-American post-nuclear family. Curiously the film's original trailer shows it may have been darker still, with deleted footage of one of the film's female victims all too eager to kill her tormentors, one of whom is seen sniffing her clothing while impassively watching an attack - the film itself is rather more subtle! The only extra on MGM/UA's Region 1 NTSC DVD is the trailer, but once again the 2.35:1 widescreen black and white transfer is superb.