Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Omega Man (1971)

The year is 1977. The world has been devastated by germ warfare, destroying nearly all of humanity. Everyone, that is, except for Robert Neville, the last man on earth. Neville stalks the streets of Los Angeles, killing the nocturnal mutants that the plague has created. THE OMEGA MAN is the second of three film adaptations of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, this time starring the legendary Charlton Heston. A product of its time, THE OMEGA MAN has earned itself a huge cult following with 1970's SciFi enthusiasts, but in the forty years since its release, it has aged rather poorly. Heston's hammy acting aside, the costuming, make-up, and often corny performances of "The Family" have all given way to a high level of camp that borders dangerously close to B-Movie cheese. Boris Sagal creates a series of impressive establishing shots taken from the deserted city streets of downtown Los Angeles, a devastating collection of images that set the foreboding tone for the rest of the picture. He also delivers several explosive action sequences between Neville and his medieval rivals, while playing into the reversal of the classical vampire myth that Matheson had originally shaped in the written version. Much of the paranoia and schizophrenia found in Neville's character do shine through in Heston's performance, although Anthony Zerbe steals the spotlight in an admirable role as the lead cultist Matthias. However silly many of the other elements of the film may be, it is impossible to deny the raw power of the shocking and downtrodden ending. THE OMEGA MAN will continue to live on as a classic in the Post-Apocalyptic/SciFi genres regardless of time's harsh treatment of the film, and it is still an important watch for both SciFi and Horror fans.

Rating: 7/10.

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  1. Great post! I have seen all three, Last Man on Earth, Omega Man, and I am Legend. Being as I'm a huge fan of Vincent Price, that one is dear to my heart. Price seemed to convey more of a sense of a man slowly losing his mind than the other two versions, as Heston seemed to be a "I don't need anybody" kind of guy and Smith had a "I'm just gonna pretend non of this really is happening" kind of vibe. I also like that Last Man held truer to the vampires.
    Dreaded Dreams
    Petunia Scareum

  2. I have not seen I Am Legend yet, though it should be popping up here shortly, but I prefer The Last Man on Earth over The Omega Man. I've never been a big Charlton Heston fan, and this film didn't really change that.

  3. Damn. I like Heston. I know Carl, he often comes across ever so slightly (read extremely) conceited and at times (read often) more than opinionated, and his movie roles and private life have done nothing but cement that mythos, but hey, that's all part of his charm. And he kissed a chimp! C'mon. If that ain't groundbreaking within the upcoming world of interspecies erotica I don't know what is. Omega Man does nothing but support the uber-coolness that is Chuck Heston!!!

  4. Though he is the walking embodiment of testosterone, I just can't take him seriously. Its criminal, I know, but I just find his performances to be so ridiculously over the top. I have do have to admit that I love me some "Oh, my god!" action though =D

  5. I haven't seen this one in years but recall liking it quite a bit after seeing it on the CBS Late Night Movie. They used to show some cool stuff on there.

  6. If I'd seen this in 71, I may have had a much different opinion about it, but man.. we're coming up on 40 years now and it looks ancient. If you're a Heston fan, you might be able to find much more appreciation for it than I did.

  7. If sometimes gets lumped in with blaxploitation movies, but I don't see it that way. I caught the last 20 minutes of it on TCM a couple years ago, but have yet to pick up the DVD.

  8. Now that I find completely surprising, there is the one notorious moment in the film with the "honky hangout" line, but thats literally 2s of the runtime. Weird! Never would have thought.


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