The Last Man on Earth (1964)

Horror, Sci-Fi
Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
When a disease turns all of humanity into the living dead, the last man on earth becomes a reluctant vampire hunter.
  • MGM Company:
  • Unrated Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 08 Mar 1964 Released:
  • 04 Mar 2003 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • William F. Leicester (screenplay), Richard Matheso Writer:
  • Ubaldo Ragona, Sidney Salkow Director:
  • N/A Website:

Trailer:

"I am the last...man."5/10
The Last Man on Earth is a great film to watch alone. Horror veteran Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, a desperate and lonely man who's left alone in an apocalyptic world; A world ruled by zombie-like vampires as a result of a widespread plague. These vampire zombies are highly reminiscent of George Romero's walking dead in Night of the Living Dead. Price does a remarkable job interacting with practically nothing. He's alone throughout the majority of the film. His performance largely carries this low budgeter. When you watch the movie alone, you really feel where his character is coming from and a sense of hopelessness is established. The Last Man on Earth is really a thought-provoking, creepy classic. I recommend it be watched with Charlton Heston's The Omega Man to see another take on the same story (both were based on Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend").
Amazing film! The apocalypse rarely felt this real.9/10
I never read Richard Matheson's novel 'I am Legend' but I'm particularly intrigued by (science fiction) movies with an apocalyptic theme. And this adaptation simply is one of the most fascinating stories of an already brilliant decade for this type of films. Much more than a grim horror film, this is a gripping drama with an excellent (as always) Vincent Price as the sole and devastated survivor of a deadly plague that exterminated the entire human race, including his own wife and daughter. Price is Dr. Robert Morgan and due to his immunity to the lethal germs, he's the only one to fight victims who return in the shape of vampire/zombie-like creatures. Even though it has already been 3 years, Morgan desperately continues his search for other survivors…This is one of the most impressive performances Price ever gave away, and a lot more difficult than his usual roles of villains and madmen. Judging by today's standards, I guess the film looks very dated and you can't really refer to the tame 'vamp-zombies' as threatening anymore. But the empty streets and depressing cities, shot in unsettling black and white, still are the ultimate in eeriness! I love it when a film makes you feel miserable and worried…and the lower the budget is, the more efficient this effect is reached!

Like several of my fellow-reviewers already pointed out, this also was an immensely influential film. You can't watch 'Last man on Earth' without being reminded of George A. Romero's milestone genre film 'Night of the Living Dead'. If you then realize this movie was made 4 years before Romero's classic, you can't but reckon the underrated brilliance of this film. The same hopelessness-aspect that made Romero's film so tense features HERE first, in 'Last Man on Earth'! This production offers an ideal proportion of frights and sentiments, luckily without too many tedious scientific speeches or faked drama. 'Last Man on Earth' has to be seen by every SF/horror fan on this planet. For some reason this is one of the most underrated genre efforts ever, and that urgently has to change.
An under-appreciated classic7/10
This one seems to be less well known than others in Vincent Price's filmography -- possibly because the title makes it sound more like a romantic comedy.

In this first filmed version of Richard Matheson's superb short novel "I Am Legend", though, Price really shines in one of the best performances of his career. Far superior to its 1971 remake "The Omega Man" -- as if we needed yet another "Charlton Heston vs. the subhuman hordes" outing after "Khartoum" and "55 Days In Peking" -- the script follows Matheson's book almost scene-for-scene, but then, I think the author always wrote with one eye on the movie or TV rights.

Morgan (Vincent Price) is the only survivor of a worldwide plague that kills its victims, only to resurrect them as zombie vampires. (His own immunity was conferred by the bite of a vampire bat infected with a weaker version of the virus, when he was doing research in South America.) By day, he systematically searches out the plague victims and destroys them in the traditional Van Helsing manner, retreating to his fortified house when darkness falls and the vampires come out to play. Worst of all, his best friend Ben -- now a vampire -- is part of the crowd that nightly besieges his house, thirsting for his blood.

Unlike "The Omega Man", very little of this film is devoted to Morgan's one-man war against the vampires, who as others have noted have a kind of "Night Of The Living Dead" ambiance, minus the gore. Instead it focuses on his utter isolation, both physical and spiritual, his mission as an exterminating angel the only purpose now left to his life.

A large part of the movie is taken up by a flashback to three years previous, to the beginning of the plague, as his friend Ben arrives at a birthday party for Morgan's daughter bearing an armful of presents. Against the background of the children's shouts and laughter the adults worriedly discuss the appearance of a new virus. The world then proceeds to fall apart in a quietly terrifying re-enactment of the Black Death, complete with National Guard "bring out your dead" units and a 24/7 immolation pit for the anonymous, canvas-wrapped corpses. Morgan's wife and daughter succumb to the virus in a sequence that is quite stunning in its low-key, almost clinical lack of the standard histrionics.

The black-and-white cinematography is as stark and minimalistic as the story (and, admittedly, the budget). The exterior scenes set in a deserted Los Angeles -- well, actually Rome, shot in the early morning -- are often quite effective in mirroring his internal desolation. Cast and crew alike do an excellent job with the material, despite the monetary constraints. Unlike so many in our current "bash you over the head" school of film-making, the real horror of the situation is allowed to speak eloquently for itself.

If you're expecting the high camp of one of Price's Roger Corman flicks, you'll probably be bored stiff by this movie. If instead you're looking for a surprisingly good adaptation of a great story, you can't do much better than "Last Man On Earth".
Vincent Price is Legend!!5/10

I'm not sure why this film is as underrated as it is. This is an amazing, depressing and in many ways brilliant film based on the Richard Matheson classic novel "I Am Legend". Vincent Price effectively conveys the terror and despair of being the last living man on an Earth that is now overrun with vampires and/or zombies. The depiction of Price's day to day bleak existence is a moving and powerful thing to behold and the continual menace of the hordes of zombies is creepy in the same way as was later depicted in "Night of the Living Dead". In fact, as noted by others here, one can not watch the scenes where the zombies lay siege to Price's boarded up house and attack his car without recognizing how close these scenes would later be copied by George Romero in his classic zombie films. If you are a fan of horror film history or just looking for a classic and unique film with an interesting story, track down this lost gem.
A Cult Classic!8/10

Richard Matheson's seminal sci-fi horror novel, "I Am Legend", published in 1954, is first and foremost, a character study, and any film producer must come to terms with that, if there is to be a successful adaptation from print to screen. The novel was adapted to screen in 1964 as "The Last Man On Earth"; producer Sidney Salkow, hampered by a tiny budget, intuitively did the best he could and came close to pulling it off! What Salkow did was convey the novel's mood, tone, atmosphere and plot in primitive fashion, crudely capturing the gist of the novel -
that of one man, Robert Neville's confrontation with a horrendous existential dilemma - to be, himself, that is; or not to be, a plague- induced vampiric shell. While "TLMOE" was not entirely successful in translation, especially in the ending - co-scripter Matheson ultimately distanced himself from the final product - it nevertheless, clearly outshines a later, technically superior 1971 remake, "The Omega Man" in the aforementioned aspects. "The Omega Man", taken on it's own, is an interesting, entertaining film; but when referenced against the novel, falls flat on it's face. (Matheson himself stated that that film and his novel are two completely different animals.) In contrast, "TLMOE" fares much better when referenced: it shows that Morgan's (Neville's) battle is more with reactions within himself than with the vampires as a physical threat per se, as it becomes obvious that the vampires are slow-moving, dull-minded individually, and disorganized as a group, each instinctively and savagely interested only in HIS blood. Besides the perpetually nightmarish nuisance of the vampires, who have a collectively demoralizing effect on him, Morgan (Neville) must fight against the horror generated by the desolation and doom of a post-apocalyptic world, against the loneliness of being the last human on earth and against the agony of tragically losing his wife and daughter to the plague. In the final analysis, "The Last Man On Earth" could be likened to a series of crude, but brilliant brush-strokes of feeling-tones. As such it fully deserves cult-classic status.