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.