Rating: *** Threat: Vampirism
American International. Written by Richard Matheson & William P. Leicester based on the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson; Photographed by Franco Delli Collis; Edited by Gene Ruggiero; Music by Paul Sawtell & Bert Shefter; Produced by Robert L. Lippert & Harold E. Knox; Directed by Sidney Salkow & Ubaldo Ragona. B & W, 86 minutes.
Vincent Price (Dr. Robert Morgan, scientist who is the last human in a world of vampires); Franca Bettoia (Ruth Collins, woman he tries to cure); Giacomo Rossi-Stuart (Ben Cortman, leader of a pack of vampires); Emma Danieli (Virginia, Morgan's wife); Christi Courtland (Kathy, their daughter); Umberto Rau (Dr. Mercer, head of research lab); Antonio Corevi (California governor); Hector Ribotta (soldier).
This film is one of the most unusual entries of apocalyptic cinema, combining elements of traditional gothic horror with science fiction. The basic idea was conceived by writer Richard Matheson in his powerful novel, I Am Legend, which depicted a world overrun by vampires, largely in the traditional mold, hiding from the sun by day and seeking blood but lacking any hypnotic powers or the ability to change their forms into bats. In fact, these vampires have little reasoning ability beyond their instinct for survival They can be easily destroyed during the day by the standard stake through the heart. This vampirism, however, has a scientific basis, and the hero of the book is a scientist who discovers that the vampirism is brought on by a virus, which could be cured if an effective serum could be developed. The Last Man on Earth meticulously follows the book for the first three-quarters of the story, since Matheson himself was one of the screenwriters, using the pseudonym of Logan Swanson. Unfortunately the production was shot in Italy, and this foreign location was a very unconvincing substitute for the American setting of the story.
The picture begins as dawn breaks over a desolate and abandoned city. A number of corpses are scattered throughout the streets and parking lots. The display sign of a church bears the final message, “The End Has Come.” The camera pans through the inside of a house and settles on a man, Robert Morgan, asleep in his bed. An alarm clock sounds, waking him, and as he gets up, the credits appear. His thoughts are heard aloud on the soundtrack as he begins his daily routine, checking his electric generator, inspecting the outer defenses of his house, and replacing the garlic and mirrors that he uses to ward off the vampires