Rating: ** Threat: Worldwide oxygen shortage
Filmgroup. Written by Robert Towne Photographed by Jacques Marquette; Edited by Anthony Carras; Music by Ronald Stein; Produced & directed by Roger Corman. B & W, 71 minutes.
Antony Carbone (Harold Gem, corrupt businessman); Betsy Jones-Moreland (Evelyn Gern, Harold's wife who becomes the last woman on Earth); Robert Towne (Martin Joyce, Harold's lawyer).
Shot on a shoestring budget in Puerto Rico, this Roger Corman picture manages to provide 71 minutes of modest entertainment. As with most of his efforts, there are flashes of quirky brilliance mixed together with pure schlock and packaged with genuine flair. If you are familiar with Corman, this picture is representative of his usual work. No matter how cheaply made, each film displays enough talent and energy to make it worth watching.
The Last Woman on Earth starts in typical exploitation style with a glamorous nude serving as backdrop to the credits. The story begins at a cockfight arena in Puerto Rico. Harold and Evelyn Gern are vacationing, but Harold's itinerary is proving very boring to his wife. Martin Joyce, Harold's attorney, arrives with news that Gern has been indicted by the federal government for his role in a housing scandal. Gern is more interested in gambling and promises to review the details of the case the following day, after a morning boat excursion for some scuba diving. During the dive, the three explore some wrecks on the sea bed and encounter a manta ray. When they surface, they are unable to breathe the air for some mysterious reason. Continuing to use their airtanks, they return to the ship and find the dead body of Manuel, their pilot. There still is not enough oxygen in the air to breathe, and they switch to their backup tanks. Gern is unable to start the ship's motor, and they go ashore in a row boat. When their tanks empty, they almost pass out while moving through the jungle. With typical B-movie logic, Harold then lights up a cigarette, and Martin remarks that the oxygen must have returned since his match was able to ignite. He guesses that the plants are renewing the oxygen supply.
When they reach town, they see a number of bodies, all dead of suffocation. After they return to their hotel, Martin tries in vain to make a phone call. They come to the conclusion that some catastrophic event temporarily disrupted the oxygen supply—either an act of God or an unknown weapon. The odor from the bodies would soon make it impossible to remain in town, and Gern suggests