The Last Man on Earth

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Ubaldo Ragona

REVIEWED: 03-29-99

A mysterious bacterium has swept over the world and left everyone dead except for epidemiologist Morgan (Price), who picked up an immunity to the germ years before while working in South America. Unfortunately for him, the dead rise at night to become shuffling vampire/zombies bent on eating him alive. By day, his routine involves shopping for garlic and mirrors to repel the undead and grid-searching the town block by block to exterminate them with the dependable wooden-stake method. He piles the corpses in his station wagon and takes them to the local landfill where he makes a bonfire out of them; by night, he returns home to play old records and ignore the ghoulish goons outside his door. He keeps a generator running in his house for electricity (as well as at the local grocery) as he goes half-mad from loneliness and boredom ("Another day to live through; might as well get on with it."). His situation would be improved greatly by stealing a few guns and several cases of ammo, but no matter. Eventually he finds the Last Poodle on Earth and chases the dog through the streets until the mutt turns up on his doorstep. Morgan discovers, though, that the pooch is a zombie/vampire dog, so it's stake time for man's best friend. While zombie-hunting one day, though, he runs across the Last Babe on Earth and takes her home; alas, she is infected as well, but is the vanguard of a whole community of survivors. They've been able to stave off the vampire syndrome with a crude chemical injection; Morgan killed off many of their cohorts during his campaign, and they're not too happy with him about it. Based on a story by Richard Matheson ("I Am Legend," later remade into the rather limp Omega Man with Charlton Heston), The Last Man on Earth shows its low-budget seams at times; Morgan cruises around in his '56 Chevy wagon on narrow Italian streets filled with bulbous Fiats. It's nonetheless a chilling study of loneliness and an acting tour de force for Price as the last survivor of a dead race, and not exactly the feel-good movie of 1964.

--Jerry Renshaw

Film Vault Suggested Links
Werewolf of London
The House on Haunted Hill
Night of the Zombies

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