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Movie Review

The Last Man on Earth

Directed by Sidney Salkow and Ubaldo Ragona (1964)
Reviewed by MaT, added on Apr 16 2005

This is without question one of the most overlooked and underappreciated horror films of all time and it's difficult to understand why. Predating George Romero's Night of the Living Dead by four years, this hidden gem starring the great Vincent Price is full of spooky atmosphere, has slow/dim witted zombies ala Romero, and has a fabulous story filled with twists, turns, action, and some terrific acting by Price.

Basically, a virus has engulfed the planet and killed everyone. Unfortunately, the dead don't stay that way and become "vampires" that attack scientist Robert Morgan (Price) at night and hide from him during the day. Morgan is the "last man on earth" because for some reason, he has an immunity to the virus that has wiped out humankind. After his wife, daughter and friends die, he dedicates his life to hunting down and destroying the vampires when they sleep during the day, while he spends his lonely nights lost in memories of his wife and daughter. He is the last man on earth...or is he?

If you have never seen this film, I highly suggest that you do so. Price gives one of the best performances of his career and makes his character incredibly sympathetic to the audience. The first twenty minutes or so are narrated by Price as we see his daily routines, from burning vampire bodies in a pit to stopping by the local supermarket for some garlic. The whole world feels deserted and it really draws you into Price's character. During a lengthy flashback sequence, we find out what happens as the world is consumed by the virus and the ending of the film is simply fantastic. You'll see many themes and even specific shots that are in NOTLD, which owes a lot to this film.

I'm assuming that this film hasn't gotton the notoriety it deserves because of the cinematic quality. There are many Ed Wood style "Night!Day!Night!" shots and a lot of the filmwork is clunky. This was a very low budget film and it certainly shows. The long flashback scene in the middle of the movie slows the pace down a bit. It's especially noticeable after the great opening and closing sections of the film that are extremely interesting, tense, and exciting.

This has been one of my personal favorite horror films for a long time and hopefully this review will make a few of you seek it out. Though the technical aspects of the film leave much to be desired, the overall story, atmosphere, and quality of Price's performance far outweigh the negatives. If you are interested in seeing the precursor to Romero's Dead films, then this is it. It's super fun and a great way to spend 86 minutes.

9 / 10

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