Charlton Heston plays the government researcher behind the ultimate biological weapon, a deadly plague that has ravaged humanity. There are two groups of survivors: a dwindling band of immune humans and an infected, psychopathic mob of light-hating quasi-vampires. The infected are led by Mathias, a clever, charismatic man set on destroying the last remnants of the civilization that produced the plague. Heston has a vaccine--but he and the few remaining normals are outnumbered and outgunned. By day, he builds a makeshift version of the nuclear family (with Rosalind Cash as his afro-wearing, gun-toting little lady). They plan for the future while roaming freely through an empty urban landscape, taking what few pleasures life has left. By night, they defend themselves against the growing horde of plague victims. Both a bittersweet romance and a gothic cautionary tale, The Omega Man paints a convincing portrait of hope and despair. It ain't pretty, but it's a great movie. --Grant Balfour
The survivors infected with the plague are hooded mutants that cannot see in the daylight, and are bent in destroying all the attributes of civilization that remain on earth, crying "burn, burn, burn !" as they pile books in a fiery heap. Their leader is a former news anchor played to the hilt by Anthony Zerbe, who warns the zombie "Family" of the evil created by the "users of the wheel".
It is all quite thought-provoking, and has several connotations to terrorism today, and also has symbolism relating to Christianity; at one point Heston is tied up in a crucifixion pose, and his blood, turned into a serum, can save the remnant of humanity. There are a few reminders from the Book of Revelation, where of course, Jesus said "I am the Alpha and Omega".
Rosalind Cash is lovely as Lisa, one of the remnant hiding in the hills, and her relationship with Heston is a rare instance of an interracial love affair from that era. Films from the 1970s fascinate me, with the hair and fashion styles, and 8-track tapes in the cars.
This film has fabulous cinematography by Russell Metty of a deserted, devastated Los Angeles, a good score by Ron Granier, and fast-paced, disquieting direction by Boris Segal that will occasionally make your heart skip a beat with fright.
Total running time is 98 minutes.