on June 8, 2000
The Omega Man is not a very good film, but there are scenes of great power, as well scenes of great cheesiness. Chuck Heston, in slightly toned-down "Planet of the Apes" form, is humankind's savior yet, as usual with Chuck's film alter-egos, the viewer's reaction to him is, at best, ambivalent. Nevill has been part and parcel of the destruction of the human race, is arrogant and reactionary, yet he is also a redeemer and a man of accelerating conscience. The movie revolves around his bleak, yet self-imposed state of existence. Nevill's mercenary clashes with his decrepit enemies, much of the dialogue, Nevill's relationship with Lisa (a neat pairing), and the classic Christ-like final scene are interesting and speak to larger moral and social issues eloquently (if a bit hammily, at times), but the film fails to capture the viewer. There are a number of dramatic lapses in the movie, the editing is poor, and the "zombie" enemy is a hackneyed, and, in the end, silly antagonist. The movie also has the same dingy, low-energy atmosphere that characterized "Soylent Green". This atmosphere helps the film at times, yet also stamps the movie irreversibly as a product of the early 1970s' ambitious yet generally unsuccessful "pessimistic future" genre of films. Finally, the score is truly horrendous. It is funny for a while, but then begins to really get on the viewer's nerves, and it does nothing to help in already dull, poorly directed scenes. In short, the movie is dated and directed with minimal energy and skill, but it is worth a look if you want to see a period piece of a jaded time in the "sci-fi" genre, a fun Chuck Heston performance, and flawed ambition.
on July 3, 2004
Based on Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend", which was recommended to Charlton Heston by Orson Welles, and one that Heston was inspired to make into a film, is a truly creepy sci-fi/horror classic. Heston is marvelous as Colonel Robert Neville, a scientist who is immune to the plague that resulted from biological warfare, due to an experimental vaccine he injected himself with.
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.
on March 11, 2004
This film would have had more dramatic impact if the kitsch of the early 70's had not been so intrusive--and the only redeeming thing about that was the cool muscle cars! Really, this is a good movie if you can get over the bad music, bad clothes, and occasionally painful "black slang" dialogue that is used by the main female character, and her brother Richie. Emmy-winner Zerbe seems to have a romping good time as the reporter-turned-prophet who leads the plague-deranged Family against Heston's gutsy Col. Neville. It takes some suspension of disbelief to buy the story that Neville has managed to hold off the Family all by himself for two years. Even with their strong social more against technology, and in spite of Neville's personal arsenal, the Family outnumbers Neville hundreds to one! And the two times the Family does get to Neville, Neville seems so utterly bumbling that it's hard to believe a man so easily captured has managed to avoid his fate for such a long time. But I am nit-picking. This is another one of those venerable Heston science fiction products, akin to Planet of the Apes and Soylent Green. It might be argued that Heston enjoys a sub-genre of film science fiction all to himself, between these three films, each of which exploits some of the great fears of the era in which they were made. You shouldn't see one without seeing the others. Especially Soylent Green, as it is almost the mirror image of Omega Man, in that Soylent Green studdies the impact of massive overpopulation whereas Omega tackles the mental experiment of a sudden, catastrophic population decline.
on February 20, 2004
If you haven't read it before, the short novel "I Am Legend" by Richard Matheson is one of the classics of horror/science fiction. Grab a copy today (right here on Amazon, simple as can be!) and read it before watching this movie adaptation of the novel. (This is actually the second movie version of "I Am Legend." The first is the elusively unavailable Italian film staring Vincent Price, "The Last Man on Earth.")
"Omega Man" is a movie that, sadly, abandons most of what made its source novel great: the aching loneliness of the only human (or so he believes) left on a planet of bestial vampires. The movie version jettisons the vampires, replacing them with a wacky albino cult that wears sunglasses and glitter-rock robes and have launched themselves on an anti-technology crusade. In a short documentary featurette on the DVD, one of the two screenwriters (the same team responsible for the last and least entry in the "Planet of the Apes" series) explains that they thought vampires were overused, and so opted instead for these albinos. It was a huge mistake; eliminating the vampires literally bleeds (excuse the pun) the story of the fear that it needs to work. The screenwriters also altered Matheson's story in other ways, like having the hero discover a cadre of human survivors with whom he joins forces, and by the halfway point, all traces of the fantastic original story have been lost, including its strange twist of an ending.
To alter a novel for film, of course, is no crime in itself, but the end product in this case is poor, lacking tension, and pretty flat. The film has dated terribly in ways that go beyond the funky albino outfits: it has the kitschy look of a lot of 70s television shows, and director Boris Sagal (a TV veteran) is probably responsible for most of this. If you want to revel in the movie's funky 70s style, you'll probably get a kick out of it (the score is equally dated), but people looking for the serious science fiction film promised will tire of the music, the glam-rock bad guys in sunglasses and glittering robes, and the faux-blaxploitation dialogue. Heston, in the middle of his science-fiction period, appeals to people who enjoy the camp angle, but he is terribly miscast. He projects none of the isolation and despair that the character or Neville should, and it therefore becomes difficult to invest yourself in his situation.
"Omega Man" does have a few decent tense moments, and Anthony Zerbe is fun in a nutty way as the albino leader. The DVD has a couple of extras. There's a short vintage documentary with interviews with Heston where he talks about science fiction. Like most promotional featurettes, there's not much about the making of the film and a lot of hard sell, but it is enjoyable seeing vintage advertising, and Heston's a great character even when he isn't acting. There's also a short modern retrospective on the film, with an interview with two of the actors (not Heston), and one of the screenwriters. Not much information here either, and they predictably give the film more praise than it deserves. There are also a few screens of text describing the science fiction films that Heston appeared in during this period.
Yes, "Omega Man" has some charms, but only people with a love of cult 70s movies and their styles, or people who have read the novel, will really want to see it. If you are a science fiction or horror fan, there are a lot worse ways to kill 100 minutes -- but you should invest that time in Matheson's novel instead if you haven't read it, and then decide if you want to spend the extra time with this film. (Hopefully, the Vincent Price version, which is closer to the novel, will become available on DVD one day.)
on February 14, 2004
Of those reviewers that felt that this film fell short of Hestons other Sci Fi films--shame on them. We, who have seen this one know the plot...Charlton Heston plays a government scientist that holds the key to survival...the antidote to the biological weapon his government help create, a deadly plague that either kills or genetically mutates the survivors of the disease and drives them insane. He, Dr. Nevill, is Satan to the mutated survivors--activly pursuing and killing them (putting them out of their misery). Hey--it's them or him--I vote for survival. I think the only thing I would do different is move out of the city, away from those REALLY creepy half dead zombies.I understand Hestons caracter refused to give in to them and stay where he was..but......The real point is--even though this movie is based on the R. Mattheson book--I am Legend--and not really close to the original story..who cares? The movie is good on it's own. Put it this way...unless I am in bed and can pull the covers over my head--I still won't watch this film downstaires in the dark by myself...but then neither my wife or kids will watch this with me either....It is a bitter-sweet film and you almost feel releaved rather than sad when Heaston is killed in the end--he was the one who was truely tormented.
on December 29, 2003
I'm talking about those black-hooded albino people who do all the funny chanting. You might not _know_ they were supposed to be vampires unless you had either (a) read Richard Matheson's book _I Am Legend_ (the book on which the film is loosely based) or (b) seen Vincent Price in _The Last Man on Earth_ (based on the same book).
This is the middle member of Charlton Heston's SF 'last man' trio, and I'm afraid it's not as good as either _Planet of the Apes_ or _Soylent Green_.
For one thing, the music and the production values give it the feel of a lost episode of a 1970s cop show -- _Barnaby Jones_, say, or _The Mod Squad_. If you didn't know this had been a theatrical release, you'd never figure it out from the cinematographic texture.
For another, there are those not-quite-vampires. They're led by the ever-dependable Anthony Zerbe, who does well in spite of it all (and fans of the _Matrix_ films will want to pay careful attention to his human-vs.-machine speeches in this film; his role as Councillor Hamann takes on a little extra depth). But all the white face paint and fake eyeballs just don't quite come together into anything halfway menacing.
On the plus side, there's Heston, who is his usual magisterial self. He really tries hard to make us believe that he's the 'last man on earth', and he very nearly succeeds. Probably no other actor of the time could have carried this role, in this context, so close to believability.
But no cigar. This is a classic and SF film buffs will want to see it and own it. But it's much harder to watch than it should be.
on November 16, 2003
I remember seeing this movie as a child and reguarding it as a zombie film (along the lines of Night Of The Living Dead ). It wasn't until I tracked down a copy of Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend" (along with his some of his other works which included "Prey") in a used bookstore (obviously long before eBay appeared) in Texas that I realized that this was really a vampire story. Having recently discovered "The Last Man On Earth" (1964) with Vincent Price (on the same DVD as his excellent "House On Haunted Hill" ), I found that that film stayed closer to the original story. Be that as it may, this horror movie is an essential addition to my DVD collection and is obviously inspiration for the recent hit "28 Days Later". Having watched "28DL" a couple of nights ago, I was struck by the similarities of the long tracking shots of the protagonist roaming the deserted city streets (as well as other plot points). There's nothing like paying homage to a classic.
on August 26, 2003
Released in 1970, OMEGA MAN is based on the book I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson. OMEGA MAN and Heston were proceeded by the 1964 LAST MAN ON EARTH with Vincent Price portraying the protagonist. LAST MAN ON EARTH, as a side note, was admitted as an influence to NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD by that films creators. OMEGA MAN departs from the original story and the earlier film by eliminating the vampiric creatures lust for the flesh of living humans. Instead, it is turned into a Luddite-like hatred for technology that drives the protagonistic society against one man.
The society of vampires are also more intelligent than portrayed in LAST MAN ON EARTH, which is in keeping with the book.
Well placed in late 60's culture, the story portrays the survivor (Heston) of a holocaust created by a biologically created virus used as a weapon. All the survivors have turned into the night-dwelling 'Brotherhoood' (led by Anthony Zerbe); a technology- hating congleration of people infected with the deadly virus. The virus is slow to kill some, and causes a disdain for light and the ability to see in the dark. Eventually, all infected are subjected to death by the virus.
Heston's character took the only antidote for the virus before it could be delivered. He survives, and finds others who have not yet been infected after three years living on his own, barricaded from the Brotherhood who continually try to kill him as the last remnant of a hated past.
This DVD's special features include an Introduction by some of Heston's co-stars and one of the screenwriters, a film- contemporary documentary about the making of OMEGA MAN, a Charton Heston Sci-Fi Movies Essay, theatrical trailer, and cast biographies. It is subtitled in English French, and Spanish. The spoken languages it can be viewed in are French and the original English. A great film, and historically important as a post-NOTLD descendant!
on August 19, 2003
Most of my positive feelings for this movie come from watching it as a teenager on Saturday sci-fi theather. Clearly made on the downside of Heston's career, this film is so preachy (about the horrors of man's science run amok, racism, crass materialism, etc.) it almost makes you want to change the channel. The science and politics of the movie are to real science and politics what Kenny G is to real jazz - close but not quite there. Of course, Heston plays it up with a psuedo-seriousness that would give Vincent Price or William Shatner a run for their money. If you want to see a Heston in a better apocolyptic thriller, Soylent Green is a better bet and in the Omega Man he comes no where close to his performance in Planet of the Apes.
All this being said, The Omega Man is a fun, juvenile romp. The delivery of all the gloom and doom speeches is just campy enough to keep you from taking the movie too seriously. Despite the overpreening preachiness of the movie, The Omega Man has some serious upsides:
The scenes of Heston running through a empty LA are particularly creepy and Heston watching the movie Woodstock is a great definition of irony (somehow I don't think the NRA screens it too often). The running battles between Heston and the "vampires" of LA are amusing as is the whole 'last man on Earth' motif of the film. And for a B movie, the production values are pretty good (you have to remember this was the 1970's).
on August 18, 2003
The Omega Man (1971) is a very good movie, but those familiar with the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, upon which the film is based (rather loosely), and the earlier, incomparable adaptation The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, may find themselves a little disappointed. That is how I felt. This is probably somewhat unfair, seeing as how The Omega Man differs significantly from the earlier book and movie, but I can't help but make such comparisons. Charlton Heston plays Robert Neville, a military doctor who has lived alone for some three years since the world basically ended. Russia and China went to war, the U.S. may or may not have become involved, and eventually someone somewhere unleashed a weaponized bacterium that quickly set about ending man's reign on earth. With the help of a highly experimental vaccine and much more luck than exists in real life, Neville manages to survive, holing himself up in a penthouse apartment in town. At night, those who were "changed" instead of killed come out to play. These are not the mindless vampires of The Last Man on Earth, however; these are just funny-looking albino people with really weird eyes and very bad complexions. They even have a leader named Matthias (Anthony Zerbe) who has turned "The Family" of survivors into a religious cult obsessed with destroying everything from the old earth - e.g., electricity, bombs, cars, and especially one Robert Neville.
After three years of hunting by day and trying to survive by night (with the help of a generator and lots of guns and liquor), Neville eventually encounters a fellow human being in the form of Lisa (Rosalind Cash). The relationship that forms between them represents one of the earliest interracial romances to appear on the big screen. Neville soon finds himself in the role of savior, possessing the only immune blood by which serum can be made to cure those who are left on earth. Of course, The Family is still trying to kill him every single night, and they (plus a really stupid kid) help make sure that Neville's plans and new-found hopes don't easily succeed. The ending is a little bit hokey, but it seems appropriate and allows for all sorts of philosophical and religious musings.
The Omega Man has its quirks. The music in particular is rather unusual, a little too funky and 70s-ish for my tastes, especially during certain select moments of importance in the film. Charlton Heston also seems unable to keep his shirt on for more than a few minutes at a time, which doesn't really do much for yours truly. Then there are the members of The Family; it's hard to say exactly what these people are. They fear daylight, but that is pretty much the only vampire-like quality they have. I also don't know why most people simply died from the plague, while a few folks changed into whatever The Family are supposed to be. I guess these questions aren't crucial for enjoying the movie, but I would have liked a fuller explanation as to what exactly the plague was and how it worked.
The Omega Man is an almost-classic horror/science fiction movie, but it can't hold a candle to Vincent Price's The Last Man on Earth. The latter movie is based much more closely (albeit not completely) on Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, and Vincent Price delivers a much more intense performance than Heston does. I never really felt the weight of Neville's loneliness and inner turmoil, despite extended scenes early on showing the man talking to himself and acting a little nutty. This, I would argue, is the main weakness that keeps The Omega Man from more completely satisfying me.