It’s been three years since the plague began. Those that died and were not burned have come back to life as zombies. Now, with the world devastated, Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is, as far as he knows, the last man on Earth. Each day he searches the city for the zombies. He puts a wooden stake through them and throws them into the burn pit. He hangs garlic around his house because they don’t like the smell. He hangs mirrors too. They are repulsed by their own image. They shun the daylight and only come out at night. Each day, every day, Morgan’s life revolves around his basic needs and whatever is required to stay alive.
Morgan remembers how it all started. At first the plague was overseas. Then it came to America. His wife, Virginia (Emma Danieli), and daughter, Kathy (Christi Courtland) succumbed to the disease. Morgan believes he is immune due to being bitten by an infected bat while he was in Panama. The diluted infection allowed him to build up immunity to the plague.
One day Morgan sees a dog. It runs away and Morgan chases after it but loses it. Still searching Morgan comes across some dead zombies that have been killed with iron spikes. He knows he didn’t kill them because he uses wooden spikes. Morgan realizes that he is not the only person alive. Perhaps he’s not the last man on Earth.
“The Last Man on Earth” was released in 1964 and was directed by Sidney Salkow and Ubaldo B. Ragona. It is an American apocalyptic science fiction horror film. The movie is based on the book, “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson. The rights to the book were purchased by Hammer Film Productions. Since the British sensors would not allow the film to be made in Britain, Hammer resold it to Robert Lippert who filmed the movie in Italy. It is the first of three films that were based on Matheson’s novel. The others were “The Omega Man” (1971) and “I Am Legend” (2007).
The spaceship looking building in the background when Morgan finds the zombies with the iron spikes is the "Ristorante Il Fungo" in Rome. It was built in 1957. For authenticity the dead zombies Price picked up and put in the back of his car were real. Dummies were tossed into the burn pit.
Vincent Price liked the film, but author Richard Matheson wasn’t so pleased. He used the pseudonym Logan Swanson on the credits, which was a combination of his wife’s mother’s maiden name and his mother’s maiden name.
Not being a big fan of apocalyptic style films, I postponed watching it myself. It ended up being a lot better than I expected. The story takes a little folklore from both the zombie as well as the vampire traditions. It then tosses in some science mumbo jumbo with a pandemic flair. As far as nightmare scenarios are concerned, it checks all the boxes. The end adds some additional symbolism when Morgan ends up being the outcast and is chased by the equivalent of angry villagers with flashlights and guns instead of torches and pitchforks.