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Rights to Matheson's novel had been bought by producer Anthony Hinds for Hammer Productions. Matheson wrote a script but the British censors would not allow its production so Hinds sold the script to Robert Lippert.

Lippert originally told Matheson that Fritz Lang was to direct but eventually Sidney Salkow was chosen. To save money the film was shot in Italy with a predominantly Italian cast and crew.

There are differences between the film and the novel in which it's based. The protagonist of the novel is named Robert Neville, not Robert Morgan. The movie also changed the protagonist's profession from plant worker to scientist.

The film's vampires are almost zombie-like, whereas in the book, they are fast, capable of running and climbing. The dog that shows up on Neville's doorstep is timid in the novel, and comes and goes as it pleases.


The relationship with Ruth also slightly differs from the novel, and no transfusion takes place; a cure seems implausible, even as Neville hopes he will find one. Ruth escapes after Neville discovers that she is infected.

He is not captured until many months later, and even then he barely fights. The book ends shortly before Neville is to be executed: Ruth returns to give him suicide pills, and finds it ironic that he has become as much of a legend to the new society as vampires once were to his (hence the title).

The novel implies that the vampire plague resulted from a biological disease. The origin of the disease is not explained in The Last Man on Earth, and is altered in the subsequent adaptations.

Although the film was not considered a success upon its release, the film later gained a more favorable reputation as a classic of the genre. As of November 2011, The Last Man on Earth holds a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


Phil Hall of Film Threat called The Last Man on Earth "the best Vincent Price movie ever made." Awarding the film three and a half stars out of four, Danél Griffin of Film as Art said, "Directors Sidney Salkow and Ubaldo Ragona and star Vincent Price (giving a poignant, straightforward performance) are able to conjure up some genuine chills here, mainly in the use of stark, black-and-white images and the underlining mood of the piece."

Among the less favorable reviews, Steve Biodrowski of Cinefantastique felt the film was "hampered by an obviously low budget and some poorly recorded post-production dubbing that creates an amateurish feel, undermining the power of its story", while Jonathan Rosenbaum of the Chicago Reader remarked, "Some would consider this version better than the 1971 remake with Charlton Heston, The Omega Man, but that isn't much of an achievement."

Among the film's creators, Price "had a certain fondness for the film" and felt it was better than the 1971 The Omega Man. Richard Matheson co-wrote the film's screenplay, but was unhappy with the results.

In order to keep receiving residual income from the film, though, he had to be credited, and so used the name "Logan Swanson" - a combination of his wife's mother's maiden name and his mother's maiden name.


Author Matheson remarked, "I was disappointed in the film, even though they more or less followed my story. I think Vincent Price, whom I love in every one of his pictures that I wrote, was miscast. I also felt the direction was kind of poor. I just didn’t care for it."

George A. Romero has acknowledged the source material of The Last Man on Earth as an influence on his film Night of the Living Dead, remarking that he "basically had ripped it off from a Richard Matheson novel called I Am Legend." Numerous critics have suggested the film itself was also a source of inspiration for "Night of the Living Dead".

The film was first remade in 1971 starring Charlton Heston and Anthony Zerbe, with Rosalind Cash under the title The Omega Man with Neville as an exiled immune U.S. Army bio-war scientist living on the top of his old Los Angeles townhouse with all his books, art and laboratories and weapons, fighting Zerbe's half-human black-cloaked creatures of the night.

Then there is a 2007 remake, starring Will Smith, under the original book title, I Am Legend.





Resources: Wikipedia.org, imdb.com





The Last Man on Earth 1964

Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is the last man on earth, as far as he can tell. A plague killed everyone else on the planet several years ago. He was immune to it, and can only guess why. Vampires that were formerly human attack Morgan's home every night.


Morgan's days are spent shoring up his home against the vampire hordes, picking up supplies in the abandoned city, and eliminating his enemies by searching out and destroying the bloodsuckers while they sleep. He maintains mirrors and garlic strands around his house and fashions stakes on his lathe to use on the walking dead.


He also conducts experiments on the bacteria that caused this plague in an effort to find a cure. He remembers the early days of the plague, when his former friend and lab partner, Ben Cortman (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart) tried to warn Morgan of what was to come. Morgan dismissed his fears and continued life as usual.


The vampires outside Morgan's home are led by Ben Cortman, who has made it his personal mission to kill Morgan. "Morgan, come out!" is the nightly chant that torments him. He remembers the disease blanketing the earth. His daughter Kathy (Christi Courtland) fell ill and went blind.


His wife Virg (Emma Danieli) was horrified and wanted to get help, but any reported case of plague would result in immediate government pickup, death and cremation of the body. Before leaving for work, Morgan ordered Virg not to call anyone, but, tormented by the little girl's cries, she did.


As Morgan arrived home, he saw the government truck leaving. Kathy was gone. His solitary existence is painful. He gets on the radio every day, calling out on different frequencies, trying to find another human still alive. In his tortured dreams, he remembers when his wife returned from the dead to seek his blood, after she succumbed to the plague.


Because he couldn't bear to throw her body in the cremation pit where others were taken, he buried her himself--and when she came back from the dead as a vampire, he had to drive a stake through her heart. One day, to his amazement, he finds a dog. He is so excited to have a companion that he overlooks several signs that all is not right with the animal.


Eventually, he realizes that the dog is also infected and that he must kill it. While burying the dog, Morgan encounters Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia), a woman walking through the park in the sunshine! Even though he's suspicious of her story of how she survived, he takes her home with him. She reacts violently to a garland of garlic cloves he brings out, but she claims that she's always had a weak stomach.


Morgan catches her injecting herself with something, and she's forced to admit that she too is infected but that she and others like her have developed a serum that lets them control the disease. By regular injections, they keep the disease in check: they are able to live in the daylight and do not turn to vampirism.


Ruth also warns Morgan that her people are coming for him because, in his zeal to kill vampires, he has been killing people like her who have the disease under control. Morgan injects Ruth with some of his own blood and cures her of the disease completely. His blood is the permanent cure that Ruth and others like her have been searching to find.


At this moment, however, the soldiers come for him. Before Ruth can tell them that Morgan has found a cure, he is surrounded and shot. As he stumbles to his death, he tells the crowds that they are freaks and that he is "the last man on earth"!





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