Cast & Crew
In 1977, two years after a Sino-Russian war in which nuclear and biological weapons destroyed most life on the planet, military scientist Col. Robert Neville remains the lone uninfected survivor in Los Angeles. Apart from Neville, several people contaminated by the plague-like illness released by the germ warfare have survived but turned into bizarre mutants who are partially blind and demented. At night, Neville avoids the mutants, who, due to their sensitivity to light, cannot expose themselves during the daytime. Convinced by their fanatic leader, former news broadcaster Matthias, that Neville personifies the twin evils of science and militarism, the mutants make nightly attacks on his building, catapulting burning torches through his windows. Neville remains safely barricaded in his elegant, downtown penthouse apartment, where he has hoarded food, liquor and fuel for his numerous cars. Determined to maintain a sense of normalcy in spite of the catastrophe around him, Neville patrols the city by day, carrying a machine gun and recording any sign of the mutants' activity in hopes of finding and destroying them. After another evening of fighting off attacks led by Matthias and his cohort Zachary, Neville searches downtown in hopes of tracking them down. Attempting to suppress his constant anxiety, Neville "shops" in a clothing store and is startled when he sees a young black woman attempting to blend in with the store mannequins. Neville chases the woman, but she escapes by running into a park. Exhausted, Neville trudges into a bar and hearing a noise, descends into the darkened wine cellar where he is attacked by a group of mutants who take him to Matthias. Matthias condemns Neville for not being one of his "family" because he is not infected and declares him "obsolete." Neville maintains that the mutants should organize and attempt to find a cure, but Matthias insists there is no treatment. After a mock trial, Matthias and the others declare Neville guilty and carry him outside to a cart where he is driven to an area just outside of a stadium. Lashing Neville to a tree, Matthias exhorts his followers to burn the scientist as the bodies of the dead were burned after the initial contamination. Suddenly the stadium lights come on, forcing the mutants to collapse in an effort to cover their sensitive eyes and skin. An uninfected young man appears and cuts Neville free, then guides him away to the tunnels under the stadium where they are joined by the young woman Neville saw in the store. The woman forces Neville at gunpoint to drive her on a motorbike through the stadium and away from the recovering mutants. At dawn, the couple arrives at a house at the base of the mountains where Neville is stunned to meet a few healthy young women and several children. The young man joins the group and introduces himself as Dutch and the woman as Lisa. Dutch tells Neville that he is familiar with his work, as he was a graduate student in biochemistry before the disaster. Lisa explains that neither she nor any of the others understand why they have not been afflicted with the plague, but admits that most of them have a mild sensitivity to light. Dutch adds that occasionally one of their group will become ill and that when they become manic and violent, he has been forced to kill them. Lisa and Dutch then tell Neville that they have brought him to examine one of the young people, Richie, who has shown signs of plague. After examining the boy, Neville shocks Lisa and Dutch when he reveals that he is immune to the plague due to a vaccination he developed and took just as the war reached its peak. Heartened when Neville suggests that his blood could be used to make a serum, Dutch and Lisa agree to let Neville take Richie back to town where Neville has access to laboratories. At Neville's penthouse, he administers the last remaining vaccination to Richie. That evening, Neville treats Lisa to dinner, but they are interrupted by a power outage caused by the mutants. While Neville goes to the basement to restore power, Zachary scales the building to the penthouse balcony. Neville restores the lights and returns in time to kill Zachary just as he is about to attack Lisa. Neville and Lisa spend the night together and the next morning, Neville notes that Richie's condition is much improved. Taking Lisa to a laboratory, Neville draws his own blood and sets about making a serum he hopes will work. Pleased, Lisa offers to spend the afternoon gathering supplies for them and Neville returns to his penthouse to find a nearly recovered Richie. When Neville tells Richie about the serum, the boy expresses happiness that everyone will soon "return to normal." Neville explains that the mutants may be too far along in the illness to be saved and should be killed. Dismayed, Richie criticizes the scientist for his hypocrisy and abruptly reveals that the mutants' headquarters is the city civic center. Later, Neville goes to the mountains to report Richie's recovery and the serum development to Dutch, who agrees to join Neville and Lisa the following day. Upon returning to town, Neville finds a note from Richie declaring he has gone to confront the mutants to find out if they are as cynical as Neville. The scientist hurries to the civic center where he finds Richie brutally murdered. At dusk, as Lisa returns to the penthouse she runs into a torchlight parade by the mutants and, showing signs of the illness, joins them. Back at the penthouse, Neville is confronted by Matthias, a dazed Lisa and several mutants who destroy his belongings. Neville succeeds in breaking free and, using a large kitchen knife, threatens Matthias. Grabbing Lisa, Neville flees outside, but when Matthias calls to Lisa from the balcony, she is confused and breaks away from Neville. As Neville's machine gun jams, Matthias takes a spear from one of the scientist's art displays and hurls it at Neville, impaling him in the chest. The following morning, Dutch arrives with the children and is horrified to find Neville bleeding to death. Before dying, Neville gives Dutch the serum bottle and urges him to take the collapsed Lisa and the children away to start anew.
Warren E. Boes
John William Corrington
Joyce H. Corrington
William L. Kuehl
Glenn "j. R." Randall Jr.
Jean Burt Reilly
Walter M. Simonds
Wanda Ann Yates
The Omega Man
The Omega Man (1971), the second film based on Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend, is the story of the last human in a world decimated by plague. Charlton Heston read Richard Matheson's novel I Am Legend during a jet-set commute from Britain to America and thought there was a movie in it. He didn't realize at the time it had previously been made as The Last Man on Earth (1964), an American-Italian coproduction starring Vincent Price as the title character, but decided to go ahead after screening the earlier version ("fortunately for us, though it starred my friend Vincent Price, it was a pretty torpid piece," he recalled in his autobiography) and Warner Bros. signed on to produce. Heston was the man of action for dystopian science fiction of the day. He had previously taken on the simian rulers of Planet of the Apes (1968) and went on to star in Soylent Green, an adaptation of Harry Harrison's grim overpopulation novel Make Room! Make Room!. The Omega Man, by contrast, would leave Heston alone on screen for much of the film. He is, after all, the last man on Earth, or so he believes.
In Matheson's original story, a plague wipes out humanity but leaves a few survivors infected with vampire-like symptoms, an element that was preserved in The Last Man on Earth. In The Omega Man, the plague is germ warfare, a theme very much current in the early 1970s, and the victims aren't nuclear-age vampires but albino night dwellers, a mutant breed by way of a religious cult that sees humanity as the real plague. Heston kept the name of Matheson's hero, Robert Neville, but changed him into a military doctor who injects himself with an experimental serum before society collapses entirely. The film also keeps the location of Matheson's novel, Los Angeles, though that was as much a matter of convenience as anything else. The biggest physical problem the production faced was turning Los Angeles into a deserted city, where no human activity could be seen for miles, at least for a few key establishing shots. The solution was to shoot in early dawn hours of the weekend. The opening shot was filmed on the first day of shooting, a Sunday morning in November, 1970, with Heston driving through vacant Los Angeles streets, eerily empty of its citizens. Heston decorated his character's fortified hideaway with Renaissance paintings borrowed from the L.A. County Museum ("Surely one of my first acts, were I really in such a fix," he later wrote) and a marble head of Caesar Augustus from the Getty that served as his silent chess partner.
Heston and producer Walter Seltzer hired John William Corrington to adapt the novel, who enlisted his wife, Joyce H. Corrington, as his collaborator. "I have a PhD in chemistry and germ warfare was very much on my mind," she remembered in an interview in 2003, and her husband had a degree in philosophy, "so we became the two sides of Robert Neville." In addition to the germ warfare, they made the other central surviving human into a young black woman. "We were thinking, you have the last man on earth meet the last woman on earth, what's the conflict? So we thought, let's make her black and you can get a little racial pizzazz in there. And she did."
The studio wanted to cast Diahann Carroll, an Emmy nominated veteran of TV and movies, in the role of Lisa, the first uninfected person Robert has seen in two years, but Heston was impressed with the screen test of an unknown young actress named Rosalind Cash. "[S]he's a very good actress and perhaps a more textured person," he wrote in his journals. "I think this is the choice to make." A brief role in Klute (1971) aside, Heston gave the actress an impressive screen debut, though she was a little overwhelmed starring opposite Heston. "It's a spooky feeling to screw Moses," she told him while shooting their love scene.
Apart from Anthony Zerbe, who co-starred with Heston in Will Penny (1968), as the leader of the nocturnal hordes, it was a cast of young, largely unknown actors, including Paul Koslo as the motorcycle-riding Dutch and Eric Laneuville as Lisa's younger brother, a teenager in the early stage of infection. Laneuville went on to a successful career on TV as both an actor (Room 222 and St. Elsewhere) and director of dozens of shows and TV movies.
Throughout the production, Heston was busy developing another project, a film version of Antony and Cleopatra, and he was constantly flying out to test actors, interview directors, and meet potential investors. It was a tough sell. The studios were shy of producing a Shakespeare adaptation and Heston's last four films had done tepid business. The Omega Man changed that, becoming his first box-office hit in two years. When production ended, he left for Spain to make Antony and Cleopatra (1972), even if he had to direct it himself. The book, meanwhile, was remade once again more than thirty years later under its original name, I Am Legend (2007), with Will Smith in Heston's role. The idea of the last man on earth is indeed a potent one.
By Sean Axmaker Bibliography The Actor's Life: Journals 1956-1976, Charlton Heston. Dutton, 1976.
In the Arena: An Autobiography, Charlton Heston. Simon & Schuster, 1995.
The Primal Screen, John Brosnan. Orbit, 1991.
Apocalypse Movies: End of the World Cinema, Kim Newman. St. Martin's Griffin, 1999.
The Omega Man DVD supplements. Warner, 2003.
The Omega Man
Hi. Another day, another dollar.- Neville
For you, I think it's your move.- Neville
Join me? Hm? Miserable schmuck!- Neville
: Isn't he? Isn't he a sullen b...- Neville
SHUT UP! Why the hell can't you leave me alone?- Neville
What day is it, anyway? Monday? Huh? The hell it is. It's Sunday. Sunday I always dress for dinner.- Neville
There's never a cop around when you need one.- Robert Neville
Hi, Big Brother, how's your ass?- Robert Neville
At it again, I see? What will it be tonight? Museum of Science? Some library? Poor miserable bastards.- Robert Neville
Are you God?- Little Girl
Let's find out if he's even a doctor before we go promoting him, okay?- Lisa
The production company wanted a set that looked like an abandoned metropolitan area, but it was too costly to build. The producer drove through downtown L.A. one weekend and discovered there were no shoppers, so the majority of the film's exterior was shot on location during the weekends.
This is a remake of _L'Ultimo uomo della Terra (1964)_ (The Last Man in Earth), which starred Vincent Price. Both films are based on Richard Matheson's novel, "I am Legend," and has a writing credit for both films.
The working title of the film was I Am Legend. The opening and closing cast credits differ slightly in order. In the first half of the film, flashbacks detail the cataclysmic war and how "Robert Neville" survives using the vaccination against plague. "Matthias" is also shown broadcasting news of the war and the impending doom facing the planet.
In 1964 producer Robert L. Lippert produced a version of Robert Matheson's novel, I Am Legend, entitled The Last Man on Earth for American International. That film starred Vincent Price and was directed by Sidney Salkow. According to a January 1970 Daily Variety news item, Lippert still owned the films rights to the novel when Warner Bros. bought the property. Modern sources add the following credits: Dan Wallin, Buddy Joe Hooker and Lydia Heston, wife of star Charlton Heston.
Released in United States March 1975
Released in United States Summer August 1, 1971
Released in United States March 1975 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Science Fiction Movie Marathon - Selection of Trailers) March 13-26, 1975.)
Released in United States Summer August 1, 1971