The Last Man on Earth (1964) Classic Movie Review 45

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

They were afraid of me... they were afraid of me... they were afraid of me.

The Last Man on Earth (1964) is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece starring Vincent Price. The movie is based on the novel “I Am Legend”

The Last Man on Earth (1964)

This movie is the fifth of the October 2015 films all thought it may come out on November 1st or 2nd. The Last Man on Earth (1964) is an adaptation of the 1954 novel “I am Legend” by Richard Matheson.

The great Vincent Price plays the leading role of Dr. Robert Morgan. Price is the master of the macabre and many people incorrectly believe him to be English. In fact, he was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Price was from a wealthy family as his grandfather invented some kind of baking powder. He graduated from Yale University and then entered the University of London. It was at this time that he was bitten by the acting bug. He began working on the stage in 1934 and in the film with the Mercury Theater group.

Price had a long and varied film career. He was also active in television, radio, and music at the same time with a total of 199 credits. Like most actors, he started out as a character actor and his first role was Service de Luxe (1938).

He played Sir Walter Raleigh as a sneaky cuss aligned against Errol Flynn as Essex in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939). That same year he played a murdering royal killing his way to the throne in Tower of London (1939). Co-stars in this movie include Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff.

The 1940s brought Price closer to the type of roles he is now known for. Price was cast as the title role in The Invisible Man Returns (1940). Price was cast as the prosecutor in The Song of Bernadette (1943). In the film noir Laura (1944) Price plays the slimy boyfriend on Gene Tierney’s character Laura. In Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) Price voiced the part of the invisible man at the end of the film. Price returned to another costume drama as the evil Richelieu in The Three Musketeers (1948).

Following Laura (1944) Price had a number of film noir roles that included The Web (1947), The Long Night (1947), Rogues’ Regiment (1948) and The Bribe (1949). In The Baron of Arizona (1950) Price plays a conman trying to use forged Spanish documents to obtain ownership of the state of Arizona.

Price said Champagne for Caesar (1950) was one of his favorite roles. He played an out of work genius that takes to a game show to bankrupt a company that refused to hire him. The company responds by recruiting a fem fatal to knock him off his game. In The Ten Commandments (1956), directed by Cecile B. DeMille, Price played the head pyramid builder.

It was around this time that Price really got into the horror genre. Films during this period include House of Wax (1953) an early 3-D movie, The Story of Mankind (1957) where he played The Devil, The Fly (1958), House on Haunted Hill (1959), Return of the Fly (1959), The Bat (1959), The Tingler (1959), House of Usher (1960), Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Confessions of an Opium Eater (1962), Tower of London (1962), The Comedy of Terrors (1963) really a horror-comedy, The Haunted Palace (1963), The Raven (1963), The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), The Tomb of Ligeia (1964), House of 1,000 Dolls (1967), and The Oblong Box (1969).

Price also had time for some fun movies such as Beach Party (1963), Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965), and Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1966).

Price was active in the music business for a time. He added a backing track to The Monster Mash in 1976, he contributed to Alice Cooper’s album (a collection of non-digital songs) Welcome to My Nightmare in 1975, and finally performed a spine-chilling speech on Michael Jackson’s album Thriller in 1982. This, of course, was the best part of the album and the video IMHO.

He did a ton of voice work and other media during his later years. His last major film was in Edward Scissorhands (1990) as the inventor. Vincent Price died at age 82 of lung cancer in 1993.

This movie was shot in Rome and the other actors are Italian.

Franca Bettoia played the role of Ruth Collins. She had 23 movie credits with the majority being in Italian. She was in Duel of Champions (1961) with Alan Ladd. Born in 1936 she is still alive.

Emma Danieli played the role of Virginia Morgan. She had 16 roles as an actress. She lived from 1936 to 1998 dying at the young age of 61.

Giacomo Rossi Stuart was cast as Ben Cortman. He had 92 acting credits but not much that would be known to an American audience. He was born in 1925 and died in 1994.

Umberto Raho was cast as Dr. Mercer. He had 130 acting credits. He was born in 1922 and is still alive.


The movie opens with a deserted city. Now that I know it filmed in Rome I can see the European cars and architectural styling. Unlike The World, The Flesh, and The Devil (195*) there are bodies in the street. The sign on the local church reads “the end has come.”

Dr. Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is shown through his boarded windows sleeping. When the alarm rings at 6am he states “another day to live through, better get going.” The plague has been going for three years and it is now 1968. As the credits roll, he checks the garlic for freshness. Like Neville would do later in The Omega Man (1971) he has a generator in his garage. Unlike Neville Morgan has to get out and manually open his garage door.

In his yard are dead bodies. Morgan says they live off the weak one. After coffee, he broadcast on ham radio looking for others. He says they are repealed by their image in a mirror. His mission for this day is replacing the garlic. He is also using a grid to exterminate the others. He makes some first-class wooden stakes on his lathe.

Outside he loads the dead bodies into his car. He fuels his car at a tanker truck before heading to the pit that is still smoldering from the burning dead bodies. He throws the two new bodies in the pit.

Morgan’s next stop is the grocery store where another generator is keeping a large supply of meat and garlic fresh. So by now, we have enough information to know the others are vampires. Next, he goes to a mirror store. That’s something you don’t see any more.

Finally, he gets to his search, where he stakes a few vampires before hauling them to the pit. An hour before sundown he heads back to his house where he hangs garlic and mirrors over the boarded windows and doors. That night the vampires follow their leader to the house. They holler for Morgan to come out. He drinks and listens to jazz music. Seem familiar?

He wakes on the couch in the morning because of a nightmare. He rues another day. Instead of working on survival Morgan walks away from the lathe and travels to a mausoleum. Which I assume is his wife’s grave. He stays too long and it gets dark. He fights his way through the vampires because they are slow and weak. When he gets to his home, the leader and the gang are there. He fights throughout part of the slow group at his house and uses a mirror to make it inside.

Later he smokes, drinks, and watches home movies of his wife (Emma Danieli) and baby girl. He becomes very melancholy and does some crazy laughing mixed with crying. The leader and his gang are back outside.

Morgan flashes back to his daughters seventh birthday. When Uncle Ben shows up, damn he the leader of the vampires (Giacomo Rossi Stuart). I mean not at the birthday party but three years in the future. Ben shows Morgan a clip about a European plague being airborne. Morgan is a scientist working on the disease but so far they have not found a way to destroy it.

Morgan’s daughter and wife get sick but he carries on like normal. He leaves his family to work at the lab and finds out that America has lost contact with the rest of the world. Ben comes in and he is a scientist also. They talk about the pit where the bodies are being burned. Ben keeps talking about the vampires.

The governor declares a disaster and says all bodies must be burned. In the morning Morgan’s daughter goes blind. His life is sick with fear and he tells her not to call a doctor. Morgan leaves to pick up Ben and go to work. Outside soldiers are hauling away dead bodies. When he gets to Ben’s house it is the house that he has been defending. Ben has its setup with garlic and mirrors. So Ben preps and Morgan takes over his prep house?

When Morgan gets to work only he and Dr. Mercer (Umberto Raho) are there. When Morgan gets home that night the soldiers are hauling something away from his house. His wife has done the one thing he asks her not to do and when their daughter died she was hauled away to the pit. Morgan drives to the pit to find his daughter’s body.

His wife goes blind and dies quickly. Morgan sneaks the body out the house and buries her in an empty field. That night his dead wife returns to the house as a vampire and tries to kill him. Since Morgan is still alive he probably killed her but they don’t show.

Back in current time Ben and his gang of vampires are still coming every night to try and kill Morgan. The vampires destroy his car. The next morning he goes to the car dealership and says a convertible would be nice. Man, free convertibles are a theme. But he chose a wagon for hauling bodies.

When he gets back with his new car he sees a dog. He is happy to see something else alive. But the dog runs alway and Morgan can’t catch him. He runs by one of the world’s fair spaceships from Men in Black and sees some bodies that have been killed with iron stakes. He now knows others are alive but doesn’t know why he hasn’t seen them. The dog shows back up but it’s wounded. After being happy that the dog is there Morgan checks its blood and dog has the virus. In the morning Morgan buries the staked dog. When he finishes he looks up and sees a girl dressed like a hipster. He chases her and then she follows Morgan back to the house.

The girl introduces herself as Ruth Collins (Franca Bettoia). He stuffs garlic in her face and she reacts badly. She says it’s a weak stomach. He wants to give her a blood test but she refuses. Good old Ben and his gang show up and start hitting the house with sticks.

He says he may be immunity because he was bitten by a vampire bat in Panama.

Ruth goes in her room and fails the vampire test, remember from Billy the Kid Versus Dracula. Morgan walks in and Ruth is getting ready to take a vaccine that holds of the disease. Her society is organized and wants to rebuild. She tells him he is a monster to her people and that many of the ones he killed were still alive. Ruth says her people are coming to kill him and she pulls a gun. Then she passes out.

While Ruth is out Morgan gives her a direct transfusion curing her of the disease. He gives her the vampire test with a mirror and she passes. He double checks with the garlic. About this time Ben breaks into the house and drags Ruth outside where he bites her. Just at that time Ruth’s people show up and kill the vampires around the house. They shoot Ben off the roof and begin chasing Morgan ignoring Ruth’s feeble cries.

Morgan makes it to the armory where he gets tear gas and escapes on the ledge. The gang chases him to a church as Morgan throws tear gas and fires back with Ruth’s gun. Morgan is wounded in the side but makes it inside the church. He staggers onto the altar before giving them a tirade. One of the men throws a spear into Morgan’s chest. He dies as Ruth says they didn’t know. Ruth stops by a crying baby and says don’t cry were all safe now.

The author of the novel I Am Legend (1954) worked on the movie script but was not happy so he used an assumed name. Director George A. Romero stated that this movie was the model for Night of the Living Dead (1968).

World-Famous Short Summary – Widowers miss their chance for happiness because her friends don’t approve.

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Beware the moors

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