Plot Summary: Biological war has decimated life on Earth. Los Angeles is a windswept ghost town where Robert Neville tools his convertible through sunlit streets foraging for supplies.
Starring: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe
Supporting actors: Rosalind Cash
Directed by: Boris Sagal
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Serious Jest: (Don’t Bother) I could tell that this movie was poorly executed right from the opening scene, in which Heston is supposedly driving around a deserted Los Angeles, but you can clearly see another car driving in the background, as well as another person walking on the side of the street. The costumes and makeup for Zerbe’s antagonist “Family” look simply ridiculous, more suitable for an “Eyes Wide Shut” shindig than a scary nighttime mob–at one point, I think Heston even makes a Halloween joke about them. The helicopter crash scene is also silly.
I don’t know quite what to make of the racial component in this film. In one scene, Heston sort of “justifies” his romantic relationship with Cash by saying to her, “You know the old song? If you were the only girl in the world, and I was the only boy, well, okay, but until then, don’t bother me? Well, I guess I’m the only boy…” While this sounds incredibly condescending, it could also be taken as a commentary that, given the chance to start over, racial taboos should be left as part of the antiquated, extinguished world. Another scene in the movie seems to support the latter interpretation: Lincoln Kilpatrick calls Heston’s fortress a “honky paradise,” to which Zerbe responds, “Forget the old ways, brother, all the old hatreds.”
In the 1954 book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Neville declares, “I am legend,” referring to himself as the last remaining remnant of the old world. Although a great deal of the declaration’s original meaning has been lost in the films The Omega Man (in fact, Matheson said that The Omega Man was so removed from his book that it didn’t even bother him) and I Am Legend, some of the themes are still embedded throughout the movies. The Omega Man’s battle between the “new” and “old” orders (it is not exactly clear which one is which, since the mutated Family wants to revert to pre-technology times) is more developed than in the I Am Legend film, because The Omega Man’s Family seems to have a higher ability to reason than the monster-like creatures in I Am Legend. However, pretty much every other aspect of I Am Legend is done better, and in hindsight, I’d have rather watched that film again than wasted my time watching this one for the first time.