You have heard me say this before, and you will definitely hear me say it again, but The Omega Man is a film I watched at an age far too young to be watching something like it. An indelible impression was left. It is low budget shlock, but a sentimental favorite. It is easily the best adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend out of Vincent Price’s Last Man on Earth The Omega Man, Will smith’s inexplicably 2007 big hit, the only one to carry the original title.
None of the films are particularly faithful to Matheson’s novel. The Omega Man is more a product of its era than anything else. Charlton Heston plays Robert Neville, a scientist who appears to be the only survivor of a biological war which has wiped out humanity. Neville spends his days cruising around the ruins of Lo Angeles in the far flung future of 1975 by day, but by night, he has to hold up in a barricaded luxury sky rise apartment in order to avoid being killed by a group of albino mutants. They consider Neville as reminder of the corrupt society which created them. So he has to die.
The first third of the film is the est. You watch Neville desperately try to hold onto his sanity by maintaining as much normalcy as possible. He is safe I the daylight. Ut contrat that with night, when the mutants come out and completely devote themselves to lurig him out of his sanctuary. It is a nerve-racking terrifying existence. It is to the extremes of both lonely and suffocating, depending on the time of the day.
The film begins to drift one Neville is captured by the mutants. He is rescued by Rosalind Cash, who plays a giant Afro sporting radical feminist while delivering some o the most dated black power slogans this side of Good Tmes. The two begin an implausible romance which would brig the film to a screeching halt if the appearance of more survivors and incredibly heavy imagery of Neville as Jesus did not already beat it to the punch.
The Omega Man is worth seeing for its atmosphere. It does produce the appropriate emotional response remarkably well for a low budget picture for the first bit. But the film falls apart pretty quickly amid some of the sillier aspects of the sunshade wearing mutants and all the jive turkey comments from cash. It was probably cool in 1971. Perhaps even a serious cautionary tale about the dangers of total war. But it has definitely lost something in the last 39 years.
Rating: *** (out of 5)