The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston, Rosalind Cash
In The Omega Man, Charlton Heston stars as a scientist who believes he is the only human to survive a worldwide bacteriological war unharmed. He attempts to save humanity by developing a curative serum from his own blood … if he lives long enough.
The Omega Man the second film adaptation of the novel I Am Legend. The first, Last Man on Earth stars Vincent Price as a grieving family man who’s lost his wife, daughter, and friends. Here, Charlton Heston stars as Robert Neville. As in the earlier movie, he believes himself alone. He thinks that he’s the only unaffected survivor of a plague. A plague that has wiped out the majority of humanity, and mutated a small remainder of survivors.
Our monsters are different
That’s literally true here. In Last Man on Earth, the survivors are a cross between vampires and zombies. They can’t stand light, garlic, and their own reflection repulses them — because it reminds them of their lost humanity. They’re pale, and determined to kill the protagonist. And they’re very slow-witted, barely verbal.
Here, the monsters are somewhat different. They’re far more intelligent, and far more dangerous. Although, interestingly, they blame technology for the disaster, and have become Luddites. They refuse to use technology, which gives Neville an advantage. The call themselves “the family”.
Our protagonist is different
The protagonist is different as well. Charlton Heston plays an action hero version of the character. He’s also ungrounded. He has no family to care for, and feels detached. He’s on the verge of losing his sanity. Until he finds human survivors. Or more accurately, they rescue him from the family.
These humans haven’t caught the plague … yet. One of them, an attractive African-American woman named Lisa, is attracted to him. But, she’s preoccupied by her younger brother, who’s dying of the plague. But Neville’s able to create a serum from his own, immune blood. And save the young man’s life.
Our morality is different
Soon, Lisa and Neville fall into love with each other. And shortly after, they fall into bed. The language is also much cruder than the earlier film.
Different, tragic ending
I’ll do as little spoiling as possible. As in the source material, the protagonist has a tragic ending. Unlike the earlier film, however, hope endures for humanity as a whole.
Editorial review of The Omega Man courtesy of Amazon.com
Science fiction took a grim turn in the 1970s–the heyday of Agent Orange, nuclear peril, and Watergate. Suddenly, most of our possible futures took on a “last man on Earth” flavor, with The Omega Man topping the doom-struck heap.
Charlton Heston plays the government researcher behind the ultimate biological weapon, a deadly plague that has ravaged humanity. There are two groups of survivors: a dwindling band of immune humans and an infected, psychopathic mob of light-hating quasi-vampires. The infected are led by Mathias, a clever, charismatic man set on destroying the last remnants of the civilization that produced the plague. Heston has a vaccine–but he and the few remaining normals are outnumbered and outgunned.
By day, he builds a makeshift version of the nuclear family (with Rosalind Cash as his afro-wearing, gun-toting little lady). They plan for the future while roaming freely through an empty urban landscape, taking what few pleasures life has left. By night, they defend themselves against the growing horde of plague victims. Both a bittersweet romance and a gothic cautionary tale, The Omega Man paints a convincing portrait of hope and despair. It ain’t pretty, but it’s a great movie. –Grant Balfour