Last Man on Earth (1964)


Is it possible to make a good movie from so many bad ingredients?  The logical answer is "no", but I just cant bring myself to dislike this film. This low budget 1964 Italian import stars Vincent Price as Dr. Robert Morgan, a biological researcher who fails in his attempts to find a cure for an airborne bacteria which is wiping out all life on earth.  Those who succumb to the plague are hauled off for burning, ostensibly to slow down the spread of the disease.  The truth is much more terrible - the dead are rising from their graves at night with a thirst for human blood!  As the title implies, Dr. Morgan believes himself to be the last man on earth - somehow immune to the bacteria that he could not conquer in the lab.  By day he is the hunter, tracking the undead to their hiding places and destroying them.  By night he is the hunted, locked and barred within his home while the slow moving and slow witted creatures pound at the doors and windows, wailing for his blood.

Now about those bad ingredients...  The terrible dubbing is minimized a bit by the fact that most of the story is told in voice-over narration by Vincent Price, who was blessed with a voice that could make your VCR instruction manual sound like Shakespeare.  Then we have the zombie hordes.  Apparently the film's accountants would define "horde" as more than four but less than ten.  The zombies themselves are simply actors in tattered clothes and pancake makeup with dark circles under their eyes.  Finally we have the screenplay.  About half of the film's 86 minutes are spent following Dr. Morgan as he chain smokes his way through a typical post- apocalyptic day of zombie slaying, corpse burning, and resupplying his home to survive yet another hellish night.  Another quarter of the film presents an extended flashback to our hero's once happy life with his beautiful wife and daughter.  In other words, three- quarters of the film is spent laying foundation.  That doesn't leave much time for conflict and resolution.

Somehow, these cheap defective parts are assembled into a decent movie.  Bland footage of empty streets and abandoned cars turns ominous under Vincent Price's expert narration.  His dead-spirited descriptions lend horror to otherwise laughable zombies.  It's hard not to feel his desperation and loneliness as he paces nervously in his fortress home, turning up the record player to drown out the constant hammering from the creatures gathering outside.

Despite its many disadvantages, this film works hard to earn a seven out of ten.