Last Man on Earth, The (Blu-ray) (1964)

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Released 2-Sep-2015

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror/Sci-Fi Trailer-Cinema Cult trailers x 4
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 87:03
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Ubaldo Ragona
Sidney Salkow
Studio
Distributor

Shock Entertainment
Starring Vince Price
Franca Bettoia
Emma Danieli
Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
Umberto Rau



Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Paul Sawtell
Bert Shefter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 mono
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Last Man on Earth starts with a bleak establishing shot of a deserted and derelict city with human bodies strewn around the streets. Nothing moves, except the trees in the wind, as the camera pans finally through a window to reveal Robert Morgan (Vince Price) about to start another day without much enthusiasm: “Another day to live through. Better get started’ he mutters in the voice-over narration. Three years previously an incurable plague that began in Europe spread around the world, killing everyone, although that was not the end. Instead, people became the living dead hunting each other and coming out only by night for they cannot stand the light; they also fear mirrors and are repelled by garlic. Robert, with his close friend Ben (Giacomo Rossi-Stuart), were two scientists seeking a cure at the laboratory of Dr. Mercer (Umberto Rau) until the plague spread to America and Robert’s wife Virginia (Emma Danieli) and young daughter were infected and died.

     Now, three years later, Robert is the only living thing. By day he roams through the deserted city, driving wooden stakes into the bodies of the undead and then throwing their corpses into a perpetually burning pit at the edge of town. At night he barricades himself inside his house brooding, drinking, listening to music and watching home movies of his dead wife and daughter as the undead, including Ben, try to smash their way into his house. Then, next day, his hunting and destruction of the undead resumes.

     Robert is half mad with grief and loneliness, and it is hard to blame him. He is ecstatic when, one day, another living creature, a dog, appears. He looks forward to the companionship, but Robert quickly realises the dog is also infected so he kills it. Later he finds human bodies with metal stakes driven into them and realises that there must be somebody else out there, but he has seen no-one and cannot contact anyone on his shortwave radio. Then, in daylight, he discovers another human, Ruth (Franca Bettoia), and takes her home. Ruth can look into mirrors, but she reacts adversely to garlic and Robert knows she is also infected. But it seems that Ruth is part of a group of new, hybrid, humans who have been infected but have come up with a way to mitigate, but not eradicate, the effects of the plague. Her group is creating a new society to which Robert has become a threat. Truly, he is the last normal human on Earth, and the hunter becomes the hunted.

     The Last Man on Earth is based on the 1954 novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. The novel has been filmed twice since, The Omega Man with Charlton Heston in 1971 and I Am Legend with Will Smith in 2007, although The Last Man on Earth is the more faithful to the source. Indeed, Matheson wrote the original screenplay for the film but was unhappy with the result so he had his name removed from the credits and is credited as Logan Swanson. Matheson had worked with Price before, including writing the first four Edgar Allan Poe adaptations staring Price for Roger Corman, commencing with The Fall of the House of Usher in 1960. However Matheson believed that Price was miscast in The Last Man on Earth, another cause of his dissatisfaction.

     Certainly The Last Man on Earth is a different role for Price and he is required, singlehandedly, to carry most of the first 50 minutes of the film. Although I don’t think it is up with his best performances, certainly not up to The Masque of the Red Death for Corman this same year, in The Last Man on Earth Price avoids his usual mannerisms and gives a compelling performance. However, I just felt something was missing so perhaps he was not totally comfortable working with an Italian cast and crew in Rome where the film was shot after Hammer passed on the project.

     The Last Man on Earth is a low budget film and this shows in things like continuity, where shots in a single sequence alternate between day and night, the establishing shots or the limited sets. Yet The Last Man on Earth is atmospheric and some sequences are quite chilling, such as when Virginia returns from the grave and tries to get into her home. The ending is sad, bleak and powerful. And although zombies are never mentioned in the film, the cast referring to vampires instead, The Last Man on Earth with its shuffling, slow undead established much of the zombie lore that later influenced George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) and a whole new sub-genre of horror was born.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Last Man on Earth is presented in the original 2.35:1 theatrical aspect ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a low budget black and white film over 50 years old that probably looks as good as it ever has. There are frequent small marks and scratches scattered throughout the print, but most are small and fleeting. Contrast can vary, and some of the greys look soft but in the night sequences the blacks are fine and shadow detail good. Film grain is evident, but nicely controlled.

     There was minor motion blur against mottled surfaces such as leaves.

     There are no subtitles available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is an English LPCM 2.0 mono.

     There is not a lot of dialogue, but what there is is clear and easy to understand as is Price’s voiceover narration. This is a mono audio but the effects, such as the pounding on the outside of the house, have some depth. The score by Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter is not as strident as the score in some 1960s horror films, and is effective.

     There is no surround or subwoofer use.

     I did not notice any hiss or distortion.

     Lip synchronisation was occasionally out but was generally fine.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     Trailers for The Killing (1:48), Paths of Glory (3:01), Dr. Phibes Rises Again! (2:08) and Masters of the Universe (1:39).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray release of The Last Man on Earth is part of The Vincent Price Collection II where it shares a disc with The Tomb of Legeia. Extras include an audio commentary by film historian David Del Valle and author Derek Bortelho, which is reported as good, and a short featurette on Richard Matheson (6:24). It also has English subtitles. Our Region B Blu-ray misses out on the extras and subtitles but otherwise has the identical running time and technical specifications as the US release.

     There is currently no Region B UK release, only a Region Free German and a Region B Spanish release where the film is doubled with House on Haunted Hill (listed as House of Haunted Hill).

     For the stand alone film our release is fine, although the extras of the US release would be nice. For details of the US and German Blu-rays see here.

Summary

     The Last Man on Earth is probably the best of the film adaptations of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel. It is atmospheric and chilling, with a bleak view of humanity from the opening shots to the stunning climax. If you have not seen the film watch it for Vincent Price or if you an intrigued to see a film which created a whole new genre of horror film. The Black and white video is pretty good for a 50 year old film, the audio is the original mono.

     A DVD of The Last Man on Earth was released in Region 4 over ten years ago and was reviewed on this site here. That DVD was a pan and scan riddled with artefacts and the reviewer’s conclusion was that it was “appalling”. If your system will play Region A the extras are worthwhile, however if you want just the film our Blu-ray release a vast improvement on the DVD so you will be happy to upgrade.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, September 29, 2015
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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