The Omega Man (1971)

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Released 8-Oct-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction Main Menu Audio
Introduction-Eric Laneuville&Paul Koslo(Actors),JoyceH Corrington(Writer)
Featurette-The Last Man Alive - The Omega Man
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1971
Running Time 94:01 (Case: 98)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (41:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4,5 Directed By Boris Sagal
Studio
Distributor

Warner Home Video
Starring Charlton Heston
Rosalind Cash
Anthony Zerbe
Paul Koslo
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Ron Grainer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
Italian
Dutch
Arabic
Romanian
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    The Omega Man is the second chapter in what I like to call the Heston Sci-fi trilogy. My reasoning for this is simple - the film is book-ended by Planet Of The Apes and Soylent Green. The Omega Man is based on the classic apocalyptic vampire novel I Am Legend by famed author Richard Matheson. Matheson's books have always been fertile ground for film adaptation. His genre novels have given rise to the films Legend Of Hell House, Somewhere In Time, What Dreams May Come, Stir Of Echoes and Steven Spielberg's Duel. Of course, not all of these films do justice to the source material, but The Omega Man comes very close. I consider The Omega Man to be a classic of the sci-fi genre and it is with great joy that I welcome the film to the DVD format.

    After a devastating world war where biological weapons have decimated mankind, Dr Robert Neville finds himself the last man on earth unaffected by the toxic poisons. The aftermath of the war has left surviving humans in a zombie-like state where they suffer from extreme Albinism and are covered in festering sores, similar to the plague. Neville, a military scientist, managed to immunise himself against the effects of the biological weapons. Those unlucky enough not to have died immediately from the effects of the disease have banded together, calling themselves `The Family' and spend their nights trying to hunt down and kill Neville. What follows is an excellent daily battle of wits between Neville and the diseased remnants of mankind for survival.

    The screenplay by John and Joyce Corrington differs from the novel significantly. In the novel, the infected population were vampires and the character of Neville was not a military man. However, as this film was made in 1971, it is easy to see why these changes were made. Firstly, prior to the 1980's vampire films were considered B-grade and box office poison, so that concept was deemed too financially risky and secondly, by involving the military and germ warfare, parallels to the political climate of the time could be made. Regardless of the changes, the film is well written and the Corringtons have added some wonderful ideas of their own.

    Director Boris Sagal, mainly known for his television work, has done an outstanding job with the material. The opening shots of Neville driving through a deserted Los Angeles are astonishing. Many films have subsequently tried to capture this unnerving scene, but none have come close. The recent homages that spring to mind are Tom Cruises nightmare sequence in Vanilla Sky and Danny Boyle's excellent 28 Days Later, which pays direct tribute to the scene. The action scenes, although not as creative as one would have liked, are nonetheless well filmed and dripping with atmosphere. Director Sagal uses blood squibs liberally as automatic gunfire rips through the pigment-challenged population, and zombies run screaming in the night as Neville sets them on fire. Considering this film was rated PG when released, it is actually very violent, which is a good thing as the source material demands it. And as this is the 1970s, the ending is definitely not going to be a happy one. This film was also one of the first mainstream films to depict an inter-racial relationship, and the screenwriters handle the material well. The most obvious change from book to screenplay occurs when Neville locates a group of uninfected children who are led by a fiesty African American woman, played by Rosalind Cash and a male medic played by Paul Koslo. Both actors do a fine job, but their parts are decidedly secondary. The villian of the piece, Matthias, the uncompromising zombie leader is wonderfully played by character actor Anthony Zerbe. It is a credit to the actor that the character is so unforgettable. Zerbe has made a career out of playing assorted bad guys and scum bags and this is one of his most significant and memorable roles. Also not to be forgotten is Ron Grainer's great score. The music in this film is magic and adds that extra bit of quality to a classic film. For you trivia junkies, Grainer wrote the music for Dr Who.

    If this film has any faults, they fall into two categories, the first being religious symbolism. The parallels to Christ's crucifixion, which are necessary, are made abundantly clear and could have used a defter touch. Secondly, some of the dialogue reeks of Blaxploitation cinema, especially when Rosalind Cash's character shows up. However, as films like Foxy Brown and Cleopatra Jones were in vogue at the time, I guess this is forgivable. These are only very minor nit picks in an otherwise fabulous piece of work.

    Now, lets get down to why this film is a classic. Charlton Heston is one of the greatest film stars of the 20th Century. With films like Ben Hur, El Cid, The Big Country, Khartoum, 55 Days At Peking, Planet Of The Apes, The Ten Commandments and A Touch Of Evil in his resume, they simply don't get any bigger. Heston simply commands the screen and his larger-than-life persona gives the character of Robert Neville added impact. Watching Heston walk through the deserted streets of Los Angeles firing a machine gun at anything that moves was one of the defining film moments of my childhood, along with the opening shots of a Star Destroyer in Star Wars and seeing Chief Brody almost getting his hand bitten off in Jaws as he drops bloodied fish pieces from the back of the Orca. Heston was simply born to play this role, and you can sit Robert Neville alongside the other characters he immortalised in Juda Ben Hur and George Taylor.

    The Omega Man is a classic science fiction film that truly has stood the test of time.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Considering The Omega Man is 32 years old, I was pleasantly surprised at how good the transfer is. Warner Home Video have done a fine job.

    The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2:35:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness levels are very good for the most part with no aliasing or halo problems. Shadow detail is very solid. As the film takes place mostly at night or in shadow, the strong blacks and depth of field greatly improve the viewing experience. I noticed one area at the beginning of Chapter 15 where grain was noticeable, but this only lasted for about 5 seconds. There was no low level noise.

    Colours were natural and rich in palette, showcasing the sometimes funky 70's fashion at its best.

    There were patches of film that did suffer from the occasional film artefact. This, however, was only noticeable during the darker scenes and showed up as white flecks. Considering the age of the film, the level of interference was extremely low and did not distract at all.

    It is great to see this wonderful film get the presentation it deserves. I was more than impressed.

    There is an RSDL layer change at the 41:20 minute mark, but it is not obtrusive.

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

Audio

    The Omega Man has been given two audio tracks, one in English and the other in French. Both are in 1.0 (and obviously mono).

    The dialogue is always clear and easy to understand. There are no audio sync problems.

    The film's music is by Ron Grainer, famous for developing the Dr Who theme, and he delivers a tremendous score.

    Surround channel usage is non-existent, but that doesn't deter from what has to be the best sounding mono track I've had the pleasure to listen to. Considering only the front channel is used, I found the sound mix very strong with an excellent use of sound effects for the film's many action scenes. A 5.1 surround remix was definitely not missed.

    The subwoofer helps with redirected sound where it can and adds depth where needed.

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

Extras

Main Menu Audio

    The score has been added to the main menu, which is always a nice touch.

Introduction

    There is a 4 minute introduction to the film by writer Joyce Corrington and co-stars Paul Koslo and Eric Laneuville. This offers a nice, albeit extremely brief, recollection of the film. Considering Warner Home Video went to the trouble of finding the participants, a making-of feature would have been even more appropriate. Still, we can't complain about what we have been given.

Featurette

    An original 10 minute featurette where Heston and an anthropologist talk us through the film's premise and its plausibility. Very seventies, but nostalgic nonetheless.

Theatrical Trailer

    The original trailer. Presented 16x9 enhanced.

R4 vs R1

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

    All versions of this film are identical, except that the R1 has 3 pages of text on Charlton Heston and the sci-fi genre. This added feature is useless and not missed. I compared the R4 and R1 transfers of the film and they were identical, so any version is as good as another. In this case, there is nothing in the hoary PAL vs NTSC debate, for as far as this reviewer is concerned there are no discernible differences between the transfers.

Summary

    The Omega Man is a classic film that showcases how good the sci-fi genre can be when made intelligently. Star Charlton Heston is dynamite in the lead role and it is great to see the film given the DVD treatment it deserves. The transfer is terrific and the extras, although small, are a nice inclusion.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Greg Morfoot (if interested here is my bio)
Saturday, August 30, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayLG 76cm Widescreen Flatron Television. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony HT-K215.
AmplificationSony HT-K215
SpeakersSS-MS215

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Comments (Add)
Awesome! Awesome to the max! - Christopher
70's classics - wolfgirv
70's classics redux - Christopher
PAL or NTSC - ScottSherritt
great stuff - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic)
It's PAL - Kev