The Last Man on Earth (Ultimo Uomo Della Terra, L') (MRA) (1964)

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Released 1-May-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Menu Animation & Audio
Notes-Film Analysis
Biographies-Cast & Crew-Vincent Price and Richard Matheson
Filmographies-Vincent Price
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1964
Running Time 86:26 (Case: 89)
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Sidney Salkon
Studio
Distributor

MRA Entertainment
Starring Vincent Price
Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
Franka Bettoia
Emma Danieli
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $19.95 Music Paul Sawter
Bert Shefter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Pan & Scan English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, but very minor.
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     Robert Morgan is the last man on earth. However, this is no post-nuclear apocalypse but rather a rampant, antibiotic-resistant disease that has swept the earth airborne, and no one is safe...except Robert. Set in the near future (the film was made in 1964 yet the film takes place in 1968), our hero Morgan is somehow immune to the disease that has reduced the earth's population to zombie-like vampires who come out nightly to bay for his blood. After the night is over, Morgan comes out from his fortress home and becomes the hunter; systematically going from area to area in the city and staking the sleeping vampires. But Morgan's waking hours can't be taken only with vampire eradication. At his fortress home, he has many home movies and records and a bottle or two of scotch to keep him occupied, but after 3 years of keeping himself alive, Robert Morgan is growing tired of the hunt. Just as he is sure that there is no hope for his own life, Morgan finds another human survivor and learns that there may yet be hope for both himself and for all humanity.

    Here is a theme that has been visited in film time and time again. We have seen this scenario played out in almost every arena. Think Night of the Living Dead: 1968, The Omega Man: 1971 (more on it later), Where have all the People Gone?: 1974 and Night of the Comet: 1984. This list could have gone on much longer, but you get the idea. Taken from the 1954 Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend, this film sets the general scene, but does stray from the original source; for example, the original lead character was Robert Neville, not Robert Morgan as it is in this film. Still, we have an interesting concept here with the potential to go far beyond the typical "end of the world" film. Sadly, the film does not live up to the task, no matter how interesting the original source was. The production seems second-rate, with the film being set in the US, but actually shot in Italy. This in itself is not a major problem if the real location can be hidden or at least mocked-up to resemble the locale portrayed in the film. In this film, Italian cars and architecture are evident at almost every turn with little attempt to hide the fact. Editing is sloppy and continuity is asleep at the wheel with some scenes having a character in a totally different position or stance as the scene before (see the scene at the beginning of the film where the camera comes in through the window to a sleeping Morgan).

    The vampires in this movie are not what we are used to seeing in today's motion pictures. Instead of having heightened physical and sensory abilities, the hapless creatures of the night in this movie are little better than zombies. They stumble and bumble about with little menacing quality about them at all. Perhaps this was what the author actually intended, but one would have thought that perhaps given the visual medium that this story was being presented in, a little more animation of the main adversaries (our otherwise "slower than molasses in January" vampires) would have been in order. As they are presented in this picture, the creatures just have to die for the plain fact that they are so boring.

    There is hope for this story yet, though. Warner Bros. is reportedly in pre-production of another version of I Am Legend. This time, the original title looks to be the film's title with director Ridley Scott originally slated to head up the film. At the present time, director Michael Bay seems to be the current pick with once (and still) great action star Arnold Schwarzenegger originally a candidate for the main role and now possibly on board as producer. Will Smith is the current favourite to play Robert Neville. With the last outing of this story being The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston in the 1971 film, we are long overdue for a movie that might do justice to the original story. The Last Man on Earth will be an interesting prelude to further tellings of the "I Am Legend" story, but as a standalone movie, it leaves much to be desired.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The transfer we have presented here is quite appalling.

    As with at least one other MRA Entertainment title (The African Queen; 1951) and possibly others, there are no time codes viewable on this disc. All references to specific times in regards to video or film artefacts have been done by this reviewer using a stopwatch. That being the case, please note that the times listed are approximate and should be within 1 or 2 seconds of the actual time.

    The transfer here is presented not in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, but rather a botched version of 1.33:1,  pan & scan. I say botched because we do not get an actual fullscreen version of the film. As if the panning & scanning weren't enough, there seems to be some cropping of the image at the bottom of the frame during the entire feature. It is as though the image was framed in 1.66:1 but all we have is the bottom frame. At first it seemed that the image may have been shifted upwards with no loss of image at the top of frame, but the blocking out of some portion of the titles near the bottom of the screen at the beginning of the film seems to indicate that the image may be matted at the bottom. The reason for this I can hardly imagine. The end result is that we have a heavily cropped image that goes from 2.35:1 to less than full screen. The pan & scan effect is also quite pronounced, especially at 22:08, 30:05, 41:28 and 108:00. It is always sad to be denied the original aspect ratio, no matter what the film.

    The level of sharpness of this title is appalling. While the movie was filmed in black and white, the image we have is more like grey and white. There is no clarity of image to speak of with all the film having a blurred or hazy look. What isn't blurred out is very faded with little contrast of image visible. Shadow detail is also lacking - as the picture is so washed out, there can be no real contrast between the various shades of grey. Hence, some of the darker scenes miss any clarity and visibility that they could have had. Low level noise is not much a problem, as the complete lack of resolution of the transfer image makes low level noise practically undetectable.

    This is a black and white feature. Colour should not be an issue, and isn't. Grey scale quality may have been an issue with this film's original transfer, but what we have here is in such bad shape that it is impossible to determine how good the original image was.

    There are some real problems with this video transfer. Firstly, MPEG artefacts litter the screen from the word go in the form of minor macro blocking. This means that any image that has various shades of black or grey will display this artefact. It's almost like a tapestry effect or chroma noise, but its visible all the time, and not just a "once in a while" occurrence. There seems to be a couple of video dropouts where the image becomes pixelated and unviewable (see 28:37 for a prime example). There also seems to be some drop-out of the image at 0:21 which doesn't seem to be a problem with the MPEG transfer but rather the tape itself. Aliasing is no problem with this title as there is not enough resolution to display this artefact. Telecine wobble is visible during the opening credits with the title image very unstable at times. There seems to be a fair amount of edge enhancement as well that is visible during most of the feature. Film artefacts are pervasive with this title and can be seen throughout this DVD. Stand-out instances of this can be seen at 32:26, 43:35, 62:44 and 79:32. In the main, the film artefacts seem to be black nicks and scratches on the transfer print and are quite noticeable. There also seems to be some fading of image at the edges of the screen, both left and right. As stated before, the bottom portion of the displayed image is matted.

    There are no subtitles on this DVD.

    This disc is single layered, and as such, there is no issue with the layer change.

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

Audio

    Unfortunately, the audio transfer matches the poor quality of the video transfer.

    We are presented with only one audio track on this DVD, that being a English Dolby Digital 2.0 mono soundtrack. Given the Italian origins of this movie, the inclusion of the original Italian dub would have been interesting. The sound is presented quite flat with no dynamic quality to be heard during the feature. An irritating low level oscillating hum can be heard throughout this title and at times is quite distracting.

    Dialogue quality is not all that good during this title. Although there is not much spoken word during the film, what we do hear is fairly thin and as with the overall soundtrack on this DVD, it has little dynamic quality.

    Audio sync is fairly poor with the dialogue being out of sync at 30:40, 35:28, 66:32 and 72:28, an irritating audio artefact that should have been corrected.

    The original music for the film was composed by Paul Sawtel and Bert Shefter and consists of a string-oriented music soundtrack. While sounding fairly dated, the soundtrack does work and is in keeping with the overall look and tone of the film.

    As could be expected with a flat and lifeless soundtrack, there is no activity either with the surrounds nor the subwoofer as all are completely silent during this feature.

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

Extras

    We have presented here a fairly thin selection of extras.

    After the copyright and distributors warnings, we are presented with the main menu. This gives us the options of:

    The animated menu plays music from the original soundtrack and loops every 60 seconds. If no selection is made, the disc loops endlessly. Audio for this menu is in Dolby Digital 2.0 mono and is presented full frame without 16x9 enhancement.

    The Chapters option presents us with 9 selectable chapters from the film. This is a silent but animated menu with animation that plays for 60 seconds, and if no selection is made, then the disc defaults to Play. This menu is presented full frame and is not 16x9 enhanced.

    The Extras option offers us the following:

    The Film Analysis section presents us with a 7 page background history of both the film and its origins in the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. A very interesting document with some real content about the film itself. The pages are presented full frame with fairly small type, so sit close if you don't have a projector. There is no 16x9 enhancement on these silent pages.

    The Biographies section is divided into two portions, these being for Vincent Price and Richard Matheson.

    The 4 page biography of Vincent Price is very interesting and offers a brief but informative look at the prolific actor's life.

    The 3 page biography of Richard Matheson is another interesting document that presents an abridged but fascinating look at the talented writer.

    The Vincent Price Filmography presents a comprehensive listing of the actors many films from 1939 to 1995(?). Listed over 5 pages, the list consists of 109 titles all with their year of release.

    All the above extra features are presented silent, full frame and with no 16x9 enhancement.

R4 vs R1

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

    This title has been released in R1 both as a dual title disc with the 1958 thriller The House on Haunted Hill and as a standalone disc. The version we have presented here seems to be the equivalent of the one released as a dual title with The House on Haunted Hill, also reportedly a full frame transfer. The standalone version is reported to be in the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and dual layered, however, this disc may be out of print as this reviewer could find little information about its availability. Certainly worth getting if you are a fan of this film. Both R1 versions seem to lack filmographies and biographies, although this could not be confirmed.

Summary

    In the scheme of things, this is an important film in the light of the author's original novel and what may transpire with its various incarnations (to The Omega Man and on to the possible 2003 film I Am Legend). Unfortunately, as a film on its own merits, there is much wanting with this title which sadly could have been so much more.

    The video is terrible with film, video and transfer artefacts everywhere on this DVD.

    The audio is horrible with a flat and out-of-sync soundtrack that displays an irritating oscillating hum throughout.

    The extras are minimal, but feature some interesting history on the film, its author and the film's main star.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Sean Bradford (There is no bio.)
Tuesday, June 11, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic A300-MU, using S-Video output
DisplayHitachi CP-L750W LCD Projector. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V2090
SpeakersVAF DC-X fronts; VAF DC-6 center; VAF DC-2 rears; LFE-07subwoofer (80W X 2)

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Last Man on Earth has one thing going for it - Anonymous