Release Date(s)1964 (August 31, 2021)
Studio(s)American International Pictures/MGM (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
It’s safe to assume that Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend is one of the cornerstones of horror and science fiction literature. Not only was it the basis for George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, which influenced many films afterwards, but it’s also been adapted for the screen three times: 1971’s The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, 2007’s I Am Legend starring Will Smith, and the very first adaptation, 1964’s The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price. To date, it’s the most faithful version of the original novel, although Matheston himself wasn’t happy with the final product since his original screenplay, which he had been developed as a potential Hammer project before the UK censors deemed it unsuitable, was rewritten before going before the cameras. At the time he also felt that Vincent Price had been miscast, which is preposterous looking at the film now. Although his character is similar in some ways to the many tortured and anguished characters he portrayed in the Corman and Poe films, his key instinct is survival. At least, that is until he discovers another way, but just a bit too late. Despite being a little rough around the edges, The Last Man on Earth showcases one of Price’s best performances.
In the future, a plague has swept the world, turning normal human beings into vampiric creatures who only come out at night and are repelled by garlic and mirrors. A scientist, Dr. Robert Morgan (Price), lives in fear of these creatures as he’s seemingly the last human being in the entire world. He spends his days searching for vampires and killing them while they sleep, but barricades himself inside at night when they come looking for him. After nearly giving up all hope, he spots a woman walking around during the day. He brings her home and she tells him that not only is she like the others, but that they’ve found a temporary cure for the plague, which keeps her vampiric tendencies at bay. Not fully trusting her, Robert refuses to leave when she tells him that they’ll be coming for him again soon. He soon discovers that there’s another cure, but he’ll have to survive the coming onslaught if there’s any hope of survival at all.
The Last Man on Earth comes to Blu-ray for a second time in the US from Kino Lorber Studio Classics sporting what is assumed to be the same master used for the Shout! Factory release of The Vincent Price Collection II. The film is pretty rough during the opening credits, containing all sorts of issues including scratches, dirt, instability, vertical lines, and grain fluctuations. However, things improve after that when the image stabilizes and appears a bit cleaner. Some speckling still remains, but it’s mostly crisp with good delineation. Blacks are deep and grain is moderate without as much flicker. Everything appears sharp with good detail and contrast. Though it’s an older master, it holds up rather well.
The soundtrack is included in English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD Master Audio with optional English subtitles. It’s a fairly narrow track, as to be expected, but score and sound effects have a decent amount of impact. Dialogue is also clear and discernible. The track is free of leftover hiss or crackle, although there’s a slight bit of clipping, which is inherent to the original soundtrack.
The following extras are also included:
- Audio Commentary by Richard Harland Smith
- Richard Matheson Storyteller: Last Man on Earth (Upscaled HD – 6:24)
- Trailers from Hell with Joe Dante (HD and Upscaled SD – 2:23)
- Alternate Ending (Upscaled HD – :58)
- TV Spots (Upscaled SD – 2 in all – :40)
- Italian Trailer (Upscaled HD – 3:55)
- US Trailer (HD – 1:51)
- Master of the World Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- The Raven (Upscaled HD – 2:29)
- The Comedy of Terrors (HD – 2:33)
- The Tomb of Ligeia Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- Scream and Scream Again Trailer (HD – 2:22)
- Theater of Blood Trailer (Upscaled HD – 2:31)
- House of the Long Shadows Trailer (HD – 2:28)
Film historian Richard Harland Smith takes up audio commentary duties, discussing the original novel, Hammer’s involvement with the original screenplay that never came into being, the various stages of the film’s production and release, and backgrounds on various members of the cast and crew. He goes quiet a few times, but mostly barrels through an enormous amount of information, even offering comparisons of Matheston’s original screenplay before it was rewritten. Richard Matheson: Storyteller is another DVD-era featurette (others can be found on other Kino Lorber Blu-ray releases) dedicated to the screenwriter (aka Logan Swanson) discussing the film briefly, including his involvement with Hammer Films. Next is a Trailers from Hell commentary by filmmaker Joe Dante, who is always a welcome addition. The alternate ending taken from the TV version of the film is the same ending that’s in the film, but trims Ruth’s interaction with the baby. The rest of the extras consist of two TV spots and nine trailers, including the Italian and US trailers for the film, as well as seven for other Vincent Price films released by Kino Lorber Studio Classics. The disc sits in a standard amaray case featuring the original US theatrical artwork. Everything is housed within a limited edition slipcase featuring the same artwork. Not included from the Shout! Factory Blu-ray release is an audio commentary with film historian David Del Valle and author Derek Bortelho from 2014, and a still gallery. Not included from the Region B Ostalgica German Blu-ray is the Italian language version of the film and the film’s soundtrack on CD.
The Last Man on Earth is a particular favorite, not because it’s a perfect film, but because it’s fairly well executed with a great performance from Price, despite its detractors. Kino Lorber has kept the film in print a while longer with a nice assortment of extras. Overall, a nice release.
- Tim Salmons