Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

With the release of what I’m sure will be yet another huge blockbuster on Will Smith’s resume ‘I am Legend’, I decided that it’s nigh time I checked out the original last dude on earth in Charlton Heston’s ‘Omega Man’ made way back in 1971 (actually Vincent Price is the original, but whatever). Now I don’t recall ever seeing this movie, though I’m sure I probably sat through it as a kid during some TV rerun back in the day but how exactly does a film, well over thirty five years old, play today in the land of CGI and performance enhancing drugs?

Doctor Robert Neville (Heston) is the Omega, the last, the final man on earth. More or less. For the last two years he’s been driving around the empty streets of the city of Los Angeles in whatever hot rodding performance car he happens to stumble across. He always has a sub machine gun by his side for some reason, and we observe him shooting at a mysterious hooded figure in an upstairs office building. In the midst of his driving, talking to himself, shooting at stuff and hallucinating it has become evident to Neville that darkness is falling and he advises himself that They will be awake soon, and like a bat out hell he heads back to his crib. Who are They? A bunch of pasty white skinned, blues brother shade wearing, black robe sporting murderous maniacs calling themselves ‘the family’, led by the completely off his rocker Matthias (Anthony Zerbe) who want to eliminate the last vestige of the previous world.

Not ready to go out like no punk, Neville beats up, burns, shoots and maims any of the extremely light sensitive Family members who get in his way. They are the remnants of a biological warfare campaign waged between the Super Powers, mind you the Cold War was still going pretty strong in 1971. As far as Matthias is concerned, the biological destruction of pretty much every human on the planet is a good thing, as they leaned on their guns, weapons, technology and violence far too often, even though Matthias and his motley crew will burn a mofo or two to make a point.

Lo and behold that in his travels Neville meets a spicy sexy soul sista named Lisa (the late Rosalind Cash) who introduces him to her right hand man Dutch (Paul Koslo) and their small band of children who managed to survive the carnage. Lisa’s idiot brother Riche (Eric Launeville) – I shouldn’t call him an idiot, but alas… is infected and will soon become like ‘The Family’ but Neville holds the secret to a cure to the plague within his blood. It’s a cure that could even help The Family but the first step of curing a problem is recognizing there is one, and Matthias thinks being an albino with a bad wig, white eyes and an aversion to the sun to be completely cool. Finally though, Neville is part of something bigger than himself, but you know something has to go wrong and mess everything up. The question is will Robert and his sexy soul sista Lisa survive to the new world and start a new society filled with quadroons?

The first thing that any modern film watcher will have to get past while watching ‘Omega Man’ is how extremely dated it looks. Looking at a sign for a new sports car that costs 2200 dollars, the clothes, the afros, the music, Charlie Hess running around without his shirt on, and the use of the word ‘honky’ – which I will now start calling the ‘H’ word. After sitting through the first twenty or so minutes of this film it seems almost ridiculous that folks back in the day actually had to stand in line and pay a good fifty cents, or whatever a movie ticked costs back in ’71, to see stuff like this. But once you survive the look and feel of ‘Omega Man’ what you have is something you don’t see to often in movies today, and that’s a story. I’m talking about a story that goes far beyond the basic narrative and actually delves into issues. Some only relevant to the day, such as the cold war, and some timeless such as religion and dare I say, weapons of mass destruction.

Like Jesus, salvation for the human race is in the blood of Neville, the lamb, however some speculate that his insistence of wiping out The Family flies in the face of how Jesus would behave. But anybody who has read just a little bit of the bible knows that NOBODY in the history of anything has eradicated more people than God has in the Bible, and thus Neville was simply eliminating pagan non-believers as far as I could see. Naturally a bit more heavy handed was the dangers of the proliferation of WMD’s and the like but the way that late director Boris Sagal, father of ‘Married with Children’s’ Katie Sagal, handled it was very well done.

Of course when watching Charlton Heston do his thing, the words ‘over the top’ and ‘overacting’ often come to mind, and it’s no different here as Charlie Hess chews up scenery with the best of them, but no more so the lovely Ms. Cash or Mr. Zerbe. But don’t let that stand in your way of checking out this old school classic as it gets by on story and the naked chest of a middle-aged man more so than the skills of the ILM computer wizard. Is it better than ‘I am Legend’? Not necessarily, but it is different.

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