Robert Neville (Chuck Heston) was a military scientist. After a mysterious biological attack on the US he is put on the case to find a cure. When fleeing one day he begins to succumb to the disease and injects himself with his experimental antidote. Lucky for him it worked. Unlucky for us he found out to late. This turn events made Neville the last man on Earth. He’s not entirely alone however. Haunting his day to day solitary existence is a group known as ‘The Family’. Being forced to a nocturnal lifestyle as well as a psychopathic bent, the family isn’t truly human anymore and strives to burn the old ways of life and create a new one, as they become further deformed due to the results of germ warfare.
Combining the manliness of Charlton Heston with a post apocalyptic world with nothing but him and a handful of ghouls is an exciting prospect for fans of science fiction. Seeing how well he handled the genre in Planet of the Apes it’s easy for one to have high expectations for his return to the genre. Machine guns, pillaging and looting, and generally whatever the hell he feels like is the game of the day. Made in 1971, the world was always in a varying state of panic over one doomsday theory or another. Nuclear war, germ warfare, all were a vague possibility in that era making The Omega Man chill straight to the core. In 1971 at any rate.
Not an original tale by any sorts, The Omega Man is based on the Richard Matheson novel I am Legend. Portrayed once before by Vincent Price in The Last Man on Earth and soon once again by Will Smith in I am Legend, Omega Man manages to separate itself from the pack a bit by giving voice to ‘The Family’ as well as adding a touch of blaxploitation to spice things up. Where the original and new films were pitted against vampire hold-overs from the human race, Robert Neville this time around faces off against a group of madman that are slowly dying off themselves.
When Neville finds a hidden group of survivors not yet turned to the dark side, our movie splits into two opposing sides. One who strives to make things as they once were: living off the land and making the best of what they’ve got; and one attempting to eradicate the traces of their former lives believing technological advancement to be the downfall of man. When you add in Rosalind Cash with her touches of black power looks and carrying herself as a woman of strength, with her interracial love affair with the lonely Robert Neville, Omega Man takes on yet another sociological aspect. Despite being called ‘science fiction’ it’s a flick that gives you some issues to think upon and that might make you take a look at the world around you.
Getting past the philosophical there’s an angle to this flick that screams out to the inner boy child in all of us. Harkening back to the days of old, out playing war with your tree-twig machine gun, we’re watching a movie about a man and his gun. (It’s Heston, what’d you figure?) One man against a world full of nasties, one man with no rules to abide by, no boundaries, nothing to do all day long aside from whatever the hell you want. I’d be willing to bet that the majority of you out there have day-dreamed a similar situation when you were a wee tyke and The Omega Man plays upon these fond memories adding to our enjoyment even further.
To further this thought, the star of those day dreams always being your self, you’re now watching said daydreams starring Charlton Heston. Sure he was starting to gray and growing that old man chest, but he was Chuck Heston and he was all machismo. When you’re playing good guys and bad guys it’s hard to picture yourself much manlier than that.
The performances throughout were all top notch and helped to pull you in to the ongoing plight of the last man on earth. The sexiness touched with danger of Rosalind Cash, the boyish hope and exuberance of Paul Koslo, the often chilling rants and psychosis of Anthony Zerbe, all pull together to make the entire package enthralling and thought provoking. Even the writing is well done as we first feel the loneliness and isolation of Neville, forced to talk to a statue just so he has some one to talk to. His excitement at finding other humans not fallen to the ways of the family. The fear and excitement of Neville being caught by these monsters and the mystery of what they were going to do him. The list goes on but trust me when I say it’s worth the watch.
The Omega Man is an old school post-apocalyptic flick done right. Stemming from the seventies, it worked well to play upon the fears of world around at the time giving its viewers that taste of fear to make them tingle and perhaps tremble a bit watching the nightly news. Sure, it’s a bit out there when you mix in all the elements but the roots of it, biological warfare, were a definite possibility. What makes this fun over twenty years later? It’s all a possibility once more.
For some good old fashioned end of the world fun, it doesn’t get much better than this. But if you don’t agree? “Damn you. Damn you all to hell!”
4.5 manly men out of 5