The Omega Man (1971)

The Omega Man (1971), directed by Boris Sagal, written by John William Corrington, Joyce Cooper Corrington, based on a novel by Richard Matheson, starring Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash

The Omega Man is an adaptation of a novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. This Heston vehicle isn't actually the first time the novel was filmed, as it was turned into a Vincent Price movie The Last Man on Earth in 1964. The newest iteration of the novel is called I Am Legend starring Will Smith.

Neville (Heston) is the last man on Earth as far he knows, despite he isn't alone. Biological warfare has rendered the human species extinct, leaving only a new breed of vampire-like mutants in its wake. These beings roam the streets after sundown, as they are sensitive to light that renders them blind. Matthias (Zerbe), the leader of the mutants is keen to see Neville dead, as he believes him to be the last thing that ties the world of now to the world of past that gave birth to the weapons that destroyed everything.

The Family, the group of mutants, finally manage to capture Neville. They are just about to execute him when there's a sudden rescue by other people not yet mutated. Lisa (Cash) and her gang have been living in hiding, trying to stay out of the way of Neville and the Family who have been waging war against each other on the streets of the derelict city.

As Neville has thought himself as the last man alive, the discovery of a group of humans, including children gives him new resolve to figure out a cure to the mutations, as he was in his former life a military doctor, who was trying to create a vaccine to the plague the after-effects of the Soviet Union/China war caused. He was successful in finding the cure, but it was too late. The world had already gone to hell and the only thing that was left for him to do was to stay and fight, as the vampires weren't very keen on cures.

The Omega Man isn't a movie I'd call well directed nor written. While it does have its own fair share of interesting tidbits here and there, it does, as a whole, feel a bit off. Often it feels like there's a scene missing that would have fleshed out the situation or characters a bit more. At times it manages to shed some light on things, like with Neville and his past, with a couple of quick scenes, but overall most of the characters are little more than throwaway material. And what comes to attempts at building tension, the movie mostly fails.

Music is an another thing that is a worth of mention, as the soundtrack is, well, odd in the contrast of what kind of a movie the Omega Man tries to be. It is at times whimsical and even playful, which gives an odd contrast to some scenes, especially on those with action or an attempt of suspension in them.

The most notable thing about the Omega Man is one scene between Lisa and Neville when they share a kiss and later a bed. This is notable, as the movie itself was made int 1971, and Lisa is a black. While I don't know it for certain, I've read that the Omge Man is the first Hollywood movie to show an interracial kiss between a white man and a black woman, so there's that at least if nothing else. Good for Heston and Cash, I suppose.

Like I said, the Omega Man isn't something I'd call a well-directed movie. While it does have its own fair share of cultural importance, it still isn't a movie that has aged very well. The story, the setting, the world, it all has dated very poorly. Tonally, what comes to dialogue, the overall writing and direction, the movie just feels odd. There's no real tension or even any real mystery or genuine terror about anything the movie presents. I won't deny a couple of scenes of genuine intrigue the story manages to create, but other than that, the movie has aged as well as a carton of milk forgotten on a table.

But at least we see Heston shooting vampires while dressed in a satin jacket while there's some easy listening blaring from the speakers. And that's classy. I guess.