The Omega Man (1971) — I Am Legend redux

“Is there anything you can do, DOCTOR, I mean, seeing as how you’ve lost over 200 million patients?”

Justin’s rating: It ain’t nothin’ but a spitwad aimed at Superman

Justin’s review: As a poster child for both black lungs and the NRA, you can tell that the Charlton Heston  of Omega Man found a weird kind of peace in the post-apocalyptic landscape of L.A. after a plague has apparently doomed most of humanity. Hot rodding through the deserted town, Colonel Neville (Heston) seems just fine with scooping up all of the luxuries of a world passed away, surviving with his wits, a Smith & Wesson M76 submachine gun, and a detached sense of irony.

Oh-so-loosely based on the novel “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson, The Omega Man asks the question that we’ve all mused from time to time: If we were the last people in an intact – yet deserted – landscape, what would you do? I can only imagine that the lack of post-1971 films, books, and political scandals would lead to extreme boredom. Happily, Neville discovers a new purpose among the rotting corpses of humanity: the threat of mutated humans known as “The Family” and the hope of a handful of non-mutated survivors that might signal a Noah’s Ark of humanity’s survival.

Waving various small arms and munitions around in his hot, live hands, Neville thwarts the nighttime attacks of The Family, who also taunt him with their sexy albino women infested with fleas. The Family, you see, is comprised of those questionable folks who are just waiting for an excuse to shed the shackles of modern comforts and start living in sackcloth and ashes again, flinging poop with impunity while they lecture us deodorant-wearing scum about how wrong we are for progressing past the Dark Ages. Naturally, they’re cannon fodder for Neville and his many Constitutionally-protected arms.

The Family adds heaps to the camp value of what could’ve been a sobering little masterpiece. Instead, it goes from graveyard humor to wacky albinoville within a half hour, leaving nothing but holes for you to poke and prod at until the whole deal is bruised. Even now, after three adaptations of Matheson’s book, we’ve yet to see a version that does the vampire motif justice. I generally liked the first 45 minutes or so while we explored The Omega Man’s world, then tuned out with a heavy thud as my brain left to dine on Wikipedia for a while.

Didja notice?

  • An actual 8-track player! Woot!
  • Honky paradise?
  • The helicopter EXPLODES and he survives?
  • Neville’s Austin Powers outfit
  • After two years, you think he wouldn’t look so surprised to see all the dead people everywhere
  • Early in the film, Neville sees a calendar dated March 1975, then remarks that the local cinema is offering Woodstock “for the third straight year”. This indicates The Omega Man is set in 1977.

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