Director: Boris Sagal
Writers: John William and Joyce H. Corrington
Cast: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo, Eric Laneuville, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Jill Giraldi, Anna Aries, Brian Tochi, De Veren Bookwalter, John Dierkes, Monika Henried, Linda Redfearn, and Forrest Wood
Composer: Ron Grainer
Release Date: 8/1/1971
MPAA Rating: GP
Following a worldwide apocalypse, scientist Colonel Robert Neville (Charlton Heston)—apparently the only person left alive—wages a one-man war against psychotic, light-averse humanoids known collectively as “The Family.” Upon encountering a group of survivors, however, Neville instead focuses on finding a cure for the remaining humans.
Lacking the pathos of I Am Legend (2007) and the creepy atmosphere of The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man is a mediocre adaptation of Richard Matheson’s most popular novel. Notably, this offering may evoke criticism for its uneven pacing, cringe-worthy dialogue, and superfluous changes to the original story.
Exemplifying the rugged individualism of the book’s protagonist, Charlton Heston should be commended for his portrayal of Neville—the quintessential survivor and unlikely savior of the human race. (That being said, there are times when Neville struggles to convey the desperation, loneliness, and solemnity that one would expect of a so-called omega man, often reacting to his plight with utter indifference.)
Substituting the intelligent vampires of Matheson’s novel with hippie cult members, The Omega Man—similar to the version starring Will Smith—fails to retain a key element of the source material. In fact, the night-dwelling creatures in this film can be killed or repelled without the use of stakes, crosses, and cloves of garlic, making them too easy to destroy as a result.
Also problematic is the introduction of several additional human characters, undermining Neville’s position as a “legendary” figure. The protagonist of Matheson’s narrative, in contrast, ends up striking fear into the hearts of his nocturnal enemies, partially due to his reputation as the last man on Earth—an ironic and powerful twist on the vampire theme.
An early 1970s post-apocalyptic science fiction film, The Omega Man intertwines many then relevant political concerns (e.g. nuclear and biological warfare between the United States and Soviet Union) with horror tropes of a more conventional variety (e.g. doomsday cults, ritualistic murders, and zombie-like creatures who prey on the innocent).
The Omega Man is a campy, dated remake of The Last Man on Earth. Nevertheless, this film deserves credit for its bleak atmosphere, poignant finale, and resonating social commentary.
Overall Quality: 5/10
If you enjoyed this post, please enter your email address in the subscription box to stay tuned for more updates.