Cinema Monolith

Reviews of movies from my giant DVD tower, and more.

The Omega Man

The Omega Man - poster finalCinema Monolith: 8/10 This film is part of the Cinema Monolith collection!
IMDb: 6.5/10
Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide: **½ out of 4

Released on August 1, 1971
Rated GP
98 minutes

Directed by Boris Sagal

Written by John &  Joyce Corrington, from the novel by Richard Matheson

Cast: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo, Eric Laneuville, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Brian Tochi, Linda Redfearn

My Dad introduced me to this apocalyptic sci-fi classic when it played on television way back in the mid-1970s, when I was 12 years old and still somewhat stuck in Disney mode…but I was just beginning to venture out and investigate more grown-up cinema—disaster films like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno, and cheap drive-in fare like Sssssss and The Boy Who Cried Werewolf—and it was then that this doozy was dropped into my lap, and my fascination with ‘last man on earth’ movies was kick-started and on its way.

Fresh off his stint in Planet of the Apes and its sequel, Charlton Heston here stars as Robert Neville, the survivor of a worldwide plague that wiped out most of civilization, leaving only a small population of mutated victims who consider themselves the new world order, and want Neville disposed of. Mutants, by the way, whose pale, sore-infested skin and infected corneas made it impossible for them to exist in daylight, and made for some fairly frightening visages.

Suspenseful, creepy, and an absolute blast, the film did a commendable job of making us believe that the Los Angeles of 1977 had become an empty wasteland, and that Neville could survive alone in the midst of what amounts to a zombie-like populace, holed up in his brownstone bunker and mowing down mutants at a satisfying rate, and using some vicious-looking weapons to do so. For my money, the best of those was a Browning automatic rifle with a large infra-red scope, a firearm that every sci-fi and horror film hero should carry with him at all times.

Heston was great as the tough, diligent scientist who tried his best to stay sane in a desolate world, tracking mutants by day, watching movies in the afternoon, and playing chess with a bust of Caesar in his barricaded home by night. Director Boris Sagal kept the story and action moving at a decent clip, and he took advantage of some prime LA locations and set pieces to portray a sense of isolation and fear, while the screenplay allowed Neville to mutter some spot-on one-liners that, thanks to the situation and Heston’s delivery, sounded more true-to-life than corny-as-hell.

Along with Silent Running and Soylent Green, this was my favorite of the ‘end of the world’ films released in the 1970s. If you ever have the chance, check out Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, which this screenplay was based on, and which spawned two other similar but inferior productions.  (8/10)

The Omega Man

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5 comments on “The Omega Man

  1. grandrapidsgirl
    6/18/13

    Share your affection for “last-man-on-earth” flicks for sure! This is one of the best. Excellent review (‘cept you left out the romance angle!). 🙂

    • Todd Benefiel
      6/18/13

      Thanks, Julie! When I was twelve, and getting ready to hit the sack on a school night, my Dad came in and told me to turn on my little black-and-white TV and watch the movie that was coming on, because he loved it and knew I’d love it, too. The movie he wanted me to see was, of course, The Omega Man, and I remember how neat it felt to be told to break the rules and stay up late to watch a movie!

      And a romance angle? Maybe you’re confusing this film with The Omega Notebook.

  2. Julie Dunning
    6/19/13

    LOL. Love the Notebook reference. And I may definitely be confused. Especially on the romance angle. Glad your childhood experience with The Omega Man was such a good one – and that you got to stay up late and break the rules! Sounds fun. It’s a great story – and a great review. Thanks!

    • Todd Benefiel
      6/19/13

      No, you’re not confused! There was a romance angle, albeit a minor one: a Charlton Heston/Rosalind Cash interracial ‘last couple on earth’ kinda thing. But it was always being interrupted by mutants, so it never really got a chance to blossom.

  3. grandrapidsgirl
    6/20/13

    Thought so! Thx!

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