Shock, PG, 87 Mins
Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I Am Legend has been filmed four times: as this first-off-the-rank 1964 outing, as The Omega Man in 1971, under its original title in 2007 with Will Smith, and as an Asylum rip-off titled I Am Omega around the same time that was rushed into production to beat that one to the punch (which it did, but no one cared). None of these stick very closely to Matheson’s original (he was involved in this one’s script but soon pulled out and insisted on using a pseudonym, ‘Logan Swanson’), and this uneasy original is now best-remembered as being a key influence on George Romero’s zombies in his Night Of The Living Dead (1968), as masses of (well, a dozen or so) staggering vampiric sorts lurch about trying to get their paws on Vincent Price.
Directed by Sidney Salkow (although ‘Ubaldo Ragona’ was credited in Italian prints) and obviously filmed in Rome but seemingly set in an American city, this has a restrained (no, really) Price as Dr. Robert Morgan, a scientist who, three years after a vampire virus wiped out the rest of the human race (back in 1965), is apparently the last non-infected man left anywhere. He narrates his story, as his days are filled with tracking down and staking victims of the affliction, along with lots of weary agonising and flashing-back upon the past, and his nights are spent locked in his home as the vampires come beating on his door and behaving in a most Romeroesque fashion (except for the fact that they can talk, which is rather more like Return Of The Living Dead – but anyway).
Interesting more than compelling or scary, there’s much here that’s awkward, and Price is so subdued you wish he’d ham it up in trademark style, just a bit, to keep you watching, and yet this is important simply as (along with 1959’s Invisible Invaders), it assisted in the creation of the modern zombie, surely the most popular monstrous threat in horror movies and TV these days. And have you Fear-ed The Walking Dead yet?