Sunday, May 30, 2010
Movie house of memory:Vincent Price in "Last Man on Earth".
Vincent Price had a three stage career spanning over 180 films, plus television appearances. The first, 'almost leading man' stage, from 1938 through the mid-fifties, was mainstream, with notable exceptions like 'The Invisible Man Returns". The second stage , running from roughly 1958 to 1965 was his 'horror' phase; the third, 'rebirth' or camp' stage, lasted from the two horrible sounding 'Dr. Goldfoot' films to his two tons of fun 'Dr. Phibes' films. The capstone of this stage was his appearance in "Edward Scissorhands",three years before his death in 1993.
I discovered Price in his second phase,lucky kid, with the delicious Roger Corman Poe adaptations and the eeriest version of Richard Matheson's novel, I am Legend.This version is The Last Man on Earth ,from 1964. A plague kills nearly everyone, except Price's character, and as we discover ,others. Everyone else is turned into vampiric creatures, shunning light, garlic, and mirrors. Price spends his nights inside, making stakes for these creatures; during the day he impales as many as possible. Dull days for him, a great show for the kids in the audience. It was filmed in black and white,a favorite film stock which lent credence to the eeriness of the film (no, RR, movie), and the 'last person on earth' conceit was fascinating to me. Shrinks would probably have a field day with that.
I do not remember any great production values to Last Man on Earth, just the pathos Price brought to the role. Price did psychologically tortured individuals very well, along with oily or urbane characters.He will appear again in the movie house of memory. I have not seen this title since 1964;I have seen one of the two remakes, Omega Man(1971), starring Charlton Heston. It is in Technicolor, and Heston brings a different energy to the role.I have not seen the 2007 I am Legend.
Next up: Buster Keaton's 1926 The General.