With some irony, during one of my longer flights recently, I watched two different old classics about men being the last living things.
I’d previously seen the more modern version I am Legend with Will Smith, but had read that it pales next to the original it was based on, Vincent Price’s Last Man on Earth. I had downloaded it from the Internet Archive, but it is also available in full length on YouTube (along with the weirdness of pre-movie adds for Scott Walker- “last Republican on Earth”?).
A bit from the trailer
Okay, being a movie from 1964, the effects are cheesy. The “infected” are lumbering vampires, who seem to be easily fended off with a 2×4. There is the creepiness of the lead character’s former best friend moaning “Morgan… Morgan” as the zombie/vampire tries every night to bust in the house.
But what is there is the created creepiness of that place of being the last sane person, when all your family, friends, and everything you know has decayed away. There was the smugness of denial that the air-borne virus from Europe would hit America, and even if so, Science would Save the Day. There was being holed up in a basement, safely behind bolted doors strewn with garlic, and painfully watching the old home movies from before the plague. There was the a glimmer of false hope of finding another living being, only to find there was a “catch” for Bob Morgan.
Being the last man was not such a great deal.
Contrast Morgan’s battle to Henry Bemis, the character Burgess Meredith played in maybe the classic-est Twilight Zone Episode, Time Enough at Last
In full bore irony, the picked on Bemis, who just craves for time and peace to indulge in his passion, reading. By the act of his disobedience, he survives an atomic bomb because he hid in the bank vault to read during lunch.
Like Bob Morgan, Bemis wanders through a landscape of despair and ruin, and finds himself totally alone.. until he wanders into the remains of the public library.
He seems to be the last man who gets what he wanted, but alas, cruel fate takes it away.
What’s the moral? Being last person on earth sucks either way?