Horror on the Lens: The Last Man on Earth (dir. by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow)


Hi there and Happy October 4th!  For today’s treat from the ranks of horror films that have fallen into the public domain, I present to you one of the most important films in horror history.  Though it wasn’t appreciated when it was first  released back in 1964, The Last Man On Earth was not only the 1st Italian horror film but George Romero has also acknowledged it as an influence on his own Night of the Living Dead.

It’s easy to be a little bit dismissive of The Last Man On Earth.  After all, the low-budget is obvious in every scene, the dubbing is off even by the standards of Italian horror, and just the name “Vincent Price” in the credits leads one to suspect that this will be another campy, B-movie.  Perhaps that’s why I’m always surprised to rediscover that, taking all things into consideration, this is actually a pretty effective film.  Price does have a few over-the-top moments but, for the most part, he gives one of his better performances here and the black-and-white images have an isolated, desolate starkness to them that go a long way towards making this film’s apocalypse a convincing one.  The mass cremation scene always leaves me feeling rather uneasy.

The film is based on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and no, it’s nowhere as good as the book.  However, it’s a lot better than the Will Smith version.

If you have 87 minutes to kill, please enjoy The Last Man On The Earth.

Horror on the Lens: The Last Man on Earth (dir. by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow)


Hi there and Happy October 25th!  For today’s treat from the ranks of horror films that have fallen into the public domain, I present to you one of the most important films in horror history.  Though it wasn’t appreciated when it was first  released back in 1964, The Last Man On Earth was not only the 1st Italian horror film but George Romero has also acknowledged it as an influence on his own Night of the Living Dead.

It’s easy to be a little bit dismissive of The Last Man On Earth.  After all, the low-budget is obvious in every scene, the dubbing is off even by the standards of Italian horror, and just the name “Vincent Price” in the credits leads one to suspect that this will be another campy, B-movie.  Perhaps that’s why I’m always surprised to rediscover that, taking all things into consideration, this is actually a pretty effective film.  Price does have a few over-the-top moments but, for the most part, he gives one of his better performances here and the black-and-white images have an isolated, desolate starkness to them that go a long way towards making this film’s apocalypse a convincing one.  The mass cremation scene always leaves me feeling rather uneasy.

The film is based on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and no, it’s nowhere as good as the book.  However, it’s a lot better than the Will Smith version.

If you have 87 minutes to kill, please enjoy The Last Man On The Earth.

R.I.P. Richard Matheson


Richard-Matheson-author

News hit the internet today that legendary author Richard Matheson passed away at the age of 87.

Matheson has been instrumental and influential in horror and dark fantasy pop culture of the 60 or so years. Stephen King and George A. Romero, undoubtedly two of the most recognizable masters of horror of their generation, has called Matheson a major influence in their work. Where would the zombie genre of today be without Matheson’s groundbreaking vampire novel, I Am Legend, which gave Romero the idea to make his Night of the Living Dead. It is also this very same vampire novel whose influence could be seen throughout King’s own classic vampire tale with Salem’s Lot. Even King’s own foray into a zombie novel, Cell, would be dedicated to Matheson.

Yet, Matheson’s influence wouldn’t just be felt in the literary world. He would pen some of the best Twilight Zone episodes and would also provide Roger Corman with screenplay adaptations of Edgar Allen Poe’s short stories and novellas. He would also provide Hollywood with screenplays based on his own stories that would become classic horror and dark fantasy films in their own right.

There’s no way to quantify just how many people Richard Matheson has touched and influenced with his work, but one would be hard pressed not to find someone who hasn’t come across something that had Matheson’s fingerprint whether it was one of his stories, films based on his works or a tv episode that he didn’t have a hand in writing. Then there’s those who have seen or read something that had been influenced by his work.

Today the world has lost of the giant’s in his field of work. Yet, as his best known work says as it’s ending, Matheson will survive far longer than he had lived: HE IS LEGEND.

On a personal note, I count Matheson as one of the biggest influences in my life. Everything he has done or touched have had a hand in showing me the power of the written word. Much of what I watch and read has been influenced by his work. Where would horror and dark fantasy be without him to set the path for future writers and filmmakers. Whether they care to admit it or not they, just like myself, owe Richard Matheson a debt of gratitude for work in the field.

A giant of a man has passed into legend and it’s now up to us, his admirers and fans, to continue on his work of providing the world with quality genre entertainment.

6 Trailers To End March With


Hi!  It’s Saturday and that means that it’s time for yet another edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation trailers.  Enjoy!

1) The Omega Man (1970)

“Charlton Heston IS the Omega Man!”  This movie is the second of three film adaptations of Richard Matheson’s classic novel I am Legend.

2) Last House On Dead End Street (1977)

This film is reportedly one of the most purely grindhouse films ever made.  It’s also next to impossible to see.  The Trash Film Guru has seen it and I’m insanely jealous.  As for this trailer, it’s short but rather effective.  It’s also perhaps the hundredth trailer to feature the “It’s only a movie” tagline.

3) Deranged (1974)

“A man so obsessed with death that he became…DERANGED!”

4) Equinox (1970)

I own the Criterion edition of this film.  It’s actually kind of fun in its own silly way.

5) Vengeance of She (1971)

This is a Hammer film.  I love how increasingly excited the narrator gets as he talks about vengeance.

6) Endgame (1983)

Finally, let’s end this entry with yet another look at a post-apocalypse future.  From the iconic Italian director Joe D’Amato, it’s Endgame.

Horror Film Review: The Last Man On Earth (dir. by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow)


Hi there and Happy October 25th!  For today’s treat from the ranks of horror films that have fallen into the public domain, I present to you one of the most important films in horror history.  Though it wasn’t appreciated when it was first  released back in 1964, The Last Man On Earth was not only the 1st Italian horror film but George Romero has also acknowledged it as an influence on his own Night of the Living Dead.

It’s easy to be a little bit dismissive of The Last Man On Earth.  After all, the low-budget is obvious in every scene, the dubbing is off even by the standards of Italian horror, and just the name “Vincent Price” in the credits leads one to suspect that this will be another campy, B-movie.  Perhaps that’s why I’m always surprised to rediscover that, taking all things into consideration, this is actually a pretty effective film.  Price does have a few over-the-top moments but, for the most part, he gives one of his better performances here and the black-and-white images have an isolated, desolate starkness to them that go a long way towards making this film’s apocalypse a convincing one.  The mass cremation scene always leaves me feeling rather uneasy.

The film is based on Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend and no, it’s nowhere as good as the book.  However, it’s a lot better than the Will Smith version.

If you have 87 minutes to kill, please enjoy The Last Man On The Earth.

Horror Review: I Am Legend (by Richard Matheson)


“[I am] a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever. I am legend.”Robert Neville

In 1954, Richard Matheson published a novel that would influence so many future generations of science-fiction and horror writers and film directors. Matheson’s body of work prior to 1954 could be summed up as good but nothing too exciting. His work thus far overlapped such pulp genres as horror, science-fiction and fantasy. This style would be the hallmark of his brand of story-telling. It would be in his novel I Am Legend that his unique style of combining different genres that Matheson would have his greatest and most epic work to date.

I Am Legend takes the vampire tale and brings it out of the shadows and darkness, so to speak. Set in the late 1970’s, I Am Legend begins its tale with humanity pretty much on the quick path to extinction due to a pandemic where the bacterium or virus involved caused symptoms very similar to what folklore had called vampirism. The protagonist of this tale was one Robert Neville. An unassuming man living in a Los Angeles suburban neighborhood who might just be the only living human being, or at least the only un-infected one, on the face of the planet. Neville’s been reduced to a day-to-day routine of defending his fortified home from the vampire-like infected humans who’ve tried attacking him and his home once night falls. This routine has become so ingrained in Neville that it starts him on a downward spiral to utter despair. He knows that he might just be the only human left and the prospect of such an idea almost becomes too much for his psyche. It’s this growing despair which gradually causes Neville to make little mistakes in his routine that puts him in greater levels of danger from those turned who see him as nothing but cattle.

His attempts to solve the mystery of why he’s the only one not affected by the disease becomes his way of keeping himself sane. Neville’s work in trying to find the answer leads him to take chances in keeping a vampire survivor alive and bound instead of just killing it outright. His experiments ranges from disproving the myths surrounding the vampire creature and acknowledging the scientific and/or psychological explanations to certain behavioral traits of these nocturnal creatures.

Neville’s studies on captured vampires tell him why certain things like garlic and sunlight causes such an extreme reaction on these creatures. Why do they have a certain invulnerability towards bullets but not a stake through the heart is one question he tries to answer through his research. He even surmises that the vampires aversion to crucifix was more psychological than anything supernatural. Neville arrives at this after observing a vampire’s reaction to a Star of David was similar to the reaction of another one towards the crucifix.

It’s events such as these which puts I Am Legend in a category all by itself. It still uses themes of horror which the vampires fulfill to great effect, but it also does a great job of taking the vampire tale out of the supernatural realm and into the scientific and logical. Neville’s attempts to keep himself sane, as his loneliness begin to weigh on his psyche and health, through these studies and experiments adds a level of the science-fiction to this tale. It’s the combination of these two genres which makes I Am Legend such an epic tale in scope yet it’s not that which gives the tale its heaviest impact. It’s Neville himself, more to the point, his desperate situation of being the last man on earth weighing on his mind. This tone gives this apocalyptic vampire tale such an intimate feel that the reader hopes and wishes for some sort of peaceful end to Neville; better yet, some hope that he might find clues that he might not be the last.

As the story moves forward, the line between who is human, who is monster and who is the true survivor become blurred as Neville’s forays into the city for supplies lead him to a community of others who have not succumbed to the monstrous effect of the pandemic. It’s this discovery that gives Neville a semblance of hope which momentarily lifts the heavy weight of inevitability from his mind. But not everything is at it seems at first glance. Neville finds this out as his encounters with this thriving community continue to give him more and more insight as to how they’ve survived. The climactic end to this tale has become such a classic ending that any other resolution wouldn’t have worked. The end worked as the best possible ending to Matheson’s tale. It also gives the books title a deeper and more profound meaning to it.

I Am Legend will continue to go down in literary history as one of the best examples of fantastic literature. It’s seemless blending of horror, science-fiction and the apocalyptic gives the tale both an epic and intimate feel and tone. It’s not wonder the very themes and premise of this story has influenced such horror writers and filmmakers as Stephen King (The Stand, Salem’s Lot) and George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead). I Am Legend takes the vampire tale out of the shadows and darkness it usually in habits and brings it out to the light of science and logic with surprising results. A true classic piece of writing from Richard Matheson and one that still stands as the benchmark for apocalyptic tales.

Book Review: They Thirst (by Robert R. McCammon)


Robert McCammon’s 1981 vampire novel, They Thirst, has to be considered one of the best of its kind in horror literature. Most vampire novels take on either the Victorian-era guise with velvet coats and silk fipperies, or they take the more monstrous route with the vampires less a literary analogy for repressed-sexuality and more the undead monsters that they are. In They Thirst, McCammon takes the concept of the vampire as an evil plague that slowly acts like an epidemic, consuming all in its path until none are left and only the primogenitor of its evil left to rule over the wasteland.

McCammon’s vampire tale is a massive one which takes on a grand stage from it’s Eastern European beginning all the way to its urban apocalyptic climax. Similar in tone to Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, They Thirst posits the question of how would a place such as Los Angeles do when confronted with one of mankind’s oldest evils. With ‘Salem’s Lot the same premise wass used but in a smaller, intimate setting of a quaint New England town where everyone knows everyone. McCammon does King exponentially better by setting They Thirst in one of the largest metropolitan cities in the world. The vampire lord in question is Prince Vulkan, a Hungarian prince from the 13th-century whose plan to create a vampiric empire molded in his image begins in the City of Angels.

The story begins simple enough with grave-robbings and an inordinate amount of mysterious disappearances even for a place like Los Angeles. They Thirst still follows the so-called vampire rules laid down by Bram Stoker in Dracula which he in turn had taken from Eastern European folklore. There’s even a subplot concerning one rich executive whose business of mass-producing coffins catches the gaze of Vulkan and his minions. The novel is rife with modern re-telling of the folklore of medieval times, but this time around McCammon pulls out all the stops as the epidemic of vampirism slowly works its way from the slums and ghettoes of the poorer sections of LA and into the middle-class neighborhoods and soon even the high and mighty in their manses in Beverly Hills are not left immune. McCammon does a great job of describing the gang-ridden streets of early 1980’s Los Angeles. He makes great use of this colorful aspect of LA to help explain why the rise of vampires in the city became unchecked. Vulkan’s decision to prey on the destitute and down-trodden of such a massive metropolitan area gives him the army he’ll need to take over the rest of the region.

Chosen, as if by fate or by some higher power, are a disparate group of Los Angelinos whose only tie to each other are their own horrific encounters of the true danger plaguing their city. There’s LA detective Andy Palatizin whose own encounter with the demons now in his city goes back to his youth while living in Hungary. It is Palatizin’s own past history with the creatures of the night that helps tie him to Vulkan and whose confrontation in the end makes things all the more personal. There’s also Wes Richer, an up-and-coming comedian whose sudden rise in fortune gets interrupted by Vulkan’s own plans. It is through Richer’s lover, Solange — a medium whose knowledge of the supernatural gives her some insight about the danger at hand — that he becomes involved in the fight for the city. Then there’s Tommy Chandler who becomes the youngest of those chosen to fight the undead menace that soon engulfs the city. Vulkan himself has his own soldiers amongst the mortals and the most interesting being an albino sociopath called Kobra whose amorality causes him to answer Vulkan’s siren call to join him in LA. All in all, the characters in They Thirst were well-written and brought their own complex personalities to the story.

The novel gradually builds up from its simple beginnings. Like a dam just barely keeping the overflow from breaching the top, They Thirst doesn’t let the reader go once it’s gotten its hook into them. The horror of the magnitude of the epidemic shares a similarity to George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. McCammon deftly shows how governments and people in general lose focus and common sense when faced with something that shouldn’t exist. He shows how quickly modern man can fall from their perch as the dominant predator due to their science and logic. They Thirst shows that it’s those individuals and small groups who’ve held on to the old traditions and/or willing to believe the impossible who eek out a sense of survival once the region becomes cut-off from the outside world and the undead run rampant in the streets. It was so easy to read the book and substitute zombies in place of vampires and see it work just as well. In fact, I think McCammon could’ve easily written this novel as an epic zombie novel and it would’ve lost none of its horror and punch.

As a horror novel They Thirst must rank up there with classic vampire novels such as the aforementioned ‘Salem’s Lot and Dracula, but also another vampire novel which share similar apocalyptic foundations in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend. Robert McCammon takes an age-old legend and infuses it with a modern sensibility and a sense of the epic that even horror wirters rarely ever pull off. It’s a shame that the paperback is now out-of-print and the novelist himself have kept further printings from being made and released. But for those still willing to read this great vampire novel, I suggest they search the used and second-hand bookstores for a copy. The book won’t disappoint.