Seventies end-of-the-world movie? Call for Chuck H. This
time he's doctor and army colonel Robert Neville, the one
man immune to the outbreak of global germ warfare. But if
Mankind is dying out, Neville ain't alone. First, there's
The Family, a bunch of albino guys and gals who've also been
turned into atavistic, homicidal loonies. and then, there's
the possibility that a few others have not fully succumbed
to the virus. Based on Richard Matheson's I Am Legend...
honest. This film is, at best, a guilty pleasure. Sure, it
was prescient and its warning still holds. No contest, there
are some well-executed scenes, such as the eerie opening in
a deserted downtown LA. And it zips through its 98 minutes.
But, a 'good' movie?
Let's start with Heston. He gives one of his off-the-shelf
he-man performances, delivering the epithets 'bastard', 'sonofabitch'
and 'dammit' as only he can. Some of his cynicism is amusing,
but we have been here a thousand times before. And - SPOILER
ALERT, SKIP TO NEXT PARAGRAPH IF YOU'VE JUST ARRIVED FROM
MARS - Neville even gets to die in a crucifixion pose.
there are the bad guys. They are led by Anthony Zerbe, possessor
of the world's only right-angled eyebrows, in a Jimmy Saville
wig. His followers are decked out in black robes and cowls
and given to repeating the last word of the Zerbster's sentences
in a way that reminds you of nothing more than a goth version
of Cardinal Fang and the Spanish Inquisition. "Among our weapons
are silly contact lenses, a daily facial wash in Fuller's
Earth and an almost fanatical devotion to ham acting."
top of all that, there is the dialogue. Does Zerbe really
order Heston to be hauled off at one point with the words:
"Take him to the little room... for questioning"? You'd better
believe it (although while I freeze framed, I must admit I
couldn't spot the comfy chair).
what stops you hitting 'eject'. Erm, give me a minute, with
you in a sec, almost there, YES! There are some interesting
things going on. The recreation of a deserted big city is
as good, if not better than that in 28 Days Later,
and director Boris Sagal holds the oppressive mood quite well.
Meanwhile, a strong - but also very Prisoner-esque
- score from Ron Goodwin helps build the tension when what
is on-screen would otherwise fall flat. And when it sticks
to being a B-movie the film gets in, does it job, and gets
out quickly in a mindless Friday-night-at-the-multiplex way.
given the source material, it remains a disappointment. I
Am Legend is a chilling - some would claim, classic -
portrait of isolation. Unfortunately the screenwriters don't
appear to have had quite as high an opinion of it as most
other people, and bugger about giving the film their own political
original's vampirism is dropped for bio-warfare ('twas the
time of Agent Orange after all), as are other critical elements
such as Neville's former best friend being his nemesis (Zerbe's
character is instead a one-time TV pundit) and the role played
by the 'hero's' wife (here replaced by a Black Power ally
in Rosalind Cash). Then we get discontinuities like the hippy
student who declares that it was his ambition to join Heston's
bio-war lab. Oh really!
last addition illustrates what really is wrong with the script.
It is not they should not have tampered with the original
text, but that they do it badly.
know that some people like the film a lot (and, by the way,
our esteemed editor is looking for something to fuel his mailbag).
They will be pleased to know that the DVD transfer is good
and there are some fun extras, alongside the ubiquitous trailer
and - copied from the far superior Soylent Green disc
- a very ho-hum 'essay' on Chuck's sci-fi movies.
five-minute introduction from some of the cast members - but
not Heston - and one of the screenwriters preaches quite nicely
to the coverted. But the real nugget is an archive promo featuring
Big Chuck discussing how he should approach the role with
pop-anthropologist Ashley Montagu.
Strangely enough, the one aspect of a very staged encounter
that rings true is Heston professing a familiarity with Montagu's
work. The British-born professor played an important role
in the US struggle for civil rights with groundbreaking works
that destroyed the notion of race as a differentiator between
peoples. Back in the 1960s and 1970s, Heston, for his part,
also supported that battle rather than the National Riflemen's
Association, and marched alongside Martin Luther King in numerous
lesson aside, though, the promo is cheesy, a real Roquefort
- and even if Montagu appears to offer some useful insights
and suggestions, it is hard to see them in the finished product.
Amusement comes more from watching the interplay between a
slouching Heston and a very stiff academic, all aided by Mr
then, for fans only to buy and for others to rent when they
fancy a retro-night around a four-pack.
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