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The Omega Man (1971)

When number 2 son Kirk suggested we watch the recent blu ray I had picked up of The Omega Man to replace my DVD copy there was really only one thing left to do. Lean back and give him the best imitation Charlton Heston grimace I could muster and tell him to “press play.”

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My love of this film goes back to my childhood when I would see this play on television and I didn’t dare miss it. Thankfully Mom was a Heston fan and let me indulge in this sci-fi horror film that has definitely become a cult classic over the years. I have previously stated that while growing up Heston was all things to a kid in the Heston Cameo link. The man delivered!

Years after Vincent Price tackled the I am Legend story from Richard Matheson, Heston turned it into an ultra cool flick of being the last man left on earth. Or so he thinks. Mainly he’s trying to put an end to the miserable life that Anthony Zerbe and his psychotic followers dwell in. Before the outbreak of world wide plague Heston was a scientist who saves himself with an experimental vaccine. Sadly he’s too late to save mankind from rotting flesh and albino features. Heston lives by day and Zerbe’s cult by night.

Into Heston’s life comes Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo and a group of kids that should allow him to get back into the lab and secure their humanity by using the only antidote he has left. His own blood. He’s going to have to fend off Zerbe with plenty of machine gun bursts and grenades in order to get the group out of the city and find a peaceful “eden”. Still as a viewer there is always something compelling when we see deserted cities and ruins on the screen like when Heston and James Franciscus find themselves in the forbidden zone of the Apes films.

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It’s all very Christlike with Heston as the central figure. This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the roles we associate with the legendary leading man throughout his career. The major difference is of course this isn’t a DeMille epic. It’s also made at a time when love scenes involving racial integration were not necessarily the normal thing one would see on the screen. A tip of the hat to the film makers and Chuck for casting Rosalind Cash as his love interest. It also serves to add a little extra flavor to the last man meeting the last woman on earth and they are not of the same race.

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In Heston’s autobiography he seemed to be very pleased with the overall production of the film and came to know it had developed a cult following over the years. He tells an amusing story as well of newcomer Rosalind being a little nervous initially. Her reasoning was it isn’t everyday you get to —- Moses. By this time Heston had perhaps become an iconic figure over the past twenty years in film.

The film was directed by Boris Sagal who mainly worked in television and fathered actress Katey Sagal known to many as Peg Bundy and or Gemma Teller Morrow. To me she’ll always be Peg. “Rub my tushy Al.”

One thing I really appreciated while watching the bonus interviews on the blu ray copy is actor Paul Koslo fondly recalling the production and working with Mr. Heston. The fact that he called him Mister really resonated with me and caused me to smile. From a fan’s point of view thanks Mr. Koslo.

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When Will Smith did the most recent version of this I went into the local theater to see it and left loving Omega Man all the more. CGI creatures killed it for me and while I do not dislike Smith as an actor, I’ll take Heston all day long in this role.

 

 

9 Comments »

  1. I first saw this in an almost empty cinema — the Kilburn Odeon, which was huge and never seemed to draw more than a scattering of patrons. The scene where Heston was watching Woodstock certainly came across as art imitating life — that night, at least. I loved the movie when I saw it and have loved it ever since, despite my changing perceptions of Heston. And I couldn’t agree with you more about the remake: it was completely unnecessary in the first place — the 1971 version holds up perfectly well today — and it wasn’t a patch on the original.

    • Heston nails this one. Funny story about the empty theater. It’s stories like that I find fun and of course try to include a touch of personal memories in much of my writings. I mostly stay away from the politics of my favorites but I kind of see where you are going with Chuck and let’s just say in Canada our attitudes are a little different on the whole. Nuff said.

      • let’s just say in Canada our attitudes are a little different on the whole

        I’m a Brit, so it’s even more so. 🙂

        Oh, and I meant to say that, although I’ve seen the movie several times (although maybe it’s been a decade since the last one), I’d completely forgotten about the interracial aspect: Of course, early-1970s London was a glorious melting pot, so interracial relationships were a commonplace, but I think the real reason for my forgetfulness must be the skill with which the moviemakers handled it.

        As an aside, I do wish Hollywood even now could have a bit more courage in this respect.

  2. Maybe not the most faithful adaptation of the story but it’s far and away the best and most entertaining. Apart from all the aspects you mention, the wonderful, melancholy score adds so much to the experience.

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