***/**** Image B- Sound C Extras D
starring Vincent Price, Franca Bettoia, Emma Danieli, Giacomo Rossi-Stuart
screenplay by Logan Swanson & William F. Leicster, based on the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
directed by Sidney Salkow
by Walter Chaw If the execution of The Last Man on Earth, Sidney Salkow's adaptation of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend, is sometimes clunky, the ideas contained therein seem prescient at least, profound at best. Disowned by Matheson and oft-derided as slow-moving, it's actually an exceptional film in an exceptional year for film, a beautiful, occasionally stunning piece about loneliness and alienation. I wouldn't call it a metaphor, but as a bleak emotional landscape--Eliot's "The Wasteland" committed to genre schlock--it boasts of an intimidating gravity. Take the scene where titular plague survivor Dr. Morgan (Vincent Price) refuses to turn over his freshly-dead wife (Emma Danieli) to an army crematorium crew, endeavouring instead to bury her in the woods. His act of love is rewarded that night with her undead corpse paying him a visit. Yes, the pacing is off, leaving the shock of a shambling loved one to be milked properly in four years' time by George Romero and his Night of the Living Dead, yet the duration of the attack by itself underscores the horror and revulsion of the dearly-departed now up and walking. Veteran television director Salkow isn't very good, it's true, but DP Franco Delli Colli (Strip Nude For Your Killer), on one of his first films, provides beautiful, empty tableaux littered with car husks and burning pits fed with the corpses of the baddies Morgan stakes in the daytime.