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Vinny The Vampire Slayer

In advance of the release of the newest film adaptation of Richard Matheson‘s dark and brilliant novella, I Am Legend

I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

you can watch online for free the first attempt to bring this story to the screen…

This one is a 1964 Italian-U.S. co-production starring Vincent Price. Its strength is that it sticks closely to Matheson’s story (all the way to its bitter, transgressive end) and tells it in an understated way–perhaps only because it was limited to this by its budget, but this is why I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing for a filmmaker to be forced to work with comparatively limited financial resources. Co-directors Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow make sparse use of voiceover narration by Price, flashbacks via 8mm film within the film, and more traditional flashbacks to tell the story of how Robert Morgan came to be The Last Man On Earth. If you can forgive some cardboard performances and don’t need eye-popping visual effects to accept the story being told onscreen, I think you will find that this film is a little gem.

Frankly, I have very low expectations of the version that’s coming out on Friday. Just one look at the poster makes me uneasy…  

click to go to film's website

…because, from that, it looks like it’s everything the original version was not. Big budget, action-packed, more brawn than brain, special fx-laden (-reliant?), high-profile, Hollywoodized. (That’s not to say there aren’t any explosions in the original… but they’re pretty pathetic cap-gun level explosions. More funny than frightening, really.) Still, I am weak. I will prolly go see it. With those aforementioned low expectations.

And, for some reason, it appears that the plague victims of the tale have been changed from vampires to zombies. (I suppose I should point out, though, that the vampires of the 1964 film really did behave more like shambling Romero zombies than vampires. Just sayin’.) I’ll bet the screenwriters Mark Protosevich and Akiva Goldsman have no good reason for this change–I suspect it’s just because those post-Romero fast zombies are trendy nowadays. And lookit how the vampire-infested 30 Days of Night recently tanked. (Steve Niles, co-author of the graphic novel upon which that film was based, also co-authored a graphic novelization of Matheson’s book–both of which I recommend, natch! Along with his graphic novel adaptation of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, now that I think about it!). The director of the latest film version is Francis Lawrence, who gave us the disappointing (to me) adaptation of Hellblazer (admittedly, my disappointment was centered around the horribly miscast Keanu Reeves as John Constantine).

Then again, after having had the poster give me pause, I hafta admit the poster for the 1964 film leaves a little to be desired, too…

…and I dunno WTF the Addams Family house is doing on there. ‘Cept Sidney Salkow directed a few episodes of that tv show!

It’s been years since I last saw The Omega Man–that other film adaptation of the story by Matheson–so I added it to my ZipList to re-watch. I am not a big fan of Charlton Heston‘s ham-stuffed-cheeseball performances but I do want to re-watch this version of the story despite it.

so much for being a paragon of machismo

UPDATE: I found The Omega Man available for free online. It’s split into 11 sections here. You’re welcome. 🙂

And, believe it or not, yet another version of the story was released straight-to-dvd last month. Called I Am Omega, the trailer is online…


→ originally published 2007-12-11


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