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Tagline: Pray for the last man alive. Because he's not alone.

Pizza: L.A. Valley Pizzaland



When I was 11 years old, my friend Robert Levine told me that the shortest science fiction story goes like this – “The last man on earth sat in his room when he heard a knock on the door.” In THE ΩMEGA MAN (1971), Dr. Robert Neville is the last man on earth…and then a phone rings. But is it really ringing, or is he imagining it?



Back in 1971, Warner Brothers was owned by Kinney, a parking lot company. Yep, it’s true, although it only lasted a few years. But maybe that’s why the first shot in ΩMEGA is of a parking lot. Soon, Neville cruises by. He’s played by Charlton Heston, who had the distinction of having one of the greatest voices in cinema, yet the worst fake laugh. He’s listening to THEME FROM A SUMMER PLACE on an 8-track in his car. The incongruity of this easy listening track playing against the visual of downtown’s desolate streets, where sheets of newspaper are tumbleweeds and you have to occasionally step over decomposing corpses, is stunning.

If I were the last guy on earth, I’d still avoid taking the 405, but sure, there are advantages. When Neville gets a flat, he helps himself to a new car. Want to see a movie? Just fire up the generator to start the projector at the theater. That’s what Neville does when he screens WOODSTOCK (another Kinney release), a movie he’s undoubtedly watched dozens of times (this was before there were multi-plexes). How else would he know the words by heart; the words of the hippies: “If we can’t all live together and be happy, if you have to be afraid to walk out in the street…what kind of way is that to go through this life?”



But that’s exactly what Neville’s doing. You see, watching WOODSTOCK is what Neville does in his leisure time. His real job is to track down The Family—a conclave of humans who managed not to die, and subsequently became mutants. Light-sensitive, these mutants only come out at night. (Wait, if the mutants can’t stand light, why are they so obsessed with fire torches? But let’s move on. I’m not here to break that scandal open.) It’s an endless cycle of Neville trying to find their nest during the daytime and the mutants taunting Neville (they know where he lives, they just can’t get in) at night. If mutants surrounded my house every night, I’d move...probably to an island with no mutants. Or better still, to an island in Svalbard, where the midnight sun will keep the mutants away for 5 months a year. Anyway…

The mutant’s leader is Mathias (Anthony Zerbe), who, in a cool scriptwriting move, we see early on as a newscaster before the plague wiped everyone out. Matthias hates technology, blaming it for why they are how they are, and Neville represents the last of the technology people. Matthias speaks of Neville: “He has the stink of oil, electrical circuitry about him.”

So...how did the human race get wiped out? Well, that happens before the movie begins. Matthias is right, it all began with technology—the fallout from bombs during the Sino-Russian War (presumably in 1975). And why is Neville not dead or a mutant? Because he was working on a vaccine cure.

It’s a sad, lonely world, but Neville has his own Wilson volleyball to talk to and play chess with; a bust of Julius Caesar, who in his time did some civilization reforming of his own. One day, while “shopping” for some clothes, Neville looks at a female mannequin…and touches it. Lordy knows what base he would have gotten to with the plastic chick if he hadn’t heard a noise and then discovered a real woman.



Move over Rihanna, for you’re not the only girl in the world. No, that’s gonna be Lisa, a 60s attitude, counter-culture, defiant black girl terrifically (and sometimes comically) played by Rosalind Cash. I love how the story’s two heroes, who can possibly start a new human civilization, are named simply Robert and Lisa. Anyway, adversaries at first, they find themselves attracted to each other; two badasses seeing hope for the world just by looking in each other’s eyes. We watch them shed their tough skin when they’re together. At one point, Lisa awakes naked and runs to the window to close the blinds. The last woman on earth still feels the need to close the blinds. She’s only human.

I’m pretty sure back in 1971 this interracial romance ruffled more than a few feathers. It was three years after STAR TREK’s Kirk and Uhura kiss, the first instance of a mixed smooch. So sad, yet so happy that today, it’s not even a blip. No one notices. All within a single lifetime. Maybe the real world reset itself. Anyway…

Eventually, there’s a showdown. Neville takes the army hat off the Caesar bust and wears it. He’s Caesar now, even calling the mutants Barbarians. Will he and Lisa kill the mutants and restart the human population? Or will this be one of those dark 70’s movie endings, those “Look what we’ve done to the world! We deserve this!” Speaking of which:

Let’s not ignore the similarities of ΩMEGA and PLANET OF THE APES. Sure both are sci-fi films with Heston being a human among non-humans, but both movies also have him talking to himself in that great Hestonian voice, often into his audio diary (like APES’s captain’s log). Hell, he even crash-lands (here…in a helicopter) and is captured. And though it doesn’t come light years close to APES’s, ΩMEGA even has an “Oh my God” moment in Act III.

If ΩMEGA’s story seems familiar it’s because it wasn’t the first version made (see side panel), nor was it the last. Only seven years earlier came THE LAST MAN ON EARTH starring Vincent Price, and in 2007, Will Smith starred in I AM LEGEND (the actual title of the Richard Matheson book these movies were based on). There’s even a direct to DVD version by The Asylum, the folks who gave us SNAKES ON A TRAIN and 30,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. This one’s called I AM ΩMEGA (yes, they even stylized the “O” as an “Ω”). Ha ha and ha! I love The Asylum.

So was it just a coincidence that our Random Movie Generator gave us THE ΩMEGA MAN, and the following month, author Richard Matheson died? Well, yeah, of course it was coincidence, you dope. I’d hate to think that our Random Generator could control people’s DODs. That’s just too sci-fi for me. (But maybe not for him?) I remember seeing Matheson’s name in TWILIGHT ZONE credits when I was a kid, around the time Robert Levine was telling me the world’s shortest science fiction story. I remember the first time I watched the episode NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET featuring a pre-Uhura-kissing Shatner and that mischievous goblin on the wing. I’d get a thrill every time I’d see Matheson’s name on the screen. I loved that our names were so similar, but really it was because he wrote such cool stuff. Besides THE ΩMEGA MAN he penned DUEL and TRILOGY OF TERROR, two pieces that seem to have glued themselves onto the fabric of pop-culture. And that’s just a small sampling. Check him out here, then hit this link to see the six times THE SIMPSONS parodied a Matheson story.

Boris Sagal directed ΩMEGA. I fucking love this guy too. He made the scariest thing I’ve ever seen on TV. The first of the three stories from the NIGHT GALLERY pilot, called THE CEMETERY. Still gives me the willies. Sure, Rod Serling’s script was scary, but Sagal gave it its flavor with its pacing and oh, those quick zoom-outs which he also employed here in ΩMEGA (truth be told, these were more popular at that time). In ΩMEGA, he had these fantastic long shots of the city with only Heston walking down the street, perfectly capturing the correct mood, the uneasiness, the bleakness, the solitude. Sagal died tragically, walking into a helicopter propeller on a set. By the way, another thing Sagal did was give life to daughter Katey, a/k/a Peg Bundy.

Oh right, I wanted to mention this other thing. What is it with all these religious metaphor movies? Our last RMC was ROBOCOP, which director Paul Verhoeven said was a Christ metaphor, and a few months back, we saw DIRTY HARRY, a film brimming with religious allusions. At least ΩMEGA, a movie about starting (creating?) the world over again seems more appropriate. Here, we have Lisa holding Neville at gunpoint, telling him: “Put your hands out, like we’re gonna crucify you.” And at one point in the movie, someone dies in a fountain, arms extended, blood dripping.

I thought I was the last man on earth not to have seen THE ΩMEGA MAN, but it turned out that none of us at this RMC screening had. But I’ve always wanted to. I remember the ads for it, with Heston riding down the stadium steps to escape the mutants, an image that stuck with me till today. With its Matheson/Sagal pedigree, I was hoping it would have been a better movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad movie. I just wanted it to be a lot cΩΩler.


While waiting for the pizza to arrive, we watched an episode of CHARLIE’S ANGELS from 1977 called THE SAMMY DAVIS JR. KIDNAP CAPER. The series was mostly silly, so to call this episode silly is silly. But who cares? It’s Sammy Freakin Davis Freakin Jr. on CHARLIE’S ANGELS!

Sammy plays himself and another character named Herbert Brubaker III, who happens to look like Sammy. Of course, the bad guys kidnap the Sammy lookalike, forcing Real Sammy to hire the Angels to rescue Herbert. It’s all pretty routine, yet a lot of fun, especially with dialogue like Sammy’s: “It’s amazing that you recognize me because most people take me for Paul Newman.”

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