THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. (1964) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

lastMANonEARTH

THE LAST MAN ON EARTH. (1964) BASED ON THE 1954 NOVEL ‘I AM LEGEND’ BY RICHARD MATHESON. DIRECTED BY UBALDO RAGONA AND SIDNEY SALKOW. STARRING VINCENT PRICE, FRANCA BETTOIA, EMMA DANIELI AND GIACOMO ROSSI-STUART. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Come out, Morgan…!’

(It’s September 2019 and I’ve just finished reading Richard Matheson’s superb short horror novel ‘I AM LEGEND,’ the kind of book I still haven’t given up hope on writing myself one day. Not necessarily about a vampiric apocalypse, but on any horror topic that grabs me.

Books like PSYCHO, ROSEMARY’S BABY, THE EXORCIST, JAWS, A KISS BEFORE DYING, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL, CARRIE, PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS provide huge, huge inspiration. A book like that that lives on after you die, that people never get tired of reading or watching in film format, is probably most horror writer’s ultimate goal.

Anyway, the book I AM LEGEND was adapted so faithfully by the film THE LAST MAN ON EARTH that I felt there would be no need to bother you good people with two reviews, one for the book and one for the film. Instead, I’m choosing to share again the review I wrote for THE LAST MAN ON EARTH back in 2016, the year I discovered it for the first time.

I’ll go out on a limb here and say that I think this might actually be the best film that horror icon Vincent Price ever made, even though his numerous horror movies for Roger Corman in their Edgar Allan Poe cycle were all beyond fantastic.

It’s just such a grimly bleak and realistic performance he gives in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH that you get to see his ability to really act, as well as his undoubted talent for hamming it up in a doublet and tights, lol. So here we go, anyway, and I hope you enjoy it. ‘Come out, Neville…!’)

This is a brilliant sci-fi horror film from the era that brought us loads of equally great sci-fi horror films. Yep, it sure was a good era for the old sci-fi horror…! I came across it on a box-set I bought back in 2013 for only a tenner called 100 GREATEST HORROR CLASSICS. One hundred old horror movies for only ten quid? Hell, yeah…!

Other films on the set include THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, both starring Lon Chaney Sr., George A. Romero’s zombie classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS and Alfred Hitchcock’s first ever movie, THE LODGER, starring Ivor Novello. Yes, I think it’s that Ivor Novello; who else could it be…?

Anyway, THE LAST MAN ON EARTH manages to be both brilliant and extremely grim at the same time. Horror icon Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, a man who has survived a terrible wind-borne plague that’s killed off nearly everyone on earth, except for those whom it turned into bloodthirsty vampiric mutations. These monstrosities become active at night. During the day, they sleep…

Poor old Robert spends the daylight hours tracking down the mutants and staking them through the heart before chucking ’em in a giant pit of fire. Well, I guess he just wants to be sure they’re really dead. Fair enough, lol.

At night, he holes himself up in his gaff while the pathetically weak vampires, including his former work colleague Ben Cortman, bang on his door and beg him feebly to come out so that they can kill him and drink his blood. Naturally, Robert declines this delightful offer. Maybe he likes his blood where it is. I’d be the same myself…!

In any case, his existence as literally the last man on earth is so bleak that the viewer wonders why he doesn’t just end his own life and be done with it. Maybe he’s afraid that he’ll become one of the Walking Un-Dead like the monstrous mutations he grapples with every day and night. Also, we mustn’t forget that the instinct for survival is very strong. There’s always the chance/hope that things might, one day, return to normal. That’s what keeps us going when times are tough.

One miraculous day, however, while out doing his ’rounds,’ Dr. Morgan spies a sight that he never expected to see again; a human female! Is she real? Is she infected with the plague that turned the mutants into the bloodsucking demons they’ve become? And, most importantly, how will this seemingly chance encounter impact upon the already stressed-out Dr. Morgan…?

I think that this film works so well because it taps into those fears we all secretly have. You know, the ones about being one of the sole survivors of some kind of apocalyptic disaster that leaves us on our own battling against zombies and mutants? I’ve always had that fear at the back of my own mind, anyway.

There’s this horrible scenario I think about sometimes where I’m alone in my house in just such a post-apocalyptic situation as we’ve discussed and a mis-shapen shadow suddenly falls across my window. Then I hear a scrabbling at the door. I stay perfectly still but the noise continues. Then there’s the unmistakable sound of someone breaking in… It’s all very ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS (Lucio Fulci), isn’t it?

Another thing that scares people is the thought of a plague or pandemic that wipes out half the world’s population. We’ve had worrisome thoughts like that about different epidemics over the decades: AIDS, swine flu, avian flu and the Ebola virus, to name a few. I’ve literally just read online, actually, about something called the ‘Zika virus.’

It’s not outside the bounds of possibility that something like a plague/pandemic could happen. That’s why films like OUTBREAK, QUARANTINE and RIGHT AT YOUR DOOR are so popular. It’s because, one day, it might just happen here…

I think THE LAST MAN ON EARTH must have been the inspiration for that TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episode of THE SIMPSONS in which Homer Simpson becomes ‘the last man on earth’ after a nuclear bomb wipes out most of the rest of the world. He isn’t remotely bothered by being surrounded by rotting corpses. He actually enjoys having the world to himself for a bit, haha. Until he finds himself being chased by freakish skin-eating mutants, that is…!

Vincent Price puts his heart and soul into his performance as the poor beleaguered Dr. Robert. Did I mention that I met his daughter Victoria Price in November 2015, by the way? I do try to mention that quite regularly, lol. She was having a meet-and-greet at the Irish Film Institute here in Dublin to promote the cookery book her dear old dad co-wrote with her mum and she was absolutely lovely and down-to-earth.

I chose to buy her biography of her dad, though, rather than the cookery book. It was a real whopper of a coffee-table book and it cost an even more whopping sixty quid…! Quite honestly, I’m not much of a Nigella Lawson, anyway. I prefer to spend as little time in the kitchen as I can get away with.

The flashback scenes in THE LAST MAN ON EARTH are excellent and the scenes with the puppy are just heartbreaking. The fact that the film is in black-and-white highlights the starkness of Dr. Robert’s awful situation. If you want to see how he copes with things, watch the film. It’s superb. And don’t answer the door after dark under any circumstances. It might be the mutants…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

MADHOUSE (1974) and HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967): A PAIR OF VINCENT PRICE HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Vincent-Price-Madhouse

MAD HOUSE (1974) and HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS (1967). A PAIR OF VINCENT PRICE HORROR FILMS REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘MADHOUSE’ is a marvellous Vincent Price vehicle that has his distinctive stamp all over it. HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS, on the other hand, is a rather boring, baffling film in which men dressed in black chase each other around Tangiers in the dark, and it rather looks to me like the film-makers decided they needed a big star name to sell the movie and poor old Vincent Price drew the short straw, lol. Then they stuck him in a few scenes and Bob’s your uncle, they had themselves a party. But let’s start with MADHOUSE, an infinitely more pleasing affair.

In this AMICUS/AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES collaboration, Vincent Price plays an ageing American movie star called Paul Toombes, who is best known for making the hugely popular DR. DEATH films. Now, in the twilight of his career, he’s making a major comeback. He’s going to star with an attractive young actress in a television series which will be reviving the character of Dr. Death, for which he’ll travel to England and leave his old life behind.

His old life is more complicated than most people’s, and includes a murdered young porn star wife whom some folk still think Paul killed, even though he was acquitted of the crime. Certainly, bigshot TV producer Oliver Quayle, played by Robert COUNT YORGA Quarry, is one of these suspicious folks but, as he’s going to be producing the new DR. DEATH series, he’s willing to put his prejudices aside for the sake of the big fat juicy pay-off which Paul Toombes’s name in the credits will bring.

Paul can’t stand the oily, smarmy, sneaky Quayle, so it’s a good thing that his very dear old friend, the actor-screenwriter Herbert Flay (Peter Cushing), will be working with them both to provide a bit of balance. Herbert wrote the scripts for the original DR. DEATH movies and Paul is thrilled to be invited to stay with Herbert in his lovely secluded English mansion while filming of the series takes place.

Once filming starts, however, a series of gruesome murders immediately starts up also, as various people are fatally attacked by someone dressed in the Dr. Death garb, complete with rather freaky skull mask and black swirling cape, the works.

Paul Toombes starts to doubt his own sanity. After all, he experienced a period of similar confusion and mental derangement after the brutal decapitation of his gorgeous porn star missus twenty years ago, the murder he was accused of committing. He spent years in a mental hospital after that murder. Could it be that he’s off his rocker again and running around the place murdering people whilst dressed as his alter ego, Dr. Death?

There are just so many highlights in this one; the appearance of the stunning blonde actress for Hammer and other studios, Linda Hayden, as a pushy, wanna-be actress who thinks Paul Toombes can advance her career; a fancy dress party for the cast and crew of the Dr. Death TV series at which the suavely handsome Robert Quarry comes dressed as Christopher Lee’s Dracula; and the inclusion of several of Vincent Price’s actual old movies, all purporting to be old DR. DEATH films.

We see TALES OF TERROR, the Basil Rathbone vignette in which good old Sherlock Holmes himself tries to hypnotise a man (who else but Vincent Price?) at the exact point of death, in order to control the man for his own nefarious ends. The wiz-off between Price and an ageing Boris Karloff in THE RAVEN also features, as does the Edgar Allan Poe-H.P. Lovecraft mash-up, THE HAUNTED PALACE, and a visual but unmistakable reference to HOUSE OF WAX, possibly Price’s best ever and most famous horror film. THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER and SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN are in there too.

This film is great fun, and it looks like Vincent Price is enjoying himself. (Unlike in HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS, in which he kind of looks like he’s wondering, what the hell am I doing here…?) He plays the dual roles of Paul Toombes and Dr. Death in a theatrical and dramatic fashion, with all the panache, flair and style he’s capable of. Let’s just hope he’s not allergic to spiders, however, or to dark secrets that conceal themselves in the basements of elegant country houses…

HOUSE OF 1,000 DOLLS isn’t a very good film, despite the cool name. There are far from 1,000 dolls in the House of 1,000 Dolls, for a kick-off. There are only about twelve dolls at the very most, and they’re not even dolls at all, they’re all prostitutes, lol. That’s right, folks, the House of 1,000 Dolls is nothing more than a brothel with a lovely name.

You can pay to have sex with the dolls, which is all right ’cause they’re not bad-looking at all, but you can’t take a fancy to one and bring her home with you. You can’t bring one home with you even if she’s your legal wife and the ‘syndicate’ has kidnapped her for the purposes of sex trafficking. That’s when they try to hold onto her the most. If you’re the grieving husband, well, you might as well just feck off home for all you’ll be able to do about it. They’ll follow you most of your way home and then kill you in a junkyard, though. ‘S true, I swear it.

It’s a rather dull life, being a ‘doll’ from the House of 1,000 Dolls. You can change your sexy lingerie, change your hair, go for your 11am whipping (oh yes, there’s whipping, but no nudity, sadly!) and, erm, that’s about it. The poor ‘dolls.’ No wonder they’re always sitting around hoping to be rescued by their men-folk and organising unsuccessful protests against their incarceration. Being a ‘doll’ isn’t nearly as much fun as it sounds.

Vincent Price feels somewhat tacked on here, as I said earlier, as a suave, tuxedo-clad magician known as ‘Manderville.’ Manderville, together with his glamorous partner-in-crime, Rebecca (Tippi Hedren to the life in that severe blonde hairstyle, just look at her!), is responsible for hypnotising the beautiful young girls who are then abducted and conveyed to the- you guessed it- the House of 1,000 Dolls to be giving a sound training in the art of prostitution. Well, a trade is always a handy thing to have, Mother. I suppose it might as well be in blowjobs and anal beads as owt else, now all ‘t’ mills have gone for a burton.

Vincent Price really gives it his all, as I suspect he does in all of his films, but it’s a very small role compared to some of his others and not as meaty. It doesn’t even feel like it’s his film, if you know what I mean. It’s like a bad foreign film in which he happens to have a part. (It’s an AMERICAN INTERNATIONAL PICTURES film, as it happens, released initially in Spain under a Spanish title. There’s some pretty bad dubbing in evidence, I’m afraid, and some dialogue goes for a burton too, lol.)

There’s a policeman running around trying to find out who killed this guy called Fernando, whose girlfriend Diana was kidnapped by the girlfriend-stealing, white slavery syndicate, and a doctor called Steven Armstrong who does virtually no doctoring at all, but he does manage to lose his beautiful and ridiculously dim missus to the good folks behind the House of 1,000 Dolls.

Well, that’s how fast they work, you see, these people. While you’re still standing outside the shop checking your flamin’ Lotto numbers and licking your Cornetto out through the hole at the bottom of the wrapper, they’ve nicked your girlfriend right out of your car and whisked her away to the House of 1,000 Dolls for a long apprenticeship in the oldest trade in ‘t’ world. Should you bother to go after her? Dunno, really. I guess it depends on how much you’re enjoying that Cornetto…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor

DIARY OF A MADMAN. (1963) A VINCENT PRICE HORROR FILM REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

vincent diary odette

DIARY OF A MADMAN. (1963) DIRECTED BY REGINALD LE BORG. BASED ON STORIES BY GUY DE MAUPASSANT. STARRING VINCENT PRICE, NANCY KOVACK AND IAN WOLFE.

REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This isn’t one of the Roger Corman-Edgar Allan Poe adaptations that horror legend Vincent Price made for American International Pictures, but it’s every bit as mysterious, atmospheric and luxurious as those gorgeous films, even if it doesn’t have a crumbling old mist-wreathed castle by the sea for a setting.

Vincent Price stars as Simon Cordier, a rich, well-respected French magistrate living in Paris. He has all the trappings of wealth, but the pain of the death twelve years ago of his wife and baby is his constant bedfellow. Which just goes to show us that money can’t always bring you happiness, even if it can bring you all the snazzy new material stuff you could ever wish for. (Which, of course, is nice…!)

Simon visits a condemned prisoner called Louis Girot in prison on the eve of his execution. Girot, who has requested the meeting, has apparently murdered several people without motive, for which he’s going to get an all-expenses paid trip to Madame La Guillotine. He’s hoping to convince the magistrate of his innocence, by explaining how he wasn’t at all in his right mind when he carried out the killings. He wasn’t really even himself, if you get me.

He tells a sceptical Simon that he was possessed by an evil spirit when he did the murders, a spirit that can order him to kill at any time. When Simon leaves the man’s cell, this murderous curse no longer inhabits Girot’s doomed carcass, but Simon’s vibrant living one…

To soothe his troubled mind, which by the way has started imagining things and hearing voices, Simon takes up sculpting, a subject in which he has always had an interest. He meets a stunning young(ish) artist’s model called Odette Mallotte who, unknown to Simon, is married to a struggling artist called Paul Duclasse and is desperate to claw her way out of the poverty trap in which she is currently enmeshed.

The unscrupulous, materialistic Odette sees Simon as her meal ticket out of the slums. While he is sculpting her perfect head and shoulders, he falls in love with her sunny demeanour and her ability to laugh at life and all its follies. Which was precisely what she was hoping would happen and what she was trying to manipulate into happening…

To Odette’s delight, Simon, who is blissfully unaware of her marital status, proposes marriage. She’s not going to let a little thing like her living husband, Paul Duclasse, stand in the way of her advancement. Surely he can be easily brushed aside?

In the meantime, poor Simon is convinced that he is possessed by the evil spirit that transferred itself to him from the convicted prisoner Louis Girot. The spirit is an invisible entity called the Horla, who speaks to Simon when he is alone.

It has telekinetic powers and can move furniture about and throw things and smash things just like a poltergeist can. Poor Simon can’t decide whether he’s going mad or whether there really is a race of evil spirits known as the Horla, who can inhabit the bodies of men while manipulating their minds into committing the most heinous murders. When the Horla orders him to carry out a killing so dreadful it makes his blood run cold to think of it, he finds out first-hand what’s real and what’s not…

The titular diary is the journal kept by Simon Cordier from the moment he suspects he is going insane. He leaves it ‘to be opened in the event of my death’ and, in it, he hopes to convince the reader- and, by extension, the world- of the existence of the heretofore unknown Horla, and of the very real menace they represent to mankind.

You’ll know if you’ve been possessed by the Horla because a greenish glowing rectangle will appear across both your eyes and you’ll get a sudden uncontrollable urge to go all Norman Bates on someone with a fair-sized carving knife. There’s a definite PSYCHO moment in DIARY OF A MADMAN, complete with metaphorical shower curtains breaking free of their loopy things one by one as a desperate victim clutches at them for support. Very enjoyable stuff, lol.

Ian Wolfe you might recognise. Here, he plays Pierre, Simon Cordier’s devoted old retainer. He’s appeared in a few of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies of the ‘Forties, in at least one case playing- you guessed it!- a faithful old retainer, this time to the cold fish of a toff whose wife was found in the deserted church ringing feebly on the bell to attract attention. To the fact that she’d had her throat torn out by the same fiend who’d torn out the throats of various poor sheep in the area… Anyway, it’s lovely to see Ian Wolfe here in this gorgeous, sumptuously-coloured gothic horror movie. Any friend of Holmes’s is a friend of ours, right?

DIARY OF A MADMAN is as good a horror film as any of Vincent Price’s other works. Nancy Kovack is deliciously seductive as she takes the pins out of her hat and settles herself down on the model’s stool to loosen her long dark hair and pull down the front of her dress to bare her shoulders for Simon’s sculpting chisel to get to work on.

Remember her as Medea, the sexy, dark-haired priestess of the temple at Colchis whom Jason fishes out of the sea in JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS? Covered in gold paint and nearly nude, the foxy wench does her frenzied dance with pure abandon in the temple, much to the delight of the watching males. She’s a real hottie, but dames like that ain’t nuthin’ but trouble. Just ask Simon Cordier…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:

sandrasandraharris@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

https://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com

http://sexysandieblog.wordpress.com

http://serenaharker.wordpress.com

https://twitter.com/SandraAuthor