The Last Man on Earth is the first adaptation of I Am Legend. It has direct influence from author Richard Matheson, but he wasn’t overly fond of the final result. Matheson’s story was one of the earliest uses of the post-apocalyptic formula we all know today. Like most early 60’s era black & white pictures, The Last Man on Earth has a very literal title. The last man on Earth is scientist Robert Morgan.
This was the first heroic role I’ve seen of classic horror icon Vincent Price. Price tragically narrates the thoughts of a lonely man who tries desperately to survive an empty world plagued by vampires. Although they only come out at night, fear mirrors, hate garlic, and are killed by wooden stakes, the vampires are more like zombies. Similar to the also public domain Night of the Living Dead. The origins of the global pandemic are recounted in an extended flashback. Robert once had a loving wife and daughter that he lost to the virus.
All he can do now is burn the leftover bodies, hunt for vampires, and lock himself in at night. He finds a dog, but most importantly, he finds another human. Since this is an American co-production, Ruth is played by an Italian actress. The original I Am Legend title refers to how Ruth and the rest of her new infected society view Robert. The last healthy man who’s ultimately unable to cure them. The Last Man on Earth benefits from the old fashioned atmospheric horror that Vincent Price excels at.
P.S. Being public domain, I’ve supplied the full movie underneath.