Robert Morgan (Vincent Price) is the lone human survivor in an LA devastated by a worldwide plague that killed most of the global population and turned the rest into vampires. For three years he has survived on his own, mourning his lost family and systematically staking every vampire he can find, working his way block by block through the city. Then, one day, he sees what appears to be another survivor…
Richard Matheson wrote a screenplay adapting his novel I Am Legend, but by the time the film was actually made, his script had been sufficiently changed that he replaced his name in the credits with a pseudonym. There is no denying that the film has its share of flaws. The dubbing of the Italian cast members is hit-and-miss, the action scenes are indifferently staged, and one feels a bit too acutely the monotony of Price’s lonely existence. On the other hand, there is a completely convincing vision of a deserted city achieved on a small budget, and a couple of genuinely creepy moments (most notably when Price’s wife returns from her grave). Furthermore, this remains the adaptation closest to the original novel, and the only version to retain the idea of the hero actually being a villain from the perspective of those he is exterminating. That alone gives this somewhat clunky effort a bit of an edge of its slicker successors (The Omega Man and I Am Legend).
The mono is a clean example of its kind, though the volume is a bit low. There is no hiss, no gurgling, and no distortion, and the overall sound is quite warm, especially for a post-synched low-budget film from 1964. This isn’t the kind of film where one really feels the absence of stereo.
The print is in terrific shape, with no real damage of any kind. The image is sharp, the black-and-white tones are wonderful , and the blacks are profound. There is no grain. The picture is the film’s original 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. For ages, this film was available only in dodge public domain prints, so it’s nice to see it looking so good. This is not, though, the only time MGM has given us this film. More on that below.
The “Richard Matheson Storyteller” featurette is a pretty interesting one (though brief at barely 6 minutes). This is, however, the same feature that accompanied the film when it was part of a Midnite Movies double-bill DVD along with Ray Milland’s intriguing Panic In Year Zero. So you are, effectively, getting only half of the value of the previous release.
A nice looking presentation of the film, but viewers would be much better off tracking down the Midnite Movies edition, and getting two films for the price of one. Either way, comparisons with the newest version of I Am Legend are interesting.