Trailer(Spoilers Follow Below……Please excuse the liberties taken with characters, dialogue and events!)
Robert Neville’s Audio Diary
Another day and another way to blow off steam and sooth my nerves by burning rubber in my (now deceased) convertible. Popped in an 8-track tape and let the music and the breeze flush the cares away when instinct suddenly slammed on the brakes and long practiced intent fired a few rounds of automatic fire at a shadowy figure flitting by a window inside a building.
Anyway, off I roared in the convertible but soon after I rounded a corner and as I tried to avoid junk lying scattered on the street, I crashed the car and got a flat tire for my troubles. Well, never mind. Cars are there scattered around ready for the taking, much like everything else: money, gold, you name it. No value, no-one to guard it all and no body to clean up the goddamn mess!
Not to worry. Just a short stroll to a dealership and hey presto – a new car! I found myself a nice little convertible in the showroom but “can’t say I’m crazy about the paint job.”
I also wasn’t too crazy about the corpse sitting at his desk in the showroom or the sight of the three-year old 1975 calendar mockingly marking the final days of civilization, together with the picture of a scantily clad woman. How may more reminders do I need that I’m the last remnant of humanity and of my solitude and loneliness?
Nothing like a visit to the cinema to cure feelings of loneliness so off I went to catch “Woodstock” screening “for the third straight year.” Sure I know all the words and the goings on in the film by now – but I also know what those young, poor, naïve, dumb bastards on the screen and those in the audience back then didn’t know. All the peace, love, happiness and flowers in the hair, the new explanation, the people in motion; ALL of it would soon turn to shit ‘coz no-one bothered to listen or see what was goin’ on. And now the message of youth is endlessly repeated to an audience of one in a deserted cinema.
“The fact that if we can’t all live together and be happy; If you have to be afraid to walk out in the street; If you have to be afraid to smile at somebody, right? What kind of a way is that to go through this life?” Well, we sure as hell found out, didn’t we? “They sure don’t make pictures like that anymore.”
As I sat alone in the darkness of the cinema pondering and ruminating on what has come to pass, sure enough I failed to notice the approach of darkness outside with the setting of the sun. Night-time always heralds the approach of something too dark and terrifying to contemplate – something which can only be held at bay by the light!
Read on for more…..
As the sun descended further into the underworld, I jumped into the car, gunned the motor and took off at break-neck speed. The race was on as my car gathered speed and recklessly careened down deserted streets in the gathering twilight. I knew they’d be waking up soon.
With relief I eventually made it to my apartment building – my bastion against the encroaching forces of darkness. Suddenly from out of that darkness a robed figure materialized and leapt on to the car as it entered the garage. A desperate struggle ensued between this denizen of Hades and me but I managed to dispatch it with a bust of fire from my gun.
With a feeling of horror I looked up to see flames from a spreading fire and the wide open maw of the garage through which two more black-clad figures rushed brandishing clubs and other hand-held weapons. Fueled by hatred and revulsion, I unleashed a hail of gun-fire at my attackers and as the garage door began to close I spotted a couple of other would-be assailants scurrying away into the darkness beyond the building.
I was at least safe in the knowledge that they and their malignant brethren would be held at bay by the illumination from the exterior flood-lights powered like the rest of the building by the gas-powered generator. Yes, let there be light indeed!
As I entered the elevator, and headed up to the top floor where my “Penthouse” is situated, I had one of my flashbacks that usually involve a recollection of the days of the plague that ended up destroying the world, how I US Army Colonel Robert Neville, M.D. managed to survive and of Matthias and the Family……..
Mental Montage Of Events Of March 1975
SINO-SOVIET BORDER CONFLICT ESCALATES INTO FULL-SCALE WAR!
BIOLOGICAL WARFARE BLAMED FOR CONTINUED DECIMATION OF HUMAN RACE!
TV News Anchor Matthias: “The Sino-Russian border war continues to escalate, according to……”
Cut to series of atomic bomb blasts, each more devastating than the last.
Street scene: Hundreds of shoppers and pedestrians milling about followed by close views of panicked individuals grabbing at eyes, head and throat as they succumb to something unseen but deadly.
Matthias: “… across the entire country. Martial law is now nation-wide. Whether a state of war between China and Russia still exists is not important any longer. Our fellow countrymen are dying. The very foundations of civilization are beginning to crumble under the dread assault of that horror long feared: germ warfare.”
Radio Emergency Broadcast: “… CONELRAD channel. This is a class one emergency. All civilian traffic is barred from streets and highways. Stay in your homes…” Those found without specific military orders, are subject to summary execution. Stay in your homes. Repeat. CONELRAD Channel. This is a class-one emergency. All civilian traffic is barred from streets and highways…….”
Mattias: “Now the question is survival. Is this the end of technological man? Is this the conclusion of all our yesterdays, the boasts of our fabled science, the superhuman conquests of space and time, the age of the wheel? We were warned of judgment. Here it is. Here, now in the form of billions of microscopic bacilli – THIS IS THE END.”
Neville sitting at his desk wearing a white lab coat and watching a small TV. He then speaks on the phone informing the person on the other end that “it’s airborne bacteria” and suggesting that they “try-vaccine 93-b-71.”
Next we have a view of Neville running through corridors clutching a small case containing the vaccine. He then emerges onto an airstrip where he boards a helicopter.
Once in the air, the pilot suddenly grabs at his eyes and face as he succumbs to the infection. Neville attempts to take control of the out-of-control and plummeting helicopter, but he too begins to display signs of the illness. The helicopter quickly descends and crashes.
Final view of Neville as he drags himself from the wreck and spots an unbroken bottle of vaccine which he uses to inject himself before passing out.
Robert Neville’s Audio Diary
After all that kerfuffle it’s a real relief to enter my little slice of paradise in the sky – my very own Penthouse – my fortress-apartment guarded in my absence by none other than my good buddy, Caesar himself. Look at him there sitting before the chessboard wearing my military cap rakishly on his imperious noggin.
Hail Caesar! Guardian of all my…stuff: my mahogany bookcases, my multitude of artworks, my sculptures and not forgetting the ultimate pinnacle of civilization – fine scotch, assorted booze and canned beans!
Ah, Caesar old buddy. What I like about you is that you’re both a great conversationalist and a petty good listener. Not only that, but you play a mean game of chess. But tonight I think you’re going to lose. Luck over skill… [Sound of noise and commotion and breaking glass followed by distant voices calling out, “Come out, Neville.”]…Excuse me, won’t you, just for a moment. [Clicking sound of recording machine being switched off.]
[Recording resumes] Just had to take care of a little business. Clearing the neighborhood of vermin with my trusty rifle, the one with the infrared snipe scope attached. Yep, “they’re at it again. Burning, wrecking. I wonder what tonight? A library? A laboratory? Maybe they’ve found the Museum of Fine Art. Goddamn those crazy bastards…” Anyway Caesar, old buddy, Matthias and his maniacs with their fire brands and catapults are no match for our citadel and weaponry. Ha! Ha! Hail Caesar! What do you think of that Matthias!!?? What do you say to that???? Ha! Ha!……..
[Neville switches off the recorder and sits at the table as our view pulls back further and further moving outside the window until we see Neville’s penthouse, an isolated glimmer of light lost in an urban ocean of surrounding darkness and desolation.]
Assembly Of The Family
[Members of the Family gather around a central bonfire in which are burning a multitude of books covering many areas of science, the arts, works of fiction, theology, history and so on. In the background the sound of wrecking and destruction of the symbols of the old civilization continues. Matthias like his followers has white hair, white albino-like complexion, sporting large dark sun-glasses and is attired in a black robe. He proceeds to address the assemblage]
Matthias: Today three of our brothers were martyred by the devil we know as Neville. Our defense has always been to stay clear of the light but through some trickery he is able to see well enough in the dark or the light.
Be that as it may, this Neville is but one creature caught in a place he can’t stir from in the dark. One lone man outnumbered with nothing to live for but his memories and nothing to live with but his technology and his guns. And yet, despite this, we cannot bring this single creature down out of that, that….”
[Brother Zachary interjects] Honky Paradise, Brother?
Matthias: Forget the old ways, Brother, the old hatreds, the meaningless and pointless distinctions, the old pains. The Family is one… Remember that Neville is a creature of the wheel! He uses forbidden weapons that give him the power of Hell.
Yes, I know that you Brother Zachary and some others of you might be thinking that we could use those same weapons against this creature of evil, but if we did, the curse would begin once more, don’t you see that?
Zachary: But he lives like God up there while we rot down here where he is free to hunt us out while we sleep!
Matthias: Do not concern yourself over this for that devil will be destroyed but not by the forbidden weapons of the old world but by the cleansing flood of our righteousness that will sweep the world clean of the old ways. “With fire, my brothers, we have purified all that lives with our zeal, and we shall continue with our work, with our devotion, we shall cleanse the world. And Neville will come down, down to the Family into judgment, down to punishment for his blasphemies!”
Audio Diary Entry:
[Neville, armed with gun and carrying flashlight, knife, canteen and small tape recorder, stops outside a building] What a way to keep fit! Catch my breath for a while here. [Breathing heavily] Well, it’s all part of my routine. You might say it’s my purpose in life. Without routine and without purpose, what else would I have to live for being the last man earth?
[Neville continues to run until he stops in front of a building and checks out its exterior. Breathing hard he speaks into the recorder’s mike] “This is recording 6306, Rimini Boulevard, Sector 2. Last five blocks have been clear, except for some signs they’ve been foraging for food in a small grocery store at 5500 block. You’d think the prices would keep them in the supermarkets. You gotta hand it to them. They sure cover their tracks. [Sets down gun and takes a swig from the canteen] Two years! If I could just find the nest, find out where they hole up.”
Neville stands up and yells out, “Matthias!” to the silent city through whose deserted streets the name echoes and madly weaves its way combining into an infinite chorus that bounces back to mock the caller with his nemesis’ name.
Once inside the building, Neville stealthily moves through the corridors and carefully checks out individual rooms. His method of checking is practiced and efficient. In one dark and dusty room he is greeted by the sight of someone or something lying under the covers of a bed. With his gun at the ready, Neville throws back the sheet to reveal a pair of decayed and desiccated corpses from the time of the plague outbreak
After leaving the room, Neville spots an empty sardine can in a drawer. He lifts it up and oil drips from it. His expression suggests that this represents a clue as to what may be nearby – something he has been looking for.
Neville approaches a door to another room and listens carefully before kicking the door open. Behind a desk, sitting in a large high-backed chair is a robed and hooded figure leaning forward onto the desk. As Neville readies himself, he asks, “All right, where’s Matthias? Come on. Where’s Matthias? Where’s the hive?” When he pokes the figure with barrel of his gun, it falls back revealing that it is dead and disintegrating.
Audio Diary Entry:
“Journal recording 958. August 5, 1977. I found another one, one of Matthias’ group, dead of plague. The sweep continues.”
Did a bit of window shopping today and wound up in an up-market clothing store. Only the best will do! These days my credit is good anywhere.
Guess what? I saw this gorgeous babe today while clothes shopping. Not only that but she was wearing a very brief bikini and she had tanned skin and the cutest of smiles. In fact the whole store was full of babes. Even though I was spoiled for choice, I had my eye on one doll in particular and was even about to reach out and touch her…..Oh, who am kidding! This whole thing must be getting to me. All this time without the smell, touch and feel of a woman. Just a manikin mocking me by dragging out memories of long-ago passion.
Just how much this is getting to me might be gauged from the fact that I was stopped in my tracks by what I thought was a sound as if there were someone else there in the store. I quickly whirled around and was about to fire my gun, but I could only see manikins. Suddenly it seemed to me that one of them made a noise and – get this – it dashed away and vanished into the shadows of the store!
I just couldn’t believe what my eyes seemed to have witnessed. It was a few moments before I could move off after “her” screaming out, “wait…come back…wait… You’re real!” But was she? I thought so. I wanted it to be so. The other manikins must have had a good laugh at me as I ran past them in pursuit of some phantom.
Once outside the store I ran in pursuit of my phantom across the street and into a park when I spotted her looking back at me. I then ran towards where I thought I had spotted her but soon had to stop and catch my breath. I had lost sight of what I believed was the only true human being (let alone a lovely young female) I had come across in two years!
Maybe it was just a hallucination, one of many along the path toward insanity. “Is this how it starts? A trip to the laughing academy? No, you silly bastard. It starts with you asking yourself idiot questions.”
Well, as you can hear, I seem to have gotten control of myself for the time being. I got cleaned up somewhat and am now treating myself to “a drink before the bars close”…..[Crashing sound can be heard] I better check that out. Catch you later….[Clicking sound as machine is switched off.]
A tense and alert Neville turns and makes his way toward the place from where the sound seemed to originate. A section of the bar has a sign that reads “Visit Our Wine Cellar.” He then heads for the stairway and proceeds down into the cellar which is dark and spooky and festooned with cob webs.
As Neville uses his flashlight to probe the dark recesses of the cellar, it is apparent that he is not alone. Suddenly, as he approaches a wine rack, from behind him the entire wine rack tilts and falls toward him. At that moment, as Neville tries to avoid the falling rack, a robed and hooded creature descends upon him from above. More members of the Family emerge from their hiding places to join in on the overpowering and capture of Neville.
Matthias: “And, all brothers and sisters, I ask you to look at him. Does he have the marks? Do you see them? You see him, as we were before the punishment, before we gained grace. You see lying there the last of scientists, of bankers, of businessmen, the users of the wheel. Do we use the tools of the wheel as he does? Is he of the Family? – [The others reply with ”No!”] Is he of the sacred society? Then what is he? – Evil!
“He is part of the dead. He has no place here. He has the stink of oil and electrical circuitry about him. He is obsolete. [To Neville] You are discarded. You are the refuse of the past. He is part of the dead…he has no place here!” [Chorus of …”yes, yes.”]
While Matthias speaks, Neville regains consciousness and finds himself in a chamber in the Federal Court Building which now serves as a courtroom, meeting place and place of worship for the Family. The room is full of hooded Family members.
Neville is then taken to one of the smaller rooms for “questioning” and presumably the passing of a predetermined verdict. There is a feel of the Inquisition about the proceedings.
Matthias: [Once inside the smaller room] “Mr. Neville, now we can talk a little while. It’s been a long time since you’ve talked, except to yourself…[After some sarcastic quips and interruptions from Neville]…. Definition of a scientist: ‘A man who understood nothing, until there was nothing left to understand.’…..Now to me has passed the responsibility for this last tiny remnant of mankind……And we are very organized, Mr. Neville.”
Matthias goes on to declare that there is no cure and that the Family has found a path and a way to endure. They may have been trying to kill Neville for two years but how many has he killed to date? In their eyes it is Neville who is “the Angel of Death.”
[Matthias turns to the others and proclaims:] “He has confessed all, brothers: Murder, use of forbidden tools, practice of prescribed rites. He admits science, medicine, weapons, machinery, electricity. He has not shared the punishments. He does not bear the marks….Show him, my children. Show him the pretty marks.[ As the camera pans, each member of the Family removes his or her eye-coverings to reveal blank opaque eyes.] These are the marks, Mr. Neville. The punishment, which you and those like you, brought upon us.”
The next scene takes place in a narrow street where a cart has been brought. It is like one of the carts that were used to take heretics or those accused of witchcraft in the past to be burned at the stake. Neville, bound and wearing a conical hat made of paper, is roughly placed in the cart. As the cart is being pulled along, the crowd of baying Family members throw rubbish at Neville and try to get at him through the slats of the cart.
[Matthias speaks to the assembled brethren:] “In the beginning we tried to help one another, those that were left. We tried to clean things up, set things straight. We buried things and burned. Then it came to me that we were chosen – chosen for just this work. To bury what was dead, to burn what was evil. To destroy what was dangerous. [To Neville who calls them “barbarians.”] You call us barbarian? This is an honorable name. We mean to cancel the world you civilized people made. We will erase history from the time that machinery and weapons threatened more than they offered. And when you die, the last living reminder of hell will be gone……Here is evil….Is this not the place, where all the dead were burned? And this is the last of the dead. And what shall we do with him, my brethren?”
Audio Diary Entry (by Dutch)
Hey, man, this thing workin’? Well, who ever’s gonna be listening to this might be wonderin’ what ever happened to Robert along with who the hell I am.
My name’s Dutch and I managed to get my hands on Robert’s recorder before we left the city. But that’s a story for later. So I suppose for now it’s up to me to fill you in, for posterity’s sake you understand, on what happened after he was captured by Matthias’ family of freaks.
We’d been observing Robert for quite some time and knew he’d managed to eventually get himself caught by Matthias. Let’s be clear, we weren’t too happy about having anything to do with our “mad scientist” friend what with having to contend with the Family at night and him in the daytime, “shooting at anything that moved. Man, we had to stay low.”
As he was about to be roasted on the Family’s spit in the middle of the stadium, We managed to rig it so that the stadium lights would come on. It had the desired effect of blinding the light sensitive freaks, allowing us to zoom on in, untie and free Robert.
It was pretty tough going there for a while but the deployment of phosphorous grenades helped to deter the persistent freaks, allowing us to eventually get the hell out of Dodge….. Dodger Stadium!
So, why go to all that trouble and risk our lives just to save Neville from the family and bring him back to our isolated base outside of the city? For starters, I knew about Neville’s work on “Biowar pathology perimeters in urban and semi-urban environments” from the “Journal of Military Medicine, June, 1974” and “Incremental effects, countermeasures to toxic agents, and liquid systems delivery” in “Microbiological Letters, January, 1975.” You see, despite first impressions, “I was a med-school senior when they scratched the world. As a matter of fact, I was gonna apply to Biowar Labs for my post-doc… but the next term never came……. the world didn’t make it.”
Neville was sure surprised at how young our little group was at the hideout and why we didn’t seem to be affected by the plague like all the others. Well, Lisa’s little brother Ritchie was pretty far gone and was about “to go over.” Neville had only been familiar with the tertiary cases, like Matthias and his people. We weren’t that far gone, but were definitely on the road, “The yellow brick road….off to see the wizard.”
When the plague hit, “the older people either died or went to the third stage fast… you know, blindness in light, albinism, psychotic illusions, occasional stages of torpor, like Matthias and the things there.” However, it seemed that “some of the younger people have a kind of resistance….some of us are a bit light-sensitive, otherwise, we’re all right.”
We took Neville to see Ritchie who was lying on a bed, tossing and turning restlessly. His normally dark skin had turned light and his eyes were becoming opaque. Neville started to examine Ritchie. checking vital signs and so on.
It was obvious that Ritchie was advanced secondary and could stay that way for weeks or go over in a matter of minutes.
Neville concluded that it would be best to take Ritchie to his place – the one he would not let any son of a bitch push him out of. It turned out that Neville was immune from the plague due to an experimental vaccine and that his blood might be a serum allowing his antibodies to reverse the whole process and stop it. The alternative involving duplicating the original vaccine might’ve been possible, but trying to save humanity by this route would take years. The implications of Neville’s proposed course of action for the human race were tremendous, but first there was the more immediate task of saving just one person – Ritchie! So until that could be done, “screw the world!”
[Sound of garbled voices ‘….hey!….my turn!…let goooo….Go away Dutch, you’ve had your time on this, now it’s my turn!’ Sound of grumbling growing fainter as Dutch apparently retreats and Lisa takes over the recorder’s mic.] Now where were we? Oh yeah. We all returned to Robert’s ‘hill-top’ apartment and began treating my little brother, Ritchie before he completely succumbed to the disease.
Man, you should have seen what was crammed in that apartment of his: all the beauty and all the art of our dead civilization, not to mention its instruments of destruction in the form of the arsenal Robert had on display! Two sides to everything and everyone, I guess.
Right then it was becoming apparent that Robert and me were beginning to appreciate certain sides of each other that were beginning to emerge. I made sure my side was showing up a treat with my newly hustled outfit. For a honky, Robert looked OK all spruced up. It had been a long, long couple of years, man! Time for a bit of romantic…..interlude, if you get my drift.
The mood of the evening was spoiled a bit what with the sound of Matthias’ voice calling out Robert’s name and then the generator cutting out when it ran out fuel causing the lights to go out. When Robert was down in the basement garage trying to restart the generator, Matthias’ freaks took the opportunity to launch an attack with one of them climbing up the outside of the building to enter via the balcony of Robert’s apartment.
Just when Robert returned to the apartment the freak entered right behind me. I didn’t know what to think as Robert suddenly leveled his gun in my general direction and fired. It turned out he noticed the intruder who was armed with a spear – or….was it a gun? – and shot him, causing it fall off the balcony to its death. The rest had scattered when the floodlights came back on with the restarting of the generator.
I really thought that this time all our luck had finally run out. Now where did we leave off….Oh, yeah….I never kiss and tell except to say that Robert definitely had a great bedside manner!
The next day Ritchie was in a stable condition and it looked like I was recruited as assistant to the great doctor Neville. To start off with, Robert needed to draw his blood as often as he could and then keep pumping into Ritchie in the hope that if worked, Ritchie would be the source of even more antibodies. The more people who were injected, the more serum there’d be, and then Robert, me and the rest of the survivors can leave the city, leave the Family behind to die out and we would start civilization afresh out in the mountains and wilderness. What did Robert say….”Out of ‘rats’ alley, where the dead men lost their bones” by something called The Wasteland by someone called T. S. Eliot?
You know, it seems I dreamed a dream or something more like a nightmare. I dreamed I was with Robert and we pulled up outside of a hospital. Everything was a complete shambles outside as if the last days of the plague and the city’s final agony and death throes were frozen in place forever.
Audio Diary Entry (by Dutch)
Man, once Lisa gets goin’, there’s no stopping her! [“Hey!” from Lisa in background]. I’ll wrap up the events that led up to our leaving the city all those weeks (or is months?) ago. Lisa was a bit foggy on the details and can’t think of them without feeling anguish and would rather not recount what took place, particularly with what happened to Robert. She told me as much as she could and there’s a lot we’ve had to extrapolate from what we know about Robert, Ritchie, Matthias and the Family. You’ve probably guessed that there’s a good reason why you haven’t heard Robert’s voice on these tapes since the cellar incident. You’ll soon hear exactly why.
With things beginning to look up what with Ritchie getting better and the serum working, Lisa went off to do some shopping in preparation for our exodus from the city and the danger of the Family. Thank God credit cards became a thing of the past…[“Shut up!” in background]
Anyways, Lisa has just left the room, probably on account of not wanting to re-live the incidents you’re about to hear of. While Lisa was out spending big, Robert came over to our base to tell us about the good news with the serum and the preparations to leave. Man, oh, man! Were we brimming with optimism! There we were figurin’ on going away to “someplace nobody ever bothered with; a river nobody ever dammed; a mountain nobody built any bloody freeways to, where everything we do will be the first time it happened…….Just like in the beginning of the world. Like we were starting all over again in the Garden of Eden!” That’s the trouble with notions of utopia, idealism and optimism – too many fuckin’ dangerous snakes hidin’ out in the grass and trees and under the rocks.
Robert then took me aside and quickly told me that he and Ritchie had been discussing what to do now that a serum had been developed. I can just picture in my mind poor young Ritchie all idealistic and wanting to help the Family who to his way of thinking were just sick humans, while Robert would not have it. He’d be for extermination or leaving them to die out and was only able to see them as being “homicidal maniacs” and “vermin.” I think inside of him, Robert was shaken by Ritchie telling him that he scared the boy more than Matthias did. At least that was what Robert told Lisa that Ritchie had said to him. I can well imagine it.
Whether to cure the Family or kill them, Robert learned from Ritchie where they were holed up: the old court building in the Civic Center. And that’s where each of them intended to go but motivated by very different reasons. Robert would go in with guns blazing while Ritchie would go to the court building with the intention of finding out who’s right – he or Robert. I can picture him standing before Matthias and the Family telling them he came there to help them, that Robert had a serum for what’s wrong with them and that if only Matthias would take up the offer, “everybody could be normal again.”
More often than not, there’s no reasoning with one who has the outlook of a fanatic, a fundamentalist or a zealot. Matthias and the Family were no exception. Matthias would have viewed Ritchie’s mission as being a trick to weaken their resolve of cleansing the world. To their way of thinking “outside the Family, there is nothing at all.”
By the time Robert discovered what Ritchie was up to and made a frantic dash to intercept him before it was too late, poor Ritchie’s fate was sealed. When Robert got to the court building, the horrible sight of Ritchie’s dead body would have moved Robert terribly. There was a time when something like this might’ve hardened his own resolve to exterminate every last one of those murdering bastards. But now, confronted by the sight of Ritchie’s dead body, Robert must have felt downhearted and almost defeated. He simply just made his way back to his apartment.
Lisa told me that by this stage she felt that she was about to ‘go over’ and become one of Matthias’ family of freaks. Her skin color was becoming lighter, she took to wearing sun-glasses along with covering her changing colored hair with a head scarf.
As Lisa left the store carrying her recently acquired goods, she stood still frozen to the spot as the procession of cahnting Family members carrying burning torches marched down the street half a block away. Lisa said to me that she no longer felt a need to disguise the changes that were coming over her and that some urge within her impelled her to walk toward the spot where the Family was marching and to join them.
Robert must have been exhausted after running the gauntlet of the Family to and from the courthouse building. He exited the elevator and entered his apartment to discover that Matthias and the Family had gotten there before him. I imagine that he must have noticed that the apartment would have been in darkness, perhaps illuminated by candlelight.
Lisa was in the apartment too but she was a different Lisa to the one Robert knew. She told me that she felt torn within herself between the love and connection she had felt for Robert and the need to be a part and at one with the Family. She heard Matthias tell Robert that the old world he and all the contents of his apartment represented were nothing but an illusion and that all its art and science was a nightmare that was now all finished.
The other members of the Family that were present then set about destroying the entire contents of Robert’s apartment – paintings, sculptures, furniture, cabinets, scientific equipment. This was followed by draperies, books and other items being set on fire as part of a final act of cleansing and purging the world. In their eyes all that remained was Robert himself – the last of those who brought the “punishment” to them.
At some point Robert managed to break free and do battle with his tormentors. During the struggle, he was able to somehow get a hold of a gun, a bottle of blood and Lisa herself. With Lisa in tow and 10 minutes until sunrise, Robert succeeded in making his way out of the building to the middle of the Plaza, near the fountain.
High up on the balcony of Robert’s apartment, Matthias suddenly appeared brandishing a spear. He then hurled the spear striking Robert full in the chest.
That morning, I drove up with the rest of the kids to the fountain to discover Robert dying. He had just enough strength and life to hand over a bottle of the blood serum before he died. The view that is forever seared into my memory is of Robert’s body in a kind of crucifix position in the midst of the red waters of the fountain stained with his own blood. It was as if he had sacrificed himself for the sins of the old world and giving redemption to the humanity. If humanity managed to survive and continue along a better path, the memory of Robert Neville will live on. He might turn out to be the stuff of legend but these tapes will ensure that he will be remembered for the right reasons – not just as the last (the omega) of his kind but as the…. Initiator (the alpha) of the beginning of a truly new kind of humanity.
As for Lisa, she was huddled nearby within the folds of her robe hiding from the light of the sun. But as we put her in the back of the truck, I knew she would not have to hide that way for much longer. I also knew we had a long way to go, but at least the journey has already begun and the human race will eventually reach its destination.
Points of Interest
There have been three film adaptions of Matheson’s novel with the The Omega Man being the second. The first was The Last Man on Earth (1964), featured in this blog which starred Vincent Price. The third adaptation, I Am Legend (2007) starred Will Smith.
In Matheson’s novel, humanity is destroyed by a bacterial plague spread by bats and mosquitoes, which turns the population into vampire-like creatures. In the Omega Man as we have seen, biological warfare caused the plague that kills most of the population and turns the rest into light averse mutants.
The streets of Los Angeles were made to appear deserted by filming on a Sunday morning in the center of the business district, a time at which there would have been barely any pedestrian movement. It was eerily reminiscent of the streets of my own city, Melbourne during the long periods of lock-down during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
The Omega Man is certainly a film of its time with its obvious acknowledgments to the insanity of the Cold War rivalries of the time, (in this case conflict between Russia and China) along with the matter of racial tensions that gave rise to the Black Power movements. The racial context together with the developing on-screen relationship between Lisa and Neville provided an interesting dynamic between the two characters.
The Omega Man seems to serve largely as entertainment value and as a piece of film horror. The film acts more as a vehicle for actor Charlton Heston whereas in the earlier film, Last man On Earth, Vincent Price gave a far more convincing performance in conveying the idea of isolation and the desperate struggle to survive against the relentless presence of death. Vincent Price invested himself fully in the role of a man struggling against personal tragedy while struggling to survive alone in a hostile world bent on consuming him.
Ron Grainer’s film score in its 1970s style of jauntiness stands in jarring contrast to the more darker and menacing moments of the story.
The Omega Man does raise some interesting questions about our humanity, our civilization and human progress. It isn’t always apparent in the film exactly who the enemy is. Is it the old civilization with its technological progress, its weapons of war, its insatiable consumerism? Is the enemy Matthias’ cult-like group of mutants who are hell bent on wiping away every last vestige of the old civilization and taking the world back to some kind of dark age?
Those on the receiving end of civilization’s destructive impulses appear to have been gathered from society’s outcasts, the alienated, the ordinary and powerless and voiceless. All they needed was someone to provide that voice and a vision. Matthias was the one to step into the void and take on the mantel of prophet with a message the desperate were ready to receive.
Thus was born a cult – fanatical, zealous, fundamentalist with a bleak outlook and vision of the future and an uncompromising rejection of all past human accomplishments and progress. Even when offered the hope of a way out in the form of a vaccine serum, it like all products of science is rejected and rationality is eclipsed by the shadow of ignorance and fear. (Now doesn’t THAT sound familiar in the context of the current Pandemic!)
The tragedy is that this scenario doesn’t seem all that shocking or unbelievable. Our history both distant and very recent is littered with examples where civilization has been brought uncomfortably close to the brink through its own stupidity and hubris, and where desperate conditions have impelled whole societies to seek to vilify and exterminate perceived enemies while mindlessly handing over their minds and wills to groups and individuals intent on exploiting their sense of grievance.
©Chris Christopoulos 2021