Arnold and Scott return to chat about one of their all-time favorite post-apocalyptic action romps. Pour some genuine 160 proof old Anglo Saxon, dress for dinner, and enjoy the end of the world with Charlton Heston in 1971’s THE OMEGA MAN! One of three adaptations of Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel I AM LEGEND, Chuck’s film falls between Vincent Price vehicle THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (for which the guys recorded a FREE feature-length audio commentary), and Will Smith’s 2007 I AM LEGEND. This in-depth discussion wouldn’t be complete without fellow Omega Man Scott Collura of IGN.com (who also joined the guys for a G2V Podcast on the PLANET OF THE APES franchise). And remember…there is no phone ringing, dammit!
In the late ’60 and early ’70s, long after he had already conquered pop culture as Ben Hur, Moses, and God (that’s right, he’s the voice in the burning bush scene opposite himself in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, but not the voice in the tablet scene…so now you know), Charlton Heston cornered the market on post-apocalyptic heroism with a dash of masculine entitlement and a pinch of unbridled arrogance. PLANET OF THE APES, BENEATH THE PLANET OF THE APES, THE OMEGA MAN, and SOYLENT GREEN established Heston as our grinning, gun-toting hero with a heart of iron. And arguably the most balls-to-the-wall example of Heston at his most “Chuck” is in 1971’s THE OMEGA MAN, celebrating its 45th anniversary this very day!
The second of three (to date) adaptations of Richard Matheson’s highly influential 1954 vampire novel, I AM LEGEND – which was also more or less the direct inspiration for George Romero’s ghoulish NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD – THE OMEGA MAN may not have traditional zombies by any stretch of the imagination, but I counted it for inclusion in ZOMBIEMANIA for two reasons. One, the mutated members of the Family exhibit behavior similar to that of Voodoo-era zombies, behaving as if psychically connected and under the sway of a “high priest,” the deranged demagogue Matthias. Two, I love the movie. So there.
Why do I love THE OMEGA MAN? Well, there’s Heston’s swaggering performance, the now horribly dated but then-progressive attempt at race-mixing romance, the eerie makeup that doesn’t hold up under scrutiny but definitely weirded me out as a kid, the absolutely mesmerizing musical score by Ron Grainer (the perfect accompaniment to a long road trip, if only all the other cars would get off the highway to satisfy my desire to play Robert Neville), and even the insanely self-important behind-the-scenes contemporary promotional featurette in which Heston waxes philosophical with anthropologist Dr. Ashley Montague!
And let’s not forget that Heston, having already played God, keeps getting mistaken for the deity in his ’70s roles. Here, a young girl asks him point blank if he is God…and he doesn’t say no! After all, why should he? He’s “genuine, 160-proof old Anglo-Saxon, baby!” And then there’s the final scene…but perhaps I’ll leave that for you to enjoy in all its sledgehammer subtlety yourself.
Yes, this is an occasionally embarrassing slice of ’70s exploitation cinema, with some jarringly unsubtle observations on race relations and an almost laughable attempt at deeper social commentary on Man’s inhumanity to Man as well as the struggle between the forces of technological progress and primitive religious traditionalism. But the real value of THE OMEGA MAN is its kitschy sci-fi charm, Heston’s Hestonism, Anthony Zerbe’s hammy villainy as Matthias, and that Grainer score. The movie also set a benchmark for post-apocalyptic adventure that has influenced film makers for decades afterward, resulting in the likes of NIGHT OF THE COMET and 28 DAYS LATER…, and that’s no small achievement.
And remember…”THERE IS NO PHONE RINGING, DAMMIT!”
(Parts of this article were quoted and/or rewritten from the book I co-authored with Andy Hershberger, the now sadly out-of-print ZOMBIEMANIA: 80 MOVIES TO DIE FOR, published in 2006. It was one of the earliest comprehensive guides to the zombie movie genre, and we’re now working on an updated, expanded edition titled ZOMBIEMANIA RISES: 100 MOVIES TO DIE FOR. So take heart…and brains…and intestines…)
Science always finds a way to creep us the hell out when it discovers something new, and that’s the case with this report about a new species of ant likened to a dragon for its dorsal spines. But film buffs know that ants have always been creepy cool and often deadly dangerous.
So herewith, five astonishing ant movies from the annals of horror & sci-fi film and television!
I have to start here, with one of the greatest sci-fi movies of all time and certainly one of the best “giant mutated creatures on the rampage” flicks ever conceived. With a stellar cast that even includes a cameo by a young Leonard Nimoy, bone-chilling sound effects, and a plot that keeps up the pace and never lets up until the closing cautionary moments, this is landmark fantasy film making with a “sweet tooth!”
EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977)
Vaguely based on an H.G. Wells story and produced by schlock legend Bert I. Gordon, this less than effective chiller nevertheless scarred many of us as kids…although maybe that was because of Joan Collins’ acting. Suffice to say it was never going to beat that other imaginative movie that also came out in 1977.
As not only the “Doctor of the Dead” but the “MCU Guru,” I had to throw in this delightful Marvel superhero romp, which features the ill-fated but loyal Antony as well as an ant enlarged to dog size and consigned to a nightmarish existence by the film’s conclusion. Not all ants are evil; some are misunderstood and others are just victims of circumstance.
THE NAKED JUNGLE (1954)
It’s Chuck Heston battling ants (regular-sized ones no less) at a Brazilian plantation! What more could you possibly want or need? It’s also our second 1954 film, interesting. And speaking of interesting patterns…
The second marauding ant movie to come out in 1977, this TV production – also known as IT HAPPENED AT LAKEWOOD MANOR – sent an army of poisonous ants after a group trapped in a lakeside hotel; not the idyllic getaway they were hoping for.
Did I miss your favorite astonishing ant movie? Let me know what your favorite (or least favorite) is in the comments below, and remember to shoot the other antenna – he’s helpless without them!
Do we really have to say it? You want us to say it, don’t you. OK…
The G2V Guys go APE this time around as they’re joined by Scott Collura of IGN.com and the Transporter Room 3 podcast! From the publication of Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel LA PLANETE DES SINGES (MONKEY PLANET) to five feature films, animated and live-action TV series, comics, toys, two reboots, and now the latest chapter in a new incarnation on its way this summer, the PLANET OF THE APES universe has never been more popular. G2V has a search through the Sacred Scrolls, bewares the Beast Man, and trudges through a desert of diverse observations to get to the most shattering secret of all (yes, more shocking than the Statue of Liberty!) – what makes us all fans of those damn, dirty APES?
Revenge From Planet Ape! (this bizarre voiceover was appended by distributors to a cut US release of 1971’s TOMBS OF THE BLIND DEAD to try to convince moviegoers that the Spanish horror film was somehow connected to the APES franchise due to the tenuous visual design link between the Apes and the mummified Templar zombies in the film – trust us, the whole thing is nuts!)