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  The Omega Man
Boris Sagal, USA, 1971
Rating: 3.9
 

Posted: January 23, 2004

So I get my Shaking Through paycheck this month and see it's a few dollars light. The higher-ups here won't meet with me ever since I busted a cap in the vending machine after it gave me a Diet Coke when I wanted a Sprite, so I checked my sources to see what was up. Turns out since ST has taken on Vincenzo, they had to cut the budget a little here and there to pay his freelance rates. Worse, I hear there may be cutbacks coming, but I know I saw Laurence Station with a new cape and walking cane yesterday. Where's that money coming from? It's all good though. Check out Vincenzo's review of Bubba Ho-Tep. Please note where he mentions his date was a "surgically enhanced" hairdresser. "Surgically enhanced" simply means that the penis has been removed and a vagina installed.

But hey, I ain't here to judge the boy's sexual predilections. I'm here to ask you a question. The world is done. You're the only one left. What do you do? Score a brand new Corvette? Vandalize the local Gap? Find out where the Real Doll factory is located? That all sounds good to me. But dig this. As you wander about, pursuing your every desire, you gotta be sure to get home before dark. Why? Because when the sun goes down, thousands of really creepy dudes dressed in cloaks come out and attempt to break into your house and murder you. Well, that's what happens to Charlton Heston in The Omega Man, anyway.

What's The Omega Man, you ask? Isn't that a song by The Police? Well, my faithful follower, I'm glad you asked. The Omega Man -- the flick, not the Sting composition -- is a loose adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel I am Legend, which Vincent Price took a crack at way back when with The Last Man On Earth -- not a bad film either, I might add. Anyway, the deal is this: China and Russia go to war, and begin employing germ warfare. Eventually, the germ "plague" hits the U.S., and people begin to die -- quickly and not very pretty, either. Our man Heston plays Neville, a military doctor trying to come up with a cure. While en route to deliver an experimental batch of serum, his helicopter pilot becomes infected, dies and crashes the chopper. Neville himself begins to feel the plague coming on, and injects himself with the serum. As luck would have it, the serum works, and saves him.

But, of course, not everyone is so lucky. Those who haven't died, including a network news anchorman named Mathias, have been turned into, well, I don't actually know what the hell they are. I guess if you took a vampire, a zombie, a generic mutant, and a Jehovah's Witness and mixed them all together, you'd get one of these guys. Wow! Imagine that. The end of the world comes and you have to hide in your apartment at night 'cause a mutant Dan Rather and his minions are after you. Scary stuff, indeed. As if that weren't annoying enough, these creatures really aggravate ol' Moses -- I mean Heston -- by crafting a catapult to shoot fireballs at his penthouse apartment. (Apparently the plague also makes you like a kind of really pissed-off Amish person.)

So Heston hunts these creatures by day, and they, in turn, hunt him by night. (Talk about fair and balanced!) Anyway, look, see the movie yourself if you want the rest of the details. But know ye THIS! This film delivers. There's a great scene of Neville stopping by a local movie theater and dusting off the projector so he can watch Woodstock. Well, you have to see it. And there's this other scene where he's driving down a deserted road and sprays submachine gunfire at a shadow that creeps across an upper level apartment window. Okay, maybe you have to see that one too to really understand. But take my iron-clad word for it: This is good stuff, people! And you know my word is bond.

Chilling zombie-like Amish people and full-on Charlton Heston action aside, The Omega Man is filled with questions of great importance. Are we, as a species, doomed to destroy ourselves? What makes us human? Fortunately, these all take a back seat to Chuck Heston mowing down mutants with machine guns, and for this reason The Omega Man is successful. As I write this in January of 2004, the film is 33 years old (as fate would have it, the same age as Vincenzo's mother. You do the math), but stays true to its blueprint from beginning to end. There's no campy humor here thankfully, just a pretty good "end of the world" story with some nifty surprises to boot. I dare say that if there's a better apocalyptic tale about a lone survivor hunted by a mutant news anchorman and his followers, I have not seen it. The Omega Man gets my endorsement for creativity alone.

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 Clemenza's Ratings Key:

 5.0: A drop of bliss

 4.0-4.9: Touchdown!
 3.0-3.9: Close, but...
 2.0-2.9: Box of Rocks
 1.1-1.9: Time bandit
 0.0-1.0: Soul scarring
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