THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH / THE LAST MAN ON EARTH/ THE LAST CHIHUAHUA ON EARTH
|Year of Release:||1960, 1964 and 2008
|Duration:||71, 86 and 10 Minutes
|Country of Origin:||All from the USA
By Nate Decker
16th February 08
last Saturday the wife takes the kids to the city for the day, leaving
me at home bored to death. Having not done a post-apocalypse review for
a while, I sat down before my stack of DVDs and tried to find a good
one (Good luck - Michael). What I found, actually, were three movies with very similar
themes, as well as very similar titles. So I thought, why not do all
three, put them one after the other and have a bigass PA movie
three-quel? That's a rhetorical question, as I already did it and you
really have no say in my decisions, but I thought I'd be polite and ask
Without further ado, here are 1960's The Last Woman on Earth, then 1964's The Last Man on Earth, and finally 2008's The Last Chihuahua on Earth. Enjoy!
The Last Woman on Earth is a Roger Corman production, and as such is marked with cheapness in production values and cinematography, as well as lackluster acting throughout. The budget must have been in the low tens of thousands, and from what I've read, the cast and crew had just finished filming a larger movie and had a few days free so Corman rushed The Last Woman on Earth through with the money and time remaining. It certainly does look like the whole thing could have been filmed in under a week.
What is not lacking, however, is a strangely powerful story of the end of the world as we know it as seen through the eyes of a very small group of people. Such a small group, in fact, that there are just three (!) characters in this movie with speaking roles and through 85% of the movie they are the only one's who appear on camera. They are a man and his wife, and another man. Lets meet them now.
Highly successful but somewhat shady businessman Harold Gern is played by 33-year old bit-part actor Antony Carbone. Harold is your typical 1950s American businessman, alpha dog to the extreme and enjoying the good life of women, booze and gambling while making his money work for him. He's got a Frank Sinatra thing going with his hair.
His trophy wife Evelyn is played by 30-year old Betsy Jones-Moreland, a full-figured blonde woman with a drinking problem. She looks amazingly like Kathleen Turner or Cybill Shepherd, or maybe even Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager (oh, please, you know you watched it, too, if for no other reason than to leer at Seven-of-Nine...). Evelyn is not happy with being an ignored wife, and has taken to the bottle to cope. She desperately loves Harold, though he barely knows she exists.
Harold's lawyer is Martin Joyce, played by 26-year old Robert Towne, a young man with floppish hair and an easy-going nature. Despite his gentle laugh, Martin is world-weary for someone so young, the gritty world of corporate law clearly wearing him down. As well as being one of the actors, Robert Towne is also the movie's scriptwriter, and would mature into one of the world's best such writers (legit Oscar win for Chinatown, plus nods for Shampoo, Greystoke, and The Last Detail).
All three of them we first meet down on the sunny island of Puerto Rico, where Harold is on vacation (and also apparently hiding from the law in New York who have charged with him with fraud). Harold is down here gambling on cock fights and craps, drinking martinis and ogling girls. Evelyn is just drinking and trying to get Harold's attention every now and then. The lawyer Martin arrives last, to discuss legal matters with a disinterested and flippant Harold.
Evelyn's frustration with her inattentive husband is highlighted when we get a well-done Mrs. Robinson-moment as she tries to seduce Martin one night while sloshed. Martin is ever the gentleman and lets it pass, though you can tell he's drawn to this sexy older woman. It's this budding love-triangle that will drive the events of our movie, so this opening scene is important to remember.
The next morning the three of them go out scuba diving in the warm Caribbean waters off San Juan. We get some underwater scenes here, as my Shark-o-Phobia meter pegs and I hide behind a pillow as my six-year old watches the scene and tells me when it's over (fuck you, stop laughing at me, sharks are evil spawns of Satan and they should all be destroyed).
They come up after nearly an hour or so to find a most amazing thing. There seems to be no oxygen in the air! It's only with their scuba tanks that they are able to survive. They reach the boat and find the local man who owned it dead from asphyxiation. They also find the air-breathing diesel engine dead and a box of matches useless, further pointing to a lack of oxygen (Thats pretty interesting, not your usual end of the world stuff - Michael).
They take a dingy and row to shore. On the beach they stumble up to find the air still absent. They collapse in the green foliage of the jungle, certain that they are dead once their air tanks run dry. But most amazingly they soon find that they can breathe normally again! They think it might have to do with the plants 'giving off oxygen' but they gloss over that pretty quickly. The plant angle is a lazy plot machination, forgotten and unnecessary, really. Just know that for whatever reason the oxygen is back, but it's too late for the rest of humanity.
They walk into San Juan to find it completely empty! The streets are filled with dead bodies and they wander through in a daze. The radio and television stations are all off the air, as are the phones, suggesting to them that what affected this part of the world hit everywhere. They find a running car, a brand new Cadillac, and drive to the Caribe Hilton where they were staying. There they hit the bar and finally have time to talk about what might have happened.
Martin suggests it was a '...bigger bomb, or an act of God...', either of which would work. The exact cause of the temporary oxygen loss is never explained, though it really doesn't need to be. I can remember the old theory proposed back in the early days of nuclear testing that a big enough nuke exploding in the atmosphere would cause a chain reaction that would strip away the air from the planet, so maybe that's what they were going for. But even that wouldn't explain why the oxygen seems to have 'come back' like that. It's almost like in Spaceballs when the Mega Maid was sucking all the air from the planet Druidia, and it only survived because Lonestar used the Swartz to reverse the action from Suck to Blow.
Logically, they decide that staying in San Juan isn't the best long-term solution, as in a few days the stench from a half million rotting corpses will drive them out. So they load up the Cadillac and a panel van with canned food and supplies and drive out to the 'tip of the island' where Harold knows of a friend's secluded villa.
While there, they strive to keep their stodgy 1950s sensibility as well as their wits. They keep well-dressed and groomed no matter what, always dressing up for dinner and never being caught without their hair combed and make-up on. All three of them also smoke cigarettes like there is no tomorrow, burning through pack after pack of unfiltered Camels and Lucky Strikes, buoyed by the knowledge that any global holocaust can be overcome with tobacco.
They learn to sail a boat they find in the harbor, hoping to eventually leave Puerto Rico and return to the mainland USA. None are sure what to expect there, but the lack of radio or television signals from anywhere doesn't give them much hope of finding other survivors. To assist in the trip they all learn how to fish and cook, and fish becomes a major part of their diet.
The beautiful tropical Puerto Rican setting becomes a fourth character after a while. The crashing surf, the lazily swaying palm trees, the bright white sunshine, all serve to further isolate our survivors, wrapping them in a pleasant, though just as desolate, cocoon of solitude. If they were in a harsher environment, they would have to concentrate more on external factors to survive, but here in the Caribbean, where food is plentiful and the weather perfect, they have the leisure time to dwell on their situation and let it eat at their souls.
Martin is the first to crack, which is not surprising. He doesn't show a quick precipitous plunge into mental ill-health, but more of a slow King George V descent into madness. Finally realizing that he's the odd-man-out at the party, and his romantic feelings for Evelyn growing by the day, Martin begins to loose his mind. He rightfully asserts that Harold's whole concept of 'she's my wife, so hands off' doesn't really make much sense when there are only three of them alive and the survival of the species might be at stake.
For his part, Harold maintains that stubborn, egocentric view of the world that made him financially rich. He plans for the future, organizes time and activities to meet those goals and generally tries to keep his Old World focus in this crazy End Time. And he steadfastedly holds to his caveman marriage vows, even though he sees that Martin and Evelyn are getting closer (Well, wouldn't you too? - Michael). This will come to a head a some point, we can just see.
And that day is when Evelyn and Martin finally succumb to temptation and stress and fall into each other's arms in a day of passionate sex. This makes them both giddy and happy again, but also seals the fate of the threesome.
When Harold finds out, which he inevitably does, he flies into a rage and he and Martin fight. The end result is that Harold banishes Martin from the villa, forcing him to leave the next morning.
Evelyn has become smitten with Martin, though her dislike of Harold has a lot to do with her change of heart, and decides to go with him. The morning Martin leaves in the Cadillac, Evelyn sneaks into the car and they roar off towards the docks. They are planning on taking the boat and heading off to the mainland to start anew.
The problem is that neither asked Harold what his opinion was. Harold chases after them in the panel truck (It's interesting how this guy is meant to be the bad guy but he is doing probably exactly what any of us would do in the same situation - Michael), catching up to them after Martin foolishly crashes the car on a dirt road and they have to walk.
The final confrontation takes place at the docks and up on the crumbling stone steps of a beautiful old Colonial Spanish seafort, the ocean pounding majestically in the background and the sun shining bright. These two guys seem to be really fighting each other, not just acting. Either they agreed to totally 'sell the scene' beforehand, or there were some serious off-camera personality problems between the two of them, but which ever way, some legitimate punches are thrown here and there had to be a lot of bruises and scrapes both given and received. Kudos to them!
Injured gravely, Martin dies in Evelyn's arms (Woah I didn't see that coming! - Michael). Harold, too late, sees the error of his selfish ways is genuinely dismayed at what he has become. Evelyn softens to him and they embrace. It's now just the two of them, maybe how it was always supposed to be, just Adam and Eve to repopulate the world.
Ok, now that the movie is over, lets talk about survival rates. These three survived how? Because they were using scuba tanks for the relatively short period that the oxygen was 'gone from the air'. Fine, but who else would similarly survive? Obviously, any other scuba divers across the world, which at any given moment must be a large number. Plus anyone working in other toxic environments above water requiring air tanks, from the firefighter working that blaze in Chicago to the guy cleaning out that huge oil tank in Uzbekistan. You'd also have people in underground bunkers and bases with their own air supply. And maybe even old people in nursing homes on oxygen? The largest number of survivors might be the crews of the numerous submarines plying the world's oceans on that fateful morning. The downside to this is that, especially in 1960, the sub crews would be almost uniformly male, meaning that those few female scuba divers that survived would most certainly never have to sit by the phone waiting for a date.
Fast on the heels of 1960's The Last Woman on Earth, we now have 1964's The Last Man on Earth, which is based on Richard Matheson's novel I am Legend. I've never read this, just never found the time or the interest back when I had the time and the interest, and now I definitely don't have the time, though I sorta kinda have the interest. Still with me? The Last Man on Earth is the first of three adaptations of this novel into movies. The second was The Omega Man with Charleston Heston and the last was I am Legend with Will Smith, neither of which I have seen yet. (Oh dear. The experts here at post-apocalypse.co.uk once again show their true colours - Michael)
We open in Los Angeles, California and meet our film's main character. Doctor Robert Morgan is a normal guy, a virologist who once worked for a prestigious laboratory, earning enough money to have a brand new 1964 Ford station wagon and a very nice house in the valley. Morgan also had a rather pretty trophy wife half his age and a cute precocious little daughter about seven-years old. All in all not a bad life, I'd say.
Except that Morgan is the now titular last man on earth, besieged by legions of undead vampires! Rah!!! It's now 1968, three long years since a worldwide plague turned everyone into vampires (Wait a minute! That must mean the plague happened before England won the World Cup! Could you move it back a year please? - Michael). Everyone except Morgan, that is. The first third of our movie brings us into Morgan's daily life in this post-apocalyptic new world, guided along by his own voice-over narration.
During the day he fixes stuff around the house, eats nice meals, cruises around the city looking for supplies and food, and tinkers with his ever-silent ham radio. He also schedules the time to go out and stake sleeping vampires and throw them into a burning pit ! Eeek (Oh, I knew there was something I forgot to do today - Michael)! Following established movie traditions, the vampires 'sleep' during the day, making them easy prey for Morgan and his bag of sharpened table legs. The only way to make sure they are dead for good is to burn them, which he does by tossing them into this huge pit dug years ago and torching them with gasoline. In this way, by systematically going from street to street during the day, he hopes to eradicate the vampire population one at a time.
At night they come out to try and get him back, but he's always securely in his house by nightfall. The vampires, also following what Hollywood has always told us, are held back by garlic and mirrors and crosses. Our movie's vampires are also like zombies in that they are slow and easily avoided, a shove is all it takes to knock them over. At night they do little more than stumble around his house and weakly hit at it with sticks and rocks. The only real scary thing is that one vampire keep calling his name over and over (this is from the book, I understand) (It's kinda silly but I like it and it works well in the film - Michael).
All this tension wears Morgan down at times, both emotionally and physically, but he copes with alcohol and home movies and jazz records (He need a pet - Michael). The sight of him up late at night nonchalantly sipping brandy and listening to Cole Porter while swarms of bloodthirsty vampires pound on his doors is unforgettable. Vincent Price really does a very good job in this movie portraying a man slowly loosing his mind from the stress and the solitude.
The obvious question is 'why isn't he a vampire, too?'. The answer comes to us much later but I'll tell you here. Years ago, Morgan was in Panama doing research and was bitten by a bat. He suspects that this bat (surely a 'vampire bat') had the plague virus in it, but the virus was diluted and strained by the bat's own blood, so Morgan had a chance to develop an immunity to it. Seems pretty logical, actually, especially if that bat was carrying an early strain of the virus, before it mutated into something beyond immunity (Hurrah for the almost believable plot! - Michael).
The middle third of the movie is an extended flashback to three years ago (that is, 1965) before all hell broke loose. We hear that even then the 'plague' was ravaging across Europe and there was very real fear that it could jump the Atlantic. Everyone is jittery and nervous, and sure that the government is hiding important news from them. Rumors and hysteria are beginning to take over from reason and you can just tell the end is near.
We fast-forward a few months or weeks to when the plague has indeed made it to America and is currently infecting people at a phenomenal rate. People are getting sick faster than medical help can arrive, not that there is any known cure or even a treatment for the plague. First people go weak and numb, then they go blind, and finally they die, all in rapid order.
The Army is working nonstop taking dead bodies out of houses and hospitals and burning them in a huge pit they've dug down by the aqueduct. A raging fire consumes the corpses, which is the established method for trying to contain a plague outbreak of most kinds, as well as exterminating vampire hoards. This is the pit that Morgan is continuing to toss bodies into years later.
The virus resists treatment or even classification, despite the best medical minds on the planet working on it. This includes Morgan, who, along with the rest of them, is amazed at the rapid pace of infection and the seemingly unstoppable airborne transmission method. Worse yet, there are rumors of the unburned dead coming back to life (whats the problem then? Everybody back alive again! Spiffing. Oh, wait, you mean zombie style blood thirsty vampires don't you? Not so spiffing. - Michael)! The government and the Army are suppressing these rumors, but even that's not enough to keep the already spooked population from panicking.
Eventually, Morgan's young daughter gets the plague and dies horribly. The scenes of this little girl writing in pain and begging for help as her vision fails are truly difficult to watch, but they do hammer home the viciousness of this plague and the helplessness of those left behind. The Army takes his daughter's corpse away against his wishes, and he chases after the truck. Morgan even tries to go to the pit where they are burning the dead, hoping to get his daughter's body back. In one of the better moments of the film, a harried MP pulls him away and says, 'A lot of daughters are in there, including my own.'
Morgan's wife then gets plague and goes blind before dying in agony. Distraught, he takes her body out at night and buries it in the ground, he's unwilling to see her tossed in that pit. In the last scene of the flashback, however, Morgan's wife rises from the dead and comes back home! She scratches at the door and moans 'let me in', which Morgan does and the screen fades to black as we see his horrified look as she shambles in towards him.
The rest of the movie is back in 'real time' (1968) as we rejoin Morgan as he goes about his lonely life of staking vampires and drinking booze.
But things change quickly when he spots a survivor! It's just a dog, a shabby injured cocker spaniel, but it's still apparently the first living thing he's seen in years (which suggests that even other species have been infected). The dog becomes his best and only friend for a while, and Morgan seems to be genuinely overjoyed to have someone to talk to, even if they can't respond (Finally he has a friend. Party time! - Michael). The depths of this man's loneliness are hard to imagine and I'm not sure I could go that many years without human contact. Sadly, the dog is infected and Morgan must put him down for his own good (Premature celebrations it seems - Michael).
More surprises come then, as he happens across a number of dead vampires that have been staked by someone else! This tells him unequivocally that there must be other survivors in the city, survivors who are doing the same thing he is with the vampires.
And it's not long before he comes across a lone woman out in the daytime! She's a pretty young thing named Ruth, and she seems to be a 'normal human'. After some hesitancy, Ruth goes back to Morgan's house and they get to know each other. The scenes with the two of them here are some of the best in the movie, as Morgan tries to wrap his head around Ruth's story while still being amazed that he's not alone anymore. And kudos for not forcing some sort of romance between these two, which would have ruined the pacing and the somber tone.
It turns out that Ruth is infected with the plague! But she's able to control the 'vampire symptoms' with the use of a special serum developed by her community. They remain infected but can live somewhat normal lives, which is not the best solution, but better than becoming vampires. They, too, have been out staking 'real' vampires, much as Morgan has been.
The shocking twist is that, even with the serum, these people still have to sleep a lot during the daytime. Which means that Morgan has been killing a fair number of them over the last three years by accident, thinking he was killing vampires! In fact, Morgan's name is an infamous legend now, a boogyman used to frighten kids and give shivers to adults (Haha that is classic. Funny stuff - Michael). Morgan is seriously taken aback by this, he didn't know, and profoundly apologizes to Ruth.
His scientific mind kicking in now, Morgan gives her a blood transfusion from his own veins, and miracle of miracles, Ruth is cured! She can now stand garlic and mirrors and the nasty plague germs in her blood have been overcome by the antibodies from Morgan's blood. They can save humanity now by giving transfusions to all the survivors.
But time is not on their side. Ruth's fellows are coming this night to kill Morgan! Ruth admits that she was sent here to 'keep him occupied' until they arrived, but now has obviously had a change of heart. Morgan flees his house as the vigilantes arrive, toting machineguns and iron stakes. Determined to kill this 'monster', they don't stop to listen to the protesting Ruth and storm after Morgan.
He doesn't get far, sadly, and is cornered in a nearby church. Impaled on a stake, he dies a cruel and needless death, giving a great final monologue as he expires beneath the alter. The man becomes the monster, as the story goes.
The Last Chihuahua on Earth is an independent film produced and directed by some anonymous guy in America with little more than half an hour of free time and a photoshop program. Still, it's without a doubt the most amazing and wonderful film this reviewer has ever seen. Tears well up even thinking about the groundbreaking cinematography and the poignant storyline. I recommend this one to everyone.
The story concerns Fluffy the Chihuahua, who wakes up one day to realize that he's the last Chihuahua on earth! This causes him to go crazy (And the viewer evidently - Michael) and wage war on humanity, who he blames for this horrible occurrence. The majority of the movie is one bravo tour-de-force action scene after the other, stuff like moviegoers have never seen before.
Finally, with the forces of humankind defeated, Fluffy can relax and enjoy the spoils of his victory.
Kester's review of The Last Woman on Earth:
"The real last straw horror here is that the trio decides to just move upwind to a beachside bungalow and set-up house like nothing happened. Me, I'd be stopping at every police station, hospital, and mall looking for people then, finding no one, head out to the nearest military base or airport. But these characters just move into a beachside bungalow!"
|For the PA Collector:||
Both, oh, I mean all three are good solid classic PA's for your collection.
Last Man - 6.5 out of 10
Last Chihuahua - 357million out of 10
Alternative US DVD
US DVD re-release (to cash in on I Am Legend)
US DVD double feature
here: Nate's Triple Bill
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