Now that’s a good intro: Robert Neville (Charlton Heston) cruises through an empty city with the top down. It’s eerie, but he seems happy, grooving to jazz from his onboard 8-track cassette deck. But suddenly! Screech! Ka-pow! He brakes, produces a machine gun and fires at a fleeting humanoid silhouette. A striking montage follows of a desolated, deserted city.
Heston was once known as a liberal, and here his character entertains an interracial romance (with afro-licious Rosalind Cash) no more common in movies now than it was in 1971. Unfortunately, it’s now impossible to take Heston seriously, thanks to Phil Hartman’s classic mockery on Saturday Night Live and to Heston’s own Alzheimer’s-fueled descent into right-wing senility.
Interestingly, Heston’s oeuvre is dominated by dystopian sci-fi: Planet of the Apes, The Ωmega Man, and Soylent Green form a trilogy of apocalyptic despair. Remakes of Apes (by Tim Burton) and Ωmega (Wil Smith’s I Am Legend) made him nearly obsolete even before he died. Can Soylent Green (which is, incidentally, much better than its reputation suggests) be far behind?
Compared to the bestial vampires that populate I Am Legend, the creatures in The Ωmega Man are an intelligent, religous cult. They don’t attack Neville with technology (like, say, shoot him) simply because they choose not to.
As for entertainment in a time before VHS, the last man alive on earth is stuck with whatever happened to be in the theaters at the time; he screens the concert film Woodstock over and over. As for The Ωmega Man’s own music, the orchestral jazz pop score is not just outdated, but bizarrely inappropriate.
The crucifixion pose at the end is a bit much. I didn’t expect much subtlety, but that’s laying it on a bit thick.