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The Omega Man

The Omega Man

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The Omega Man is a 1971 American science fiction film
Science fiction film
Science fiction film is a film genre that uses science fiction: speculative, science-based depictions of phenomena that are not necessarily accepted by mainstream science, such as extraterrestrial life forms, alien worlds, extrasensory perception, and time travel, often along with futuristic...

 directed by Boris Sagal
Boris Sagal
Boris Sagal was a Ukrainian-born American television and film director.-Early life and career:Born in Yekaterinoslav, Soviet Union, Sagal emigrated to the United States where he attended the Yale School of Drama. Sagal's many TV credits include directing episodes of The Twilight Zone, "T.H.E...

 and starring Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston was an American actor of film, theatre and television. Heston is known for heroic roles in films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, El Cid, and Planet of the Apes...

. It is based on the novel I Am Legend (1954) by American writer Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson
Richard Burton Matheson is an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He is perhaps best known as the author of What Dreams May Come, Bid Time Return, A Stir of Echoes, The Incredible Shrinking Man, and I Am Legend, all of which have been...

. The screenplay
A screenplay or script is a written work that is made especially for a film or television program. Screenplays can be original works or adaptations from existing pieces of writing. In them, the movement, actions, expression, and dialogues of the characters are also narrated...

 is by John William Corrington and Joyce Corrington, and it was filmed in Technicolor
Technicolor is a color motion picture process invented in 1916 and improved over several decades.It was the second major process, after Britain's Kinemacolor, and the most widely used color process in Hollywood from 1922 to 1952...

 with monaural sound, with a running time of 98 minutes. Its producer is Walter Seltzer, who also produced Heston in the 1973 science fiction film, Soylent Green
Soylent Green
Soylent Green is a 1973 American science fiction film directed by Richard Fleischer. Starring Charlton Heston, the film overlays the police procedural and science fiction genres as it depicts the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution,...


The story was first filmed as The Last Man on Earth (1964) featuring Vincent Price
Vincent Price
Vincent Leonard Price, Jr. was an American actor, well known for his distinctive voice and serio-comic attitude in a series of horror films made in the latter part of his career.-Early life and career:Price was born in St...

. A third adaptation of the novel, I Am Legend
I Am Legend (film)
I Am Legend is a 2007 post-apocalyptic science fiction film directed by Francis Lawrence and starring Will Smith. It is the third feature film adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name, following 1964's The Last Man on Earth and 1971's The Omega Man. Smith plays virologist Robert...

featuring Will Smith
Will Smith
Willard Christopher "Will" Smith, Jr. , also known by his stage name The Fresh Prince, is an American actor, producer, and rapper. He has enjoyed success in television, film and music. In April 2007, Newsweek called him the most powerful actor in Hollywood...

, was released in 2007; and an unofficial fourth, I Am Omega
I Am Omega
I Am Ωmega is a 2007 direct-to-DVD American doomsday film produced by The Asylum and starring Mark Dacascos of Iron Chef America.The film is an unofficial adaptation of the novel I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, the title being a portmanteau of The Omega Man and 2007's I Am Legend with Will Smith,...

, featuring Mark Dacascos
Mark Dacascos
Mark Alan Dacascos is an American actor and martial artist. He won numerous karate and various styles of kung fu championships between the ages of 7 and 18....

, was also released in 2007 (though neither Matheson's name or novel were credited as source material for this version).

As multiple reviewers have noted, the film differs from its source in several ways including the basic premise. In the novel the cause of the demise of humanity is a plague spread by mosquitoes, whereas in the film human biological warfare
Biological warfare
Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war...

 is the cause. One reviewer speculated this may have been due to one of the screenwriters having a doctorate in chemistry.


In March 1975, biological warfare
Biological warfare
Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war...

 between the People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 kills most of the world's population. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville, M.D. (Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston
Charlton Heston was an American actor of film, theatre and television. Heston is known for heroic roles in films such as The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor, El Cid, and Planet of the Apes...

), a scientist based in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

, begins to succumb to the plague
A pandemic is an epidemic of infectious disease that is spreading through human populations across a large region; for instance multiple continents, or even worldwide. A widespread endemic disease that is stable in terms of how many people are getting sick from it is not a pandemic...

 but injects himself with an experimental vaccine just in time, rendering himself immune. The plague's surviving victims, meanwhile, join together as "The Family," a cult
The word cult in current popular usage usually refers to a group whose beliefs or practices are considered abnormal or bizarre. The word originally denoted a system of ritual practices...

 of nocturnal albino
Albinism is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes due to absence or defect of an enzyme involved in the production of melanin...

In biology and especially genetics, a mutant is an individual, organism, or new genetic character, arising or resulting from an instance of mutation, which is a base-pair sequence change within the DNA of a gene or chromosome of an organism resulting in the creation of a new character or trait not...

s who seek to destroy all technology.

Two years later, Neville believes he is the plague's only survivor, struggling to maintain his sanity. He spends his days hunting and destroying members of The Family. At night, living atop a fortified apartment building equipped with an arsenal of automatic firearm
Automatic firearm
An automatic firearm is a firearm that loads another round mechanically after the first round has been fired.The term can be used to refer to semi-automatic firearms, which fire one shot per single pull of the trigger , or fully automatic firearms, which will continue to load and fire ammunition...

s (such as a Smith & Wesson M76
Smith & Wesson M76
The Smith & Wesson M76 submachine gun was produced by Smith & Wesson from 1967 to 1974. It is a clone of the Carl Gustav M/45.-History:In 1966, the Swedish government blocked the sale of firearms to the United States because it opposed the Vietnam War...

 submachine gun and an infrared sight-equipped Browning Automatic Rifle
Browning Automatic Rifle
The Browning Automatic Rifle was a family of United States automatic rifles and light machine guns used by the United States and numerous other countries during the 20th century. The primary variant of the BAR series was the M1918, chambered for the .30-06 Springfield rifle cartridge and designed...

), and explosives (such as satchel charges), he is a prisoner in his own home. The Family wants to destroy him, believing him to be a last remnant of the old culture.

One day, The Family captures Neville in a wine cellar. After a summary trial
Show trial
The term show trial is a pejorative description of a type of highly public trial in which there is a strong connotation that the judicial authorities have already determined the guilt of the defendant. The actual trial has as its only goal to present the accusation and the verdict to the public as...

 he is found guilty of heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

 by Jonathan Matthias (Anthony Zerbe
Anthony Zerbe
Anthony Jared Zerbe is an American stage, film and Emmy-winning television actor. Notable film roles include the post-apocalyptic cult leader Matthias in The Omega Man, a 1971 film adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1954 novel, I Am Legend; Milton Krest in the 1989 James Bond film Licence to Kill;...

), a former news anchor who is now leader of The Family. Neville is sentenced to death and nearly burned at the stake in the center of Dodger Stadium
Dodger Stadium
Dodger Stadium, also sometimes called Chavez Ravine, is a stadium in Los Angeles. Located adjacent to Downtown Los Angeles, Dodger Stadium has been the home ballpark of Major League Baseball's Los Angeles Dodgers team since 1962...

. He is rescued by Lisa (Rosalind Cash
Rosalind Cash
Rosalind Cash was an American singer and actress, whose best known film role was as Charlton Heston's character's love interest Lisa, in the 1971 science fiction cult classic, The Omega Man...

), a woman he had earlier seen while on patrol, and Dutch (Paul Koslo
Paul Koslo
Paul Koslo is a German-Canadian actor.-Career:Koslo started his career in such 1970's cult films as Nam's Angels a.k.a. The Losers, , Mr. Majestyk, Vanishing Point, Joe Kidd and The Stone Killer...

), a former medical student familiar with Neville's work.

Lisa and Dutch are part of a group of unmutated survivors; although infected, their youth has given them some resistance to the disease and its symptoms are slow to manifest. Nevertheless, given enough time, they will succumb to mutation and become new members in The Family. Neville is amazed to find that some of the survivors include very young children. Neville later has a brief romance with Lisa.

Neville realizes that even if it is possible to duplicate the original vaccine, it would take years to salvage humanity. However, he believes it may be possible to extend his immunity to others by creating a serum
Blood serum
In blood, the serum is the component that is neither a blood cell nor a clotting factor; it is the blood plasma with the fibrinogens removed...

 from his blood. If the serum works, Neville and Lisa plan to leave the ravaged city with the rest of the survivors and start a new life in the wilderness, leaving The Family behind to die.

Neville is successful in creating the serum and administers it to Lisa's teenage brother Richie (Eric Laneuville
Eric Laneuville
Eric Gerard Laneuville is an American television director, actor and martial artist. His first prominent acting roles were in the science-fiction film The Omega Man with Charlton Heston and the ABC television series Room 222 . His role as Luther Hawkins in the television series St...

), who is on the verge of the advanced mutant stage of the plague. Once cured, Richie (insisting that members of The Family are also human) goes to The Family to try to convince them to take the serum. Matthias refuses to believe that Neville would try to help them, accuses Richie of being sent by Neville to harm them and has Richie executed. Neville discovers Richie’s body strung up and left as bait to draw Neville outside after dark. Enraged, Neville fights off The Family after they force his car off the road.

Meanwhile, Lisa unexpectedly changes into a nocturnal albino mutant and betrays Neville by giving The Family access to his bunker. Returning home, Neville is confronted by Matthias, who forces him to watch as The Family sets his home on fire. Neville breaks free and, once outside with Lisa, he turns and raises his sub-machine gun to shoot Matthias, who is looking down from the balcony. The gun jams, giving Matthias enough time to hurl a spear at Neville, mortally wounding him. It is assumed that Matthias and The Family choose to stay inside Neville's home as it continues to burn. Lisa claims to be part of The Family, but stays by the fountain with Neville until dawn.

The final scene shows the human survivors, led by Dutch, departing in a Land Rover
Land Rover
Land Rover is a British car manufacturer with its headquarters in Gaydon, Warwickshire, United Kingdom which specialises in four-wheel-drive vehicles. It is owned by the Indian company Tata Motors, forming part of their Jaguar Land Rover group...

. They discover a dying Neville, who hands Dutch a flask of blood serum, presumably with which to restore humanity. Shortly after handing over the serum Neville dies in a fountain, symbolically posed in the traditional position of the crucified
Crucifixion is an ancient method of painful execution in which the condemned person is tied or nailed to a large wooden cross and left to hang until dead...

Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

. Dutch takes Lisa and the survivors away as they leave the city for good, leaving the Family to die, as Neville planned.

Neville watches Woodstock

The Omega Man features a scene in which Neville fires up a generator in an abandoned movie theater and passes the time watching the documentary concert film,Woodstock
Woodstock (film)
Woodstock is a 1970 American documentary on the Woodstock Festival that took place in August 1969 at Bethel in New York. Entertainment Weekly called this film the benchmark of concert movies and one of the most entertaining documentaries ever made...

. While watching the film Neville mouths the words, and then remarks, "Nope, they sure don't make pictures like that anymore." The actor, Paul Koslo, who plays the character of Dutch stated in 2003 that this is his favorite scene of the film.

Interracial kiss

Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi Goldberg is an American comedian, actress, singer-songwriter, political activist, author and talk show host.Goldberg made her film debut in The Color Purple playing Celie, a mistreated black woman in the Deep South. She received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress and won...

 has remarked that the kiss between the characters played by Charlton Heston and Rosalind Cash was one of the first interracial kisses to appear in a movie. Subsequently in 1992 when Goldberg had her own network interview talk show, she invited Charlton Heston to be a guest and asked him about the kiss in The Omega Man. Heston stated that he received a lot of hassle for it at the time because it was considered controversial. When Goldberg asked him what it was like to kiss Rosalind Cash, Heston leaned forward and demonstrated on the unsuspecting Goldberg. The unscripted moment took everyone off guard, particularly Goldberg, who reverted back to as if she were a "16 year old" since she had grown up watching Heston and viewed him as a screen legend. (Heston's roles included playing Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 in 1956's The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments (1956 film)
The Ten Commandments is a 1956 American epic film that dramatized the biblical story of the Exodus, in which the Hebrew-born Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince, becomes the deliverer of the Hebrew slaves. The film, released by Paramount Pictures in VistaVision on October 5, 1956, was directed by...

, and as the lead in 1959's Ben-Hur
Ben-Hur (1959 film)
Ben-Hur is a 1959 American epic film directed by William Wyler and starring Charlton Heston in the title role, the third film adaptation of Lew Wallace's 1880 novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The screenplay was written by Karl Tunberg, Gore Vidal, and Christopher Fry. The score was composed by...

, among other prominent roles before entering into science fiction with 1968's Planet of the Apes
Planet of the Apes (1968 film)
Planet of the Apes is a 1968 American science fiction film directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, based on the 1963 French novel La Planète des singes by Pierre Boulle. The film stars Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly and Linda Harrison...


Screenwriter Joyce H. Corrington stated that in developing the script for The Omega Man, the character of Lisa, played by Rosalind Cash, was created to have the style of the Black Power
Black Power
Black Power is a political slogan and a name for various associated ideologies. It is used in the movement among people of Black African descent throughout the world, though primarily by African Americans in the United States...

 movement, which had its prominence in American culture when the film was made. She goes on to remark that this created an effective and interesting dynamic between the characters of Lisa and Neville.

Heston wrote in his autobiography, In the Arena, that The Omega Man was the first leading role in a film for actress Rosalind Cash, and that she was understandably "a little edgy" about doing a love scene with Heston. Heston explained, "It was in the seventies that I realized a generation of actors had grown up who saw me in terms of the iconic roles they remembered from their childhoods. 'It's a spooky feeling,' she told me, 'to screw Moses.'"


The film review website Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes
Rotten Tomatoes is a website devoted to reviews, information, and news of films—widely known as a film review aggregator. Its name derives from the cliché of audiences throwing tomatoes and other vegetables at a poor stage performance...

 lists The Omega Man as having mixed reviews, with a score of 59%.
For example, Howard Thompson gave a mostly negative review in The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, saying "the climax is as florid and phony as it can be." While the staff of Variety (magazine)
Variety (magazine)
Variety is an American weekly entertainment-trade magazine founded in New York City, New York, in 1905 by Sime Silverman. With the rise of the importance of the motion-picture industry, Daily Variety, a daily edition based in Los Angeles, California, was founded by Silverman in 1933. In 1998, the...

 described the film as "an extremely literate science fiction drama."

Director Tim Burton
Tim Burton
Timothy William "Tim" Burton is an American film director, film producer, writer and artist. He is famous for dark, quirky-themed movies such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Ed Wood, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet...

 said in an interview for his 2009 MoMA
Moma may refer to:* Moma , an owlet moth genus* Moma Airport, a Russian public airport* Moma District, Nampula, Mozambique* Moma River, a right tributary of the Indigirka River* Google Moma, the Google corporate intranet...

 exhibit that “If I was alone on a desert island I’d probably pick something that I could relate to - probably The Omega Man with Charlton Heston. I don’t know why that is one of my favorite movies, but it is.” In another interview, with ACMI, Burton remarked that no matter how many times he has seen it, if it is on television he will stop to watch it. He said that when he originally saw The Omega Man, it was the first instance that he recalls seeing the use of certain types of "cheesy one-liners" in film. (The film is full of irony-tinged one-liners that are spoken in a manner to elicit a comic response. Burton compares these to the famous one-liners in Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011....

's film career, such as "I'll be back." An example of this is a scene in which Neville visits a car dealership in order to get a car to replace the one that he had just wrecked. While pretending to speak to an imaginary car salesman, Neville replies, "Uh huh, alright, how much will you give me in trade for my Ford? Oh really? Thanks a lot you cheating bastard!" At that point, Neville peels out, driving through what remains of the dealership front entrance.

Deleted scene

The script for The Omega Man contains a scene where Lisa goes to visit her parents grave. Unknown to Neville, Lisa is pregnant and she goes to seek comfort from her deceased parents before they leave the city forever. While Lisa is talking to her parents grave she hears a sound and investigates a crypt, in it she spots a female Family member depositing a dead new born mutant baby. Lisa can see the mother's grief and empathizes with the woman's loss despite them being on different sides. Lisa believes that all children, including her unborn baby, will suffer the same fate. Later, Lisa returns to Neville and tells him of the woman in the crypt. Neville asks Lisa if she "took care" of things and Lisa responds that since she may be a grieving parent in a few months, she will not kill a grief-stricken mother. Neville is shocked at first but then embraces Lisa.

While the scene was cut from the final film, the credit for "Woman in Cemetery Crypt" remained.

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