You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"The Omega Man"

In preparation for the impending release of Will Smith's I Am Legend, I watched the original Charlton Heston version of The Omega Man on DVD last week.

(I'm assuming studio executives vetoed some original plan by Mr Smith to title his remake "Tha Omega M###aF####a".)

There's something about those late 60s/ early 70s (post Forbidden Planet but pre-Star Wars) SF films that just can't be replicated. Whether the tight polyester clothes, the long slabs of speechifying, the low-budget special effects, or the loud, anthemic organ music... (you can hear a sample on YouTube here, if you have a good connection).

The DVD has extra material including a portentous mini-documentary, made at the time (1970s) where Heston interviews anthropologist Professor Ashley Montagu about the sociology and psychology of Robert Neville. Great stuff.

I kept expecting Heston to say "Damn you all to hell!" and "Get your damn paws off me, you dirty vampire!" I see now why he likes guns so much.

I also liked Anthony Zerbe's Matthias - a sort of Kent Brockman figure who morphs into Ward Churchill as played by Jim Steinman.


Kevin F said...

I'm not sure what the appeal of these 60/70s SF movies are? I haven't given it a great deal of thought.

I also really enjoyed "Soylent Green". I think part of the appeal is the strength of their story telling and a certain gritty realism (before movies were hijacked to sell toys to kiddies. I don't think I will ever forgive George Lucas for going over to the dark side of the Force this with the last 3 "Star Wars" prequels.)

I also think there is a lot to be said for keeping the narrative simple rather convoluted. ie not having extraneous characte or incidents to reinforce an overtly political agenda. This is the difference between art and propaganda.

Stephen said...

I recall reading somewhere that the films made in the 60s and 70s reflected the cultural and economic conditions of the times, namely, the vietnam war, high oil prices, "stagflation" etc. So you get movies with the "anti-hero" Clint Eastwood in a series of Spaghetti Westerns turning the idea of the John Wayne-style Fort Apache / Sands of Iwo Jima heeo on its head. I think one of Wayne's last movies "The Shootist" reflected these new, pessimistic themes (and he was dying of cancer at the time too). Throw in all of those nasty Dirty Harry and Charles Bronson movies where the vigilante individual / cop in a briown suit delivers his own brand of justice for some local colour (NPI). The science fiction scene is also as pessimistic - the future isn't the glowing article of the 1950s / early 60s JFK inspired space race - it's mired in a post-nuclear fall-out zone. Logan's Run is a good example, Soylent Green another. Planet of the Apes must be the classic of the genre (and all its camp sequels). And then we get a counter-cultural product: Star Wars. Not a dystopian society. Not a miserable ruined earth ending in sight. Rather, a story of one young man's courage to defeat an evil galactic empire and save a beautiful priness from the clutches of a dark lord. Space Opera was born, box office records were broken, and a generation was defined by their shared experience of this film at the cinema. Little wonder the story was subtitled "A New Hope".

Stephen said...

... and I forgot the string of "disaster movies" like "The Towering Inferno", "The Poseidon Adventure", and "Airport" (whicj spawned its own parody series, "Flying High"


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