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Look man, I told you to bring your ray-bans with you! Now we look like dorks!”
The movie starts with Colonel Robert Neville, M.D. (Charlton Heston) discovering a vaccine which counter-acts a bio-warfare germ released in a war between the Soviets and Chinese. Neville manages to inject himself at the last moment, but everyone else dies, leaving Neville alone and really, really lonely for a girlfriend. Neville spends the next couple of years tearing bikini posters off of walls and indulging his female mannequin fetish.
It turns out not everyone infected by the germs dies; some of them turn into hippie-zombie-luddites. Yes, they’re hippies with long hair who want to tear society down, they’re mostly undead, and they hate technology. Just in case 1971 white America didn’t get the point of this movie, they also hate “honkys”. For reasons that are never really explained, the infected dress up as monks and call themselves “the family”. They also build catapults and use guns, despite the fact that they’re supposed to be against technology.
About an hour into the movie Neville finds other survivors and wastes no time getting busy with Lisa (Rosalind Cash), who’s infected but has no symptoms. There’s a really creepy scene where Neville smiles broadly at Lisa and we get a close-up of Neville’s teeth. Wow, that really should have been edited out. Hopefully the NRA was able to offer him better dental care.
Inspired by his new found love interest, Neville uses his own “Anglo-Saxon blood” to synthesize an antidote to the bio-warfare germs for Lisa and her brother, who are both African-Americans. Things are looking up until Lisa’s little brother, fresh from being saved by Neville’s blood, is killed by the zombies. After that, all heck breaks loose as Lisa turns into a zombie, Neville’s home is burned down, and he takes a spear to the chest while trying to save Lisa. In the last scene, he hands a bottle of the antidote, an extract from his own blood, to the remaining survivors. He promptly dies in a pose just like Jesus on the cross, amidst a pool of his own blood.
Charlton Heston, Zombie-Hippies-Luddites, the collapse of civilization, race relations in America, white America as Jesus on the Cross, they’re all here. In this case Neville represents traditional American values of the time; technical superiority, moral superiority, spiritual superiority, military superiority, masculinity, and guns, lots and lots of big guns, the way god and Uncle Sam meant it to be. Neville spends roughly half the movie running around without his shirt, armed with a machine gun, drenched in sweat, perhaps in a bid to knock-out the zombies with his personal aroma or bullets, whichever works first.
This film is a moment in time, a reflection of the social and racial paranoia and unrest of the early 70’s. The zombies are hippies and minorities who have no respect for culture, tradition or the benefits of modern life in America. They’re ruining everything white Americans worked to build and making the cities scary! The only way to escape it was to move out and away from the city. Honey, let’s move to the suburbs, and fast…
– Homicidal Hippie-Zombie-Luddites dressed as monks
– NRA going out of business sale
– Zombie Catapults!
– Mannequin fetish
– Charlton Heston’s teeth
– Saxon Blood super formula – now with world saving power!
– Neville as Christ on the Cross
rated 7.0 out of 10
Check out the trailer for Omega-man