L'ultimo uomo della terra
Wind of Death
Richard Matheson’s apocalyptic tale of contagion, holocaust, and vampirism I am Legend (1954) has assumed a position of major influence within the horror genre (even though the novel itself is arguably science fiction), but its adaptation to cinema has been fraught with failure. Almost immediately Matheson’s novel was destined to endure setback and frustration. Matheson wrote a screenplay for Britain’s Hammer Film Productions under the title Night Creatures, but the project was halted before filming began by a squeamish censor that was only just becoming accustomed to Hammer’s gothic horror. It remains one of the most tantalising missed opportunities of horror history. Its release would have come at the pinnacle of Hammer’s gothic horror cycle and would have offered a fascinating contrast to the trappings of gothic period settings. The next attempt at least made it to the screen when Matheson’s screenplay was picked up by Robert L. Lippert. The title was changed to The Last Man on Earth and was produced in Italy with distribution in the US handled by AIP. Matheson’s dissatisfaction with changes made by William F. Leicester, Furio M. Monetti and Ubaldo Ragona led to his decision to receive credit through the pseudonym Logan Swanson. The most risible screen version came in 1971 with Warner Bros’ Charlton Heston vehicle The Omega Man. A mindless action film that made wholesale changes in order to indulge Heston’s gun fetish and vile macho posturing. The 2007 version starring Will Smith could only improve on the absolute nadir that The Omega Man represented, but fell to prey to another fetish - that of CGI. Although Matheson expressed a negative view of The Last Man on Earth it does actually emerge as the most faithful rendering of the text, and in my view still remains the most accomplished screen outing for I am Legend.