The Omega Man
Even Warner Brothers knew it. Charlton Heston driving around deserted streets in a cherry-red convertible
popping in an eight-track of smooth jazz
seeing movement in a window
and then BAM! Heston opens fire with a semi-auto. You're sucked in, and that's why it isn't until after this sequence that we see the opening credits. In fact, the first ten minutes of Boris Sagal's The Omega Man (1971) are perfect: Heston driving around an empty city, the future NRA president sitting down for a screening of Woodstock (and quoting much of dialogue), and then when he's ready to head home he gets distracted by imaginary telephone calls (of the three Heston sci-fi classics, each offers at least one great line that is always shouted here it's "There is no phone ringing, damn it!"). Following the barest details of the Richard Matheson classic novella "I Am Legend," The Omega Man was the second adaptation of the Matheson classic, and the second to virtually abandon the source material (a third version has been in the planning stages for years now). After the world has been swept up in germ warfare, the populace has hidden or turned into albino Luddites who are afraid of light. Called "The Family," they are led by Matthais (Anthony Zerbe). Meanwhile, Neville (Heston) was working on a cure and was able to make a vaccine, but he was only able to use the serum on himself after a helicopter crash (making him the "Omega"). After being captured by The Family, he looks done for, but he's saved by the few remaining human survivors. By meeting them and getting to know Lisa (Rosalind Cash), Neville begins to work more diligently on finding a cure, especially since Lisa's brother Richie (Eric Laneuville) is turning into an albino. A solid, fast-paced post-apocalyptic thriller, this would probably be the best of the Heston sci-fi trilogy (this, Planet of the Apes, and Soylent Green) if the rest of the film was as inventive as the opening ten minutes (the interiors look awfully cheap) and Ron Grainer's synth score didn't date the film so badly or grate so harshly. Warner does a fine job with the disc, presenting the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and DD 1.0 audio. Extras include the trailer, a featurette from the period wherein Heston interviews famous anthropologist Ashley Montigu (10 min.), and a featurette regarding the lasting appeal of the film featuring interviews with co-stars Laneuville, Paul Koslo, and co-writer Joyce Corrington (4 min.). Snap-case.