The Omega Man (1971) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Omega Man is part of a famous sub-genre in S/F films: Charlton Heston post-apocalyptic movies made between 1968 and 1973. Those movies were Chuck's specialty during that period:

This was the second major film based on Richard Matheson's novel "I Am Legend". The first, The Last Man on Earth (1964), starred Vincent Price. The recent British film, 28 Days Later... (2002), does not give a credit to Matheson, but is essentially the same story as The Omega Man. Of course, if Matheson ever saw The Omega Man, he'd have to wonder why he was credited in that one. Neither 28 Days Later nor The Omega Man is really a faithful screen adaptation of Matheson's novel about vampirism, so it seems to me that the most interesting question to ask oneself is why 28 Days Later works as an atmospheric and chilling movie, while The Omega Man now appears incurably hokey to our modern eyes and ears, except for the spooky scene where Charlton hears an imaginary phone.


Rosalind Cash shows her breasts in two scenes, and also shows her bottom in the first one.

Some key reasons why Omega Man is not as effective as 28 Days Later:

1. Special effects. London really looks empty in 28 Days Later, but when Heston is driving through LA, we see people and vehicles moving in the background, we see working traffic lights, etc. Charlton Heston's body double is in several minutes of motorcycle chase footage, and looks nothing like Heston. It's a big wide-bodied guy with silver hair. Might have been Tip O'Neill.

2. Chatty zombies. The Omega Man script turned Matheson's vampires into albino plague victims, which was OK, but it also turned them into a religious cult with anti-technology beliefs. The conflict ends up with Charlton Heston battling against the Albino Amish. And these are the most garrulous zombies ever. The Nouveau Amish Blanc leader spends most of his screen time making long-winded Luddite speeches, as if he really wanted to get Heston's support in the next Zombie Party election.

3. Sound track. Over the years, movie makers have really learned a lot about how to co-ordinate the sound track with the mood they seek to elicit. The musical score for The Omega Man, although haunting in spots, basically sounds like a TV theme song or the overture to a Broadway play. I kept waiting for the curtain to open on Gordon MacRae riding his horse, or Yul Brynner pacing about in his bare feet.

... or maybe for Bill Murray to come out and start singing the words:


Oh He's not the Beta Guy

Or Catherine Zeta's Guy

He's the Omega Guy

....... and he's all alone


Oh, he don't wear L'Oreal

just seekin' an Omega Pal

and someday an Omega Gal

....... to call his own


maybe someday when the world is new

there'll be an Omega Baby, too.

so it can finally be true

....... when he hears that phone


Most of the scenes in Omega Man would be better underscored with silence, or with natural noises ala Bergman or Tarkovsky,  or with modern horror techniques - like low, slow repetitious drumbeats (ala The Hole or Angel Heart), or even with classic horror techniques like the sudden shrieking sounds in Psycho. As it stands, the film has no tension.

4. Story consistency.

  • Heston has been living alone in the world for two years. Everyone else on earth is a zombie, as far as he knows. Yet he has fresh grapes on his table. Zombies running their own vineyards when they can't work by day? (Even though they are not vampires, they can only function at night.)

  • Heston spends every day trying to find where the zombies sleep in L.A. Even assuming they stay in one place permanently because they are too stupid to move, L.A. is a mighty big place for one guy to cover. He has to inspect every floor of every building without even using elevators. Meanwhile, the zombies all come to Chuck's house every night, and he has an entire armory in his den. Yup, every night he knows exactly where they are, but instead of shooting them, he sits in his house, cooks himself dinner, and plays chess with an imaginary opponent represented by a bust of Caesar. During this time, he only shoots them if directly provoked. Here's a suggestion, Chuck. Tomorrow, during the day, get some grenades instead of looking for zombies. Tomorrow night, when the zombies come to your house, blast them to kingdom come. Oh, what the hell. Get a frigging tank.

  • The zombies don't use any type of motorized vehicle. None at all. Remember, that is against their beliefs. But they appear at Chuck's house every night promptly after dusk, and they don't go out during the day. Therefore, their hideout must be within a block or two of his house, right? So why is he searching miles and miles across town?

  • The power grid in L.A. seems to go on uninterrupted. At one point, the arc lights actually go on in the Coliseum, frightening away the photosensitive zombies. Chuck asks his rescuer how she did that, and she answers, "oh, Dutch takes care of stuff like that". Chuck doesn't elect to ask Dutch. 'Tis a mystery.

And so forth.

DVD info from Amazon

  • Introduction by screenwriter Joyce H. Carrington, Paul Koslo ("Dutch"), and Eric Laneuville ("Richie")

  • "The Last Man Alive: The Omega Man

It's really a shame that The Omega Man ended up such a cheesefest with preachy zombies and a bunch of additional humans to provide a hokey love interest. I really liked the early part of the movie, which limned Chuck's loneliness, inchoate madness, and isolation. The first fifteen minutes are like a great episode of The Twilight Zone, with Chuck wandering through the empty streets, muttering to himself, trying to keep a grip on his sanity, watching movies he's seen many times before, hearing a phone ring when there is no phone ringing, frightened when he sees that the sun is almost down and he's far from home.


I had never seen this 1971 movie before. It is hopelessly outdated, but I doubt that I would have been impressed in 1971. Scoop pretty much covered the problems with the film in his review. I have seen far too many post-apocalyptic films, and this one isn't even in my top ten for that genre. Too much is unexplained for the film to have any impact.
  • Why did Rosalind Cash and her group only contact Heston to save him, when they knew he was the only hope of saving her brother?
  • Why was Heston intent on doing in the zombies?
  • Why did Heston decide not to kill them after he was told where they were hiding?
  • After finding other humans in his city, why didn't it occur to him that there might be others in other cities?
  • If the germ killed nearly all life, what were they going to eat in the Sierras?
  • If the Zombies were all that photo-sensitive, why was their weapon of choice fire?
  • And what is with the fresh fruit and cheese, two full years after everyone died?
  • Why did most of the people die immediately, while a few became zombies instantly, and yet others resisted the germ for months?

I think the problem here was in trying to change the premise of Matheson's story while trying to follow the original plot line.

And then there was Heston's performance. I didn't believe him as a research scientist, an officer in the military, or as a doctor. Heston, in a short interview, stated that the most interesting thing about his character to him was that he played chess against himself. Kind of sums up what he thought of the film, doesn't it? And just to prove that he was not very bright, he lost to his imaginary opponent. 

I will have to give the filmmakers some credit.

  • They shot nights and weekends in LA to get the deserted look. Some areas of LA were still empty in 1971 off hours, but I defy anyone to day to find a single city block with nobody moving any time of the day or night now.
  • They squeezed in a lot of nudity and violence for a PG film.

The Critics Vote

The People Vote ...


The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, Scoop says, "this is a C. It is a good movie in some ways, and some scenes are captivating. It is cheesy in many other ways, and there is almost no dramatic tension, but I say it is worth a watch if you're interested in the genre films of the early 1970's, because it's interesting to see how filmmakers approached things then, in contrast to how they would do the same things today." Tuna says, "With an IMDB rating of 6.3, this is clearly a decent genre effort, but not one that I will never sit through again. C."

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