Here we are with THE OMEGA MAN, the last of the I AM LEGEND adaptations--official, anyway, I still plan on examining the unauthorized rip-off I AM OMEGA--left to review, and I must say I'm tuckered out by them at this point; it wasn't until settling in to watch direcor Boris Sagal's 1971 take that I realized just how sick I am of Robert Neville. (I also wonder how long it'll be before I read Richard Matheson's novel again.)
THE OMEGA MAN has always had a reputation for being almost an anti-adaptation--so unlike its source material to be of any interest but the most ardent completists; Matheson himself doesn't even consider it his story. (Ironic, then, that the 2007 version starring Will Smith is as much a remake of this specific film as it is Matheson's book--small wonder, given they're both Warner Bros. productions.) But for some reason it's been gaining some type of cult following over the last few years; exactly why, I couldn't say, but I suspect it has to do with Charlton Heston's tenure in the NRA, which ups the camp value as his Neville character fires guns with gleeful impunity. (It can also be seen as a metaphor for the gap between conservatives and the liberals; there's a reason why WOODSTOCK's the only film left to watch.)
Though it's severely dated, THE OMEGA MAN is one of the more entertaining versions, simply because it has the most interaction between Neville and its . . . well, whatever the vampires are supposed to be (unfortunately, for this blog's purposes, it also strays farthest from the seeds that grew the foundation of the modern zombie film), though it loses its momentum fairly quickly. It's more interesting to view it in comparison to the Will Smith vehicle, to see just how many plot and character traits carried over. (I wrote several of them down, like Heston reciting dialogue along with WOODSTOCK--a scene which resonates to much greater effect than the comparative SHREK scene in LEGEND--or Neville's tendency to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, an attempt to cling to his sanity rather than a sign of his losing-grip of it, but why ruin all the fun for you? Besides, Neville fatigue's already set in.)
Ultimately, I found THE OMEGA MAN a disappointing film, both as its own entity and as a Matheson adaptation. (Curiously enough, when Heston passed away earlier this year, it was this film I first remembered him for, rather than his more iconic roles in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS or PLANET OF THE APES.) It might hold some value as a '70s time capsule, but it's not much of a drama or horror film.