Omega Man, The (1971): Cheesy Sci-Fi Movie of Matheson’s Novel “I Am Legend,” Starring Charlton Heston

The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston, is the second film version based on the “I Am Legend” novel by Richard Matheson.

The first was the 1961,” The Last Man on Earth,” featuring Vincent Price, battling vampires with wooden stakes.

The Omega Man

Theatrical release poster

A third adaptation, titled I Am Legend, starring Will Smith, was released in 2007.

This version is not much of an improvement over the Vincent Price movie (which was made in Italy), though the premise is the same: The City of Los Angeles and its only human survivor are under siege by a whole race of zombies as a result of apocalyptic germ warfare.

In March 1975, the Chinese-Soviet conflict escalates into full-scale war in which biological warfare destroys most of the human race.

U.S. Army Col. Robert Neville, M.D., a scientist based in L.A., begins to succumb to the plague.  He decides to inject himself an experimental vaccine, rendering him immune.

Struggling to maintain his sanity, he spends his his time patrolling the now-desolate city, hunting and killing members of “the Family,” a cult of plague victims turned into nocturnal albino mutants.

When the Family finally captures Neville, he is found guilty of heresy by leader Jonathan Matthias, a former news anchorman.  Sentenced to death and nearly burned at the stake (in Dodger Stadium), he’s rescued by Lisa, the woman he had earlier dismissed as hallucination, and Dutch, a former medical student. Lisa and Dutch are part of a group of survivors, some of whom are children.

Heston is well cast, though, and he gives a more creditable (and square) performance than Vincent Price did.

The kiss between the characters played by Heston and Rosalind Cash was one of the first interracial kisses to appear in a movie (an improvement over the interracial romance seen in the 1968 Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?)

Overall, this is a mediocre sci-fi-thriller, largely due to the pedestrian direction of Boris Sagal, and the fact that the movie is not scary or ominous enough to merit our fears and anxieties.


Directed by Boris Sagal

Produced by Walter Seltzer

Screenplay by John William Corrington and Joyce H. Corrington, based on I Am Legend
by Richard Matheson

Music by Ron Grainer

Cinematography Russell Metty

Edited by William H. Ziegler

Production company: Walter Seltzer Productions

Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: August 1, 1971
Running time: 98 minutes


Charlton Heston as Robert Neville
Anthony Zerbe as Jonathan Matthias
Rosalind Cash as Lisa
Paul Koslo as Dutch
Eric Laneuville as Richie
Lincoln Kilpatrick as Zachary
Brian Tochi as Tommy