The Omega ManThe Omega Man on Blu-ray

Here’s a minor science fiction classic starring one of the liberals’ favorite punching bags, the great Charlton Heston.

Strange that it's one of Warners early Blu-ray releases, since it's not a particularly big film. Could it have anything to do with the release of the Will Smith film "I Am Legend," which is based on the same Richard Matheson novel this film was? Nah, of course not!

If you're looking for sci-fi that's particularly upbeat this ain't it, but at least it ends on a hopeful note.

The Omega Man sees Robert Neville (Heston), who was once a scientist working on a cure for the biological warfare horrors upon which the human race was also working. Alas, he does find a cure, but only in time to inject it into himself as the human race and human society is decimated by the bio horror.

Now we find Neville the last man on earth, kind of. He’s the last normal human, but there are plenty of other humans around - Morlock-like mutants who hide from the light and only come out at night. They’re basically a society of religious-like zealots who believe the plague was punishment for Man’s sins and that they are the inheritors of the world, but must eschew the technology and society they think brought about the destruction.

Their leader, Matthias (Anthony Zerbe) leads them on a crusade to rid the Earth of the remaining humans, which in this case amounts to Neville. For his part, Neville goes out by day but at night lives in a self-contained, armored apartment where he fights off attacks by the mutants.

Then one day, Neville discovers (Surprise, Surprise!) that he isn’t alone; there’s another small pocket of normal humanity led by Lisa (Rosalind Cash) and Dutch (Paul Koslo), the latter of whom was pursuing a medical career when the end came. This comes in handy as Neville still knows how to make the antidote to the plague - which can also cure mutants of their condition and restore them to “normal” humanity, and he can use an assistant/student. And, in Lisa's case, a lover.

The plan is to start a new human colony in the sticks, where the mutants can’t get at them, but the mutants aren’t going to have anything do to that. After all, they’re the inheritors of the Earth and if they can go back to their old forms that would be a repudiation of their new society and a re-embracing of all the hated things that they now believe.

Anyway, we get the romance between Neville and Lisa (an interracial romance - oooooh! This was undoubtedly pushing the envelope when Omega Man came out, but it’s so irrelevant now it’s almost laughable), which gives us hope for a new Adam and Eve-type situation.

Except that fate still has a few surprises up her sleeve.

The movie’s rather plodding, preachy and heavy handed, but sci-fi fans didn’t have a lot of quality flicks from which to choose during the early 1970’s and this is arguably one of the better ones.

The cast is good. Heston is always great and, as always, he commands the screen.

The Blu-ray disc is very good, too. The 1080p picture, which is presented in anamorphic widescreen (2.4:1), looks terrific for the most part. There are a few grainy scenes, but overall the picture is sharp and clean and colorful. If you ever wanted to count Charlton Heston's pores, here's your chance.

Audio is Dolby Digital mono and it's unremarkable.

Extras include an introduction by cast members Eric Laneuville (who plays a kid who begins to succumb to the plague) and Paul Koslo as well as co-writer Joyce H. Corrington. There’s also a vintage promotional featurette (“The Last man Alive”) and the trailer.

The Omega Man, from Warner Home Video,
98 min. anamorphic widescreen (2.4:1, 16x9 TV compatible), Dolby Digital mono
Starring Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash
Produced by Walter Seltzer
Written by John William and Joyce H. Corrington, Directed by Boris Sagal

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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