Director: Boris Sagal | 98 minutes | drama, thriller, science fiction | Actors: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo, Eric Laneuville, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Jill Giraldi, Anna Aries, Brian Tochi, DeVeren Bookwalter, John Dierkes, Monika Henreid, Linda Redfearn, Forrest Wood
In “The Omega Man,” starring Hollywood icon Charlton Heston, nothing less than the future of humanity is at stake. As the sole survivor of all-out war, Heston must manage on his own in a world where anarchy reigns and nothing is as it used to be. The acting isn’t always great, the bad guys are more fun to laugh than terrifying and the film’s pretensions are sky high. Nevertheless, this is an advisable film from the science fiction genre.
It’s not the first time that Heston, an all American actor with a grimace of concrete, has held the fate of the world in his hands. As early as 1968, our future was in his hands in Franklin J. Schaffner’s “Planet of the Apes” and in “The Omega Man” the rationale is not much different. Heston is scientist Neville who, it seems, is the sole survivor of a biological war between East and West, and we see him roaming the lonely streets of Los Angeles, the city that actually looks a bit like a ghost town.
Very interesting is the symbolism between “old” residents and “new” residents: Neville is a scientist and loves modern technology and art. Members of the “Family,” a group of zombies dressed in black robes, represent the new residents after the war, who are trying to eradicate everything related to the past. Okay, some things are outdated. When Heston dresses up in a tight dark blue tracksuit with white tennis shoes, big leather belt and aviator cap to scare the “Family”, you have to love cult movies to take it all seriously.
Much more interesting is the comparison between Neville and the “real” Charlton Heston. For a long time, Heston was progressive, left-leaning, but later turned into a conservative, who was even the figurehead for the National Rifle Association in America. In “The Omega Man,” we see the “old” Heston and not the rigid man we saw in Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine”. When Neville quietly enjoys recordings of the “Woodstock” festival in an abandoned movie theater, he becomes melancholy about the time of free love.
“Omega” is set in 1977 and (sub) cultures, art and music have almost completely disappeared. It is also noteworthy that later in the film Neville is joined by a black woman and, despite the racial tensions of the time, the two do exactly what the only man and only woman on earth would do: fall in love! At one point the woman, Lisa, even suggests using the pill: no small matter at the time! The other survivors of the war, the occult semi-dead of the “Family”, are not the film’s greatest asset. Instead of instilling fear, they work on the laughing muscles. How is it possible that someone carried out the idea of starring these Ku Klux Klan-esque characters? Their sphere of influence is growing, without you really noticing. The question gradually arises as to who you can trust, a feeling much like the claustrophobic nature of Philip Kaufman’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” from 1978.
“Omega” is a compelling science fiction movie. The film, which is based on a novel by Richard Matheson, had a precursor (1964’s “The Last Man on Earth”) and a follower (2007’s “I Am Legend”). The cult elements are for the enthusiast, but the title music alone, a mixture of violins, cello and drums, is out of the art.