Idyllopus Press Presents the Podcast
Talk Cinephilia to Me
The Last Man on Earth (1964) Episode 1 Notes
"Talk Cinephilia to me" is a podcast about watching cinema--artistic, outsider, experimental and B movies--brought to you by author playwright, Juli Kearns, and her son, Aaron Dylan Kearns, an experimental filmmaker who, though he was raised on great cinema, loves tawdry horror. He knows things I don't about film. I know things he doesn't. Most importantly, we know enough to be very aware of what we don't know. We promise to be humble, somewhat meandering hosts because we're disaffected dyslexic leftists with opinions and our filters are busted.
In this episode we discuss Arch Obeler's Five, in which his home, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, also stars.
As we briefly explore the possible influence of Antonioni's film L'Eclisse on The Last Man on Earth, I thought I'd post a few screengrabs from relevant scenes. Michelangelo Antonioni's L'Eclisse, released in Jan of 1962, had scenes filmed in Rome's EUR, a modernist suburb created by Mussolini. These scenes in the modern suburb were filmed and edited in such a way that a vacant mood, a sense of isolation, of unease and Cold War alienation is transmitted.
The Last Man on Earth is most frequently given as having been filmed in Rome in the winter of 1961-1962, and if this had been the case there would be no possibility Antonioni's film could have had on an influence on it. However, Vincent Price's daughter wrote in a biography on him that he filmed in Rome in the winter of 1963, and I find that "Variety" magazine announced that on 30 January 1963 Price had arrived in Rome to begin production.
The Last Man on Earth is supposed to show us what resembles an American city, and yet the choice was made to film the EUR water tower, finished in 1960, called Il Fungo, which is a very unique piece of architecture. The mushroom, looks like the soaring tentacled monster-machine tripods from the early illustrated versions of "War of the Worlds".
Morgan follows a black poodle into the EUR, trying to catch it, the first living creature he has seen in several years. It's this adventure that causes him to realize others are alive as he finds in that area a number of staked vampires.
In L'Eclisse, Vittoria chases a neighbor's loose dog, a black poodle, in the EUR, where she lives.
In Matheson's book, the dog seems to have been a mutt, whereas in the film it is a black poodle, like the dog Vittoria chases. If one is familiar with L'Eclisse, when Morgan chases the dog through the EUR it rather feels as if the black poodle has escaped from Antonioni's film and run into this one.
As if commenting on the unease of the vacant streets, in L'Eclisse we are shown, toward the end, a man reading a newspaper with a headline of the nuclear arms race.
The Last Man on Earth begins on Sept 5th 1968. After Morgan marks his calendar at the film's beginning, we don't see it again, but I think the film spans several days ending on Sept 8th. L'Eclisse spans several days in Vittoria's life, the film ending on September 10th 1961. She had arranged to meet with her lover that evening but neither one shows up at the appointed place.
As to the EUR, Wikipedia states, "The complex was planned to be home to a World Fair to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the March on Rome and of the beginning of the Fascist era. The autonomous agency responsible for organization and construction of the project, E42 (Esposizione 1942), was created on 26 December 1936." The name of the project was later changed to EUR, but the Expo never took place and work on it stopped in 1942. Again, Wikipedia relates:
After a period of controversy over its architectural and urban planning principles, the project to design EUR was commissioned from the leaders of both of the rival factions in Italian architecture: Marcello Piacentini for the "reactionaries" and Giuseppe Pagano for the "progressives". Each of them brought in their own preferred architects to design individual buildings within the district. EUR offers a large-scale image of how urban Italy might have looked if the Fascist regime had not fallen; wide axially planned streets and austere buildings of either stile Littorio, inspired by ancient Roman architecture, or Rationalism, modern architecture but built using traditional limestone, tuff and marble."
When I bring up, in the podcast, the confusing politics concerning the ending of the film, the impression that we're given that the new society is fascist, or perhaps socialist or communist, I was considering the filming that was done in the EUR, but whatever is intended to be communicated seems muddied. Price's character is clearly repelled by what he feels is the new society's joy in violence, but he is essentially told that he has not been able to see himself as they see him, and that he has killed a number of their people. As with in the film, he acknowledges how he has incorrectly perceived them, as they have him, yet in the film his final declaration is that they are mutants and he is the last true man, even as he is killed at the altar, which is steeped in symbolism as it is his blood that will save the others (only in the film, not in the book). I won't try to sort this out here as I'm not sure certain allusions and hints at politics have been communicated with the clarity needed to do so. A problem perhaps of too many fingers and visions in the pie.
At the podcast's end, we briefly mention the film short The Second to Last Man on Earth, made by Aaron in 2014 when he was 15 or 16 years of age. It's a purely-for-the-fun-of-it film that, among other such films he used to make, he has had for years listed under the collective title, Internet Movie Toilet Paper. It can be seen at this link. He also, wasting time with being house-bound, wasted some productive energy by making The Second to Last Man on Earth #2.