Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A-Haunting We Will Go

The Omega Man (1971)
directed by Boris Sagal
rating: 3 out of 5 cravats
on DVD from Netflix

"Is this how it starts? A trip to the laughing academy? No, you silly bastard. It starts with you asking yourself idiot questions. Right. Right. Okay. Let's get cleaned up and find a drink before the bars close."

This being Chuck Heston, of course, that line is delivered out of breath and sweaty, with Ramon Miguel "Mike" Vargas rubbing his bare chest (which he's just poured perfume on after a visit to an empty department store) on a Los Angeles park bench. Charlton Heston is amazing; whether or not the story of him reading I Am Legend on a flight back to Hollywood and demanding an adaptation is true, John Carpenter knew it, the director of Wayne's World 2 knew it, and everyone from Cecil B. DeMille to Orson Welles knew it.

What's endearing about Charlton is how pro-active he was in getting so many of the roles he's remembered for made. The Omega Man isn't a masterpiece, but it's nicely derivative of The Last Man on Earth without aping it. TV director Boris Sagal gets some impact from an empty downtown LA, but he also understands that vacant streets aren't as scary in a post-apocalyptic world as small rooms which should be empty, but aren't. And Heston's leading lady is a black woman; honestly, when was the last time that happened at the multiplex?

Happy Halloween, everyone. If you need a last-minute costume, go as a great American.

Charlton Heston, James Baldwin, Sidney Poitier, Marlon Brando, and Harry Belafonte at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. What a world.