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Before the sci-fi classic Soylent Green in 1973, Charlton Heston worked with producer Walter Seltzer (who also worked on Soylent Green) to create the 1971 post-apocalyptic film The Omega Man. It stars Heston, Rosalind Cash, and Anthony Zerbe.
Like most films that deal with future dates, The Omega Man looks into the future year of 1975 where a Sino-Soviet border conflict (a real-life problem at the time) turns into the death of the world with biological warfare; the planet’s population is almost decimated as a result. Heston’s character, US Army Col. Robert Neville, MD, is about to die from the disease when he injects an experimental vaccine that cures him and has him immune to the disease. Now in 1977, Neville is almost all alone in the world as he tries to fight off “The Family.” The Family is a group of surviving people who turn into albino-skinned vampiric creatures that hunt Neville at night.
This film shows a more realistic look at biological warfare gone wrong with a completely deserted Los Angeles. Neville “shops” at stores and lives like a rich man while hunting Family members in the day. However, at night his stronghold of an apartment filled with weapons turns into a prison as Neville tries to stay sane.
A major aspect of this film is that the leading actress, Rosalind Cash, is African-American; The Omega Man would have one of American cinema’s first interracial kiss on film. Screenwriter Joyce H. Corrington made Lisa, played by Cash, because of the prominence of the Black Power Movement; this would make an efficacious contrast between Neville and Lisa in the film.
Unlike the first film The Last Man on Earth (1964) starring Vincent Price as well as the original 1954 novel I Am Legend written by Richard Matheson, The Omega Man is more action-packed and relatively violent. It also has a hopeful ending despite the nature of the film as a whole; this contrasts to the original doom of humanity from both I Am Legend and The Last Man on Earth.
Whatever the case, The Omega Man became a cult classic. Even The Simpsons made a memorable parody in their classic Treehouse of Horror VIII special called “The HΩmega Man.”