Soy leyenda [I Am Legend] (1967)

I’ve got a real soft spot for The Last Man on Earth.

It’s far from perfect, but the first half hour or so is as close most movies ever come.

But a year after it came out, Mario Gómez Martín directed this interesting short version of the novel that inspired the Vincent Price movie, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend.

It was released by Escuela Oficial de Cine, which was Spain’s official National Film School and trained a whole generation of highly respected filmmakers.  This would appear to be one of their student films, perhaps a graduation project.  Those were shot on 35mm at this point in the school’s history.  IMDB lists a series of short films released by the school, although I’ll admit that I suspect that most of them received only showings on Campus or at film festivals.

Sadly, though, Martin only has a few credits listed after his graduation and I think they are mostly technical.

But that is often true of those who make interesting short films.

I can’t help but compare this version with The Last Man on Earth as I’m fairly certain that they’ve seen it.  While it doesn’t start quite the same way, but it isn’t long before we get a very similar set of sequences showing Robert Neville’s day to day life as the last survivor of the vampire plague.

But this is a more desperate version of Neville, one who hasn’t achieved the calm acceptance of his fate that Vincent Price’s has.

Curiously, there is only a fleeting reference to Neville’s scientific work, nor is it shown in the little glimpses of his past we get — although we; do get to see the horrible moment when his wife returns from the grave.

I like the strikingly modern Catholic church where she is buried: it echoes the one in Vincent Price’s film, even if it is a bit smaller, but it looks rather stranger and a far stronger visual.  It is also an intriguing touch that these vampires fear mirrors and crosses, for which we are given a well thought out materialist explanation which I suspect probably came Matheson’s novel — although I don’t think it appears in The Last Man on Earth.

This is a solid production with great locations.  It feels a little too compressed at times, as if they really had to squeeze hard to fit the novel into a short film.  However, it handles the emotional part of the story at least as well as the earlier film.

But it still feels a bit rushed.

It is an interesting oddity more than anything else.  I honestly have no idea why it surfaced after all these years, but the audio is reasonably clear, the English subtitles effective, and the film itself looks sharp with minimal signs of wear.

Best of all, it is a good version of a classic story, with a few impressive moments.

Which is pretty good for a student film…

My thanks to Jon Whitehead of Rarefilmm for introducing this one to me!



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