Abstract: The Omega Man (stylised as The Ωmega Man) is a 1971 American science fiction film directed by Boris Sagal and starring Charlton Heston. It is based on the novel I Am Legend (1954) by American writer Richard Matheson. The screenplay is by John William Corrington and Joyce Corrington, and it was filmed in Technicolor with monaural sound, with a running time of 98 minutes. Its producer is Walter Seltzer, who also produced Heston in the 1973 science fiction film, Soylent Green.
The story was first filmed as The Last Man on Earth (1964) featuring Vincent Price. A third adaptation of the novel, I Am Legend featuring Will Smith, was released in 2007; and an unofficial fourth, I Am Omega, featuring Mark Dacascos, was also released in 2007 (though neither Matheson's name or novel were credited as source material for this version).
As multiple reviewers have noted, the film differs from its source in several ways including the basic premise. In the novel the cause of the demise of humanity is a plague spread by mosquitoes, whereas in the film human biological warfare is the cause. One reviewer speculated this may have been due to one of the screenwriters having a doctorate in chemistry.
In March 1975, biological warfare between the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union kills most of the world's population. U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Robert Neville, M.D. (Charlton Heston), a scientist based in Los Angeles, California, begins to succumb to the plague but injects himself with an experimental vaccine just in time, rendering himself immune. The plague's surviving victims, meanwhile, join together as "The Family," a cult of nocturnal albino mutants who seek to destroy all technology.
One day, the Family captures Neville in a wine cellar. After a summary trial he is found guilty of heresy by Jonathan Matthias (Anthony Zerbe), a former news anchor who is now leader of the Family. Neville is sentenced to death and nearly burned at the stake in the center of Dodger Stadium. He is rescued by Lisa (Rosalind Cash), a woman he had earlier seen while on patrol, and Dutch (Paul Koslo), a former medical student familiar with Neville's work.
Lisa and Dutch are part of a group of unmutated survivors; although infected, their youth has given them some resistance to the disease and its symptoms are slow to manifest. Nevertheless, given enough time, they will succumb to mutation and become new members in the Family. Neville is amazed to find that some of the survivors include very young children. Neville later has a brief romance with Lisa.
Neville realizes that even if it is possible to duplicate the original vaccine, it would take years to salvage humanity. However, he believes it may be possible to extend his immunity to others by creating a serum from his blood. If the serum works, Neville and Lisa plan to leave the ravaged city with the rest of the survivors and start a new life in the wilderness, leaving the Family behind to die.
Neville is successful in creating the serum and administers it to Lisa's teenage brother Richie (Eric Laneuville), who is on the verge of the advanced mutant stage of the plague. Once cured, Richie (insisting that members of the Family are also human) goes to the Family to try to convince them to take the serum. Matthias refuses to believe that Neville would try to help them, accuses Richie of being sent by Neville to harm them and has Richie executed. Neville discovers Richie’s body strung up and left as bait to draw Neville outside after dark. Enraged, Neville fights off the Family after they force his car off the road.
Meanwhile, Lisa unexpectedly changes into a nocturnal albino mutant and betrays Neville by giving the Family access to his bunker. Returning home, Neville is confronted by Matthias, who forces him to watch as the Family sets his home on fire. Neville breaks free and, once outside with Lisa, he turns and raises his sub-machine gun to shoot Matthias, who is looking down from the balcony. The gun jams, giving Matthias enough time to hurl a spear at Neville, mortally wounding him. It is assumed that Matthias and the Family choose to stay inside Neville's home as it continues to burn. Lisa claims to be part of the Family, but stays by the fountain with Neville until dawn.
The final scene shows the human survivors, led by Dutch, departing in a Land Rover. They discover a dying Neville, who hands Dutch a flask of blood serum, presumably with which to restore humanity. Shortly after handing over the serum Neville dies in a fountain, Dutch finds the spear and briefly looks over it before throwing it away, Neville symbolically posed in the traditional position of the crucified Christ. Dutch takes Lisa and the survivors away as they leave the city for good, leaving the Family to die, as Neville planned.a female Family member depositing a dead newborn mutant. Lisa can see the mother's grief and empathizes with the woman's loss despite them being on different sides. Lisa believes that all children, including her unborn baby, will suffer the same fate. Later, Lisa returns to Neville and tells him of the woman in the crypt. Neville asks Lisa if she "took care" of things and Lisa responds that since she may be a grieving parent in a few months, she will not kill a grief-stricken mother. Neville is shocked at first but then embraces Lisa.
The script for The Omega Man contains a scene where Lisa goes to visit her parents' grave. Unknown to Neville, Lisa is pregnant, and she goes to seek comfort from her deceased parents before they leave the city forever. While Lisa is talking to her parents' grave, she hears a sound and investigates a crypt. In it, she spots
While the scene was cut from the final film, the credit for "Woman in Cemetery Crypt" remains (Wikipedia, 2012).