CD: Last Man on Earth, The (1964)

December 3, 2013 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: Monstrous Movie Music / Released: November 6, 2012

Tracks & Album Length: 46 tracks / (54:31)


Special Notes: 20-page colour booklet with liner notes by David Schecter / Limited to 1000 copies.


Composer: Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter




A rare American International shocker not scored by Les Baxter, this beautifully mastered CD from Monstrous Movie Music showcases the underrated (and frankly fun) music of longtime writing team Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter, best known for their superb score for The Fly (1958).

With careers spanning various genres in film and TV series, The Last Man on Earth was the first adaptation of Richard Matheson’s novel I am Legend. Although displeased with the final results of his script (the author and burgeoning screenwriter used the alias Logan Swanson), the film held its own as a moody shocker about a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by humans infected with a vampiric bug.

Matheson’s Black Death parable in which an old, flawed species is poised to be overtaken by new hybrid was treated with a rich symphonic approach by the composers, grounding their work with a melancholic theme which either gushes with classic Romantic energy (much like The Fly) or is spun off into desperate variations evoking a never-ending quest, which in the hero’s case encompasses a need for security, companionship, and salvation from living as hunter.

MMM’s CD is the score’s first legit release (a bootleg was circulating several years ago) and while there’s a very slight coarseness to just a few high-end peaks in some early cues, the quality of this stereo recording is really stunning, largely because the composers had the music miked to capture the broadest possible scope of the orchestra while separating certain groups (namely woodwinds, vibes, strings, brass, and percussion). Many of Baxter’s scores only survive in mono (often their original recording format) because AIP was always trying to cut costs, making the Last Man recording a rare exception.

The composers often re-circulate pulsing motifs (“Killing Vampires”), and arching vocals sometimes punctuate the hero’s direct clashes with vampires (not to mention the “End Titles”), but there’s a palpable, slightly mystical quality to the score, even when the music addresses the ongoing loneliness of Humanity’s last survivor. Even the score’s final cues aren’t overly energetic, with any swelling passages receding for slow sections with sustained chords and pensive agitated strings.

MMM’s disc includes several bonus tracks (some lacking the vocal overdubs), plus a jazz source cue (“Vampire Bop”) which fill out the CD to a satisfying 54 mins. David Schecter’s liner notes provide another detailed overview of the score and its stellar composers, and the fat booklet is decorated with many archival stills.

Other Paul Sawtell-Bert Shefter scores available from MMM include Kronos paired with The Cosmic Man, The Virgin Sacrifice, and Shefter’s western score for The Tall Texan [M] (1953).



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

IMDB: Sawtell / ShefterSoundtrack Album — Composer Filmographies: Sawtell / Shefter


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