I caught this silent at the Museum of Modern Art a couple of days ago.
The title tells the basic story. A disease called ‘masculitis’ kills every male in the world over the age of 14. A female scientist tells us that this will mean the quick end of the human race. Personally, I think they’re underestimating 14-year-old boys.
Our leading man --The Last Man on Earth -- is Earle Fox. To me he seemed like a cross between Fred MacMurray and Joe E. Brown, with a healthy dose of Arthur Lake thrown in.
It’s dramatically acceptable that the guy wants only his lifelong lady love, but it’s not acceptable that he’s so afraid of, and unaccepting of, all those other women. He hates being the Last Man. I suspect that most male viewers, even in 1924, thought the guy was an idiot.
When the movie jumps from 1924 to 1940, the fashions become really bizarre and ridiculous. But everything else -- hairstyles, language, airplanes -- are stuck in ‘24.
The bulk of the story takes place in the far future world of 1950. The year of my birth.
Among the Last Man’s travails -- being auctioned off by (female) gangsters, then being co-opted by the government, then having his fate decided by a boxing match --on the Senate Floor -- between two Senatoresses (yes, that’s right) who both want him in the worst way. So the Senatoress from Virginia boxes, for several screen minutes, the Senatoress from California. It’s all silly but let me just say that the lady from California (not credited on the film or at IMDb) is a bit of all right.
I found it odd that, in this future world, though there are no men to attract or impress, there’s still an awful lot of short-shorts, high heels, and shaved legs. I know, it’s the movies. But I notice these things.
It’s a nice and funny touch that the President of the United States is a dotty old cat lady. More should have been made of that.
In the absence of men, no one has cleaned up the White House or the Capitol, so both are dirty and overgrown. Well, everybody knows that women can’t cut the grass.
They’re also not much at government apparently, because we’re told that the Senate is the only governing body remaining in the country.
Another funny touch: the female bartender who straps a belted thing around her bust, attaches a martini shaker to it, and then vibrates her upper half. It gives new meaning to shaken, not stirred.
THE LAST MAN ON EARTH is silly but not silly enough. It gets pretty tedious pretty quickly. Thankfully, MoMA supplied a pianist to accompany the movie. This lady, bless her, worked herself to a frazzle, trying to add some life to this dead fish. Without her, I suspect even the hoity-toity MoMA crowd might have seen a buncha walkouts. As it was, the movie got a very mild reaction. The pianist got a huge ovation. Justice.
Click here for my deathless comments on this film's superior remake, IT'S GREAT TO BE ALIVE