Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Robert Towne and Betsy Jones-Moreland
LAST WOMAN ON EARTH (1960). Director: Roger Corman.

Dubious businessman Harold Gern (Antony Carbone), his wife Evelyn (Betsy Jones-Moreland), and his lawyer Martin Joyce (Robert Towne, billed as Edward Wain) are out scuba diving off Puerto Rico when an unspecified disaster occurs that sucks oxygen out of the air and apparently kills everyone in the area -- possibly the whole world. Most sensible people would spend their time trying to find out how widespread the disaster was and if there were other survivors, but instead this trio simply gets embroiled in a rather dull domestic triangle, with Martin thinking it's perfectly okay for him to make time with Evelyn because with the supposed end of the world, the rules have changed. Huh? The pretentious and morally confused script was also written by Towne, who went on to greater fame as a screenwriter of such films as Shampoo and Chinatown. The characters aren't fully fleshed out, going through the motions as the script demands, and the actors are left with not much to work with. Unconventionally handsome, and not a bad actor, sensitive Towne could have had more of an acting career, but it wasn't in the cards. None of the actors gets across the enormity of what has occurred, but just seem to be reacting to say, infidelity on a Club Med vacation. Roger Corman's direction is typically adroit and the picture is fast-paced. But it just adds up to nothing. This was obviously influenced by the slightly superior Five, as well as The World, The Flesh, and the Devil. Ronald Stein's score helps a bit, but this could have used a few monsters. There's some talk about the unchecked growth of the insect population but nothing comes of this.

Verdict: Time-waster with an intriguing if unoriginal notion and little else. **.


Neil A Russell said...

The same weekend that Corman shot this he also had Towne crank out a script for the exceptionally silly "Creature from the Haunted Sea" which always had me thinking there was something wrong with me because I'd rather watch that instead of "Last Woman".
Ok, I'm kidding about the same weekend thing, but Corman is well known for recycling anything on his set to make as many films as possible for as little as possible. Fortunately for Roger, he had the talent to pull that sort of thing off.

angelman66 said...

Corman really was a founding father for so many budding talents. Did not know Towne was also an actor - he certainly was good looking enough...

William said...

Neil, it probably was the same weekend, as Corman shot some of these creepies in just two of three days. Now I'll have to check out "Haunted Sea," which I have not seen in years. Towne is in that one, too.

Chris, Towne wasn't Hollywood handsome as such, but he was attractive enough and a good enough actor but I think he felt the road was too tough and the competition too keen, or maybe writing was his first love.