How odd to see Vincent Price in The Last Man on Earth (Sidney Salkow 1964) wandering alienated through the same virtually deserted suburban neighborhood of Rome through which an alienated Monica Vitti wandered in Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’eclisse (aka The Eclipse, 1962).
Odder still to see how the ending of L’eclisse dovetails into the beginning of The Last Man on Earth. The famous ending of L’eclisse is a montage of all the locations that Vitti’s character and her lover played by Alain Delon visited together during the tentative beginnings of their relationship, a relationship that goes nowhere, not because of any flaw in the lovers themselves, but due to the sterile, oppressive nature of the world they live in, and the ever-present threat of nuclear annihilation. It is a montage of places, buildings, and streets from which human life is virtually absent.
The Last Man on Earth begins with a remarkably similar montage of deserted locations. In that same suburban Italian neighborhood!
Only in The Last Man on Earth, the neighborhood is supposed to be in America, and the reason why it’s deserted is due to a worldwide plague that has turned everyone except Vincent Price into shuffling zombie-like vampires who sleep during the day and prowl at night. (The Last Man on Earth was based on Richard Matheson’s classic sci-fi/horror novel, “I Am Legend,” which was also the inspiration for The Omega Man (1971) starring Charlton Heston, I Am Legend (2007) starring Will Smith, and – uncredited – George A. Romero’s 1968 The Night of the Living Dead.) The closing montage of L’eclisse foreshadows a world without humanity. The opening montage of The Last Man on Earth shows us that world.
Aside from the ‘shroom-like tower common to both films, there are the distinctively modern curved lamposts that appear in so many of both films’ exterior shots. Antonioni seemed to find them particularly alarming. The last shot of L’eclisse is a close-up of one such lamp, glowing unnaturally – a portent of mankind’s end.