Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Last Woman on Earth

The BLOG! Movie of the Week this time around is THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH from 1960, produced and directed by Roger Corman, made in Puerto Rico for tax purposes, and shot back-to-back-to-back with BATTLE OF BLOOD ISLAND and CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA. The movie stars the same three leads as CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, Anthony Carbone, Robert Towne a/k/a Edward Wain, and the lovely Betsy Jones-Moreland as the title character.

It's a love triangle with an apocalyptic twist, featuring three largely unsympathetic characters: the gambler, the lawyer, and, of course, the title character, who turns out to a be a two-timing two-bit tramp. There are two versions of the movie out there, the original, full-color theatrical version and the expanded-for-television edition, in living back & white, which contains scenes filmed three years later by director Monte Hellman to pad out the running time.

The married couple Harold and Evelyn Gern, are played by Anthony Carbone and Betsy-Jones Moreland. Tony Carbone was born in Italy in 1927, and was raised in Syracuse. Looking to get out of the snow belt, Carbone headed west to Hollywood and made his film debut as "Foxy Gilbert" in 1959's ARSON FOR HIRE. He soon fell in with Roger Corman, who exploited his uncanny resemblance to Humphrey Bogart in such films as CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, BUCKET OF BLOOD, and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM. He also got steady work in TV, on such series as THE UNTOUCHABLES, THE OUTCASTS, and on THE MAN FROM UNCLE in the episode "The Love Affair" where he played "Brother Truth."

THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH is played by Betsy Jones-Moreland, who was blessed with great cheekbones. Discovered by Roger Corman in 1956, when she was appearing in the LA production of THE SOLID GOLD CADILLAC, she was cast in a supporting role in THE SAGA OF THE VIKING WOMEN AND THEIR VOYAGE TO THE WATERS OF THE GREAT SEA SERPENT, after which Corman chose her to star as the title character in this film. After that, it was mostly televison stuff on series such as ROUTE 66, THE BOLD ONES, and MY FAVORITE MARTIAN. She wound up her acting career playing the judge on seven PERRY MASON made-for-TV movies, alongside fellow animal rights activist Raymond Burr. Betsy Jones-Moreland passed away in April of 2006 at the age of 75 in El Monte, California.

The character of Martin Joyce, the lawyer, fifth wheel, and odd man out in our little drama is played by Edward Wain, better known as Robert Towne, who also wrote the screenplay for this gem. When Roger Corman was ready to leave for Puerto Rico to make the movie, Towne hadn't finished the script, so he was drafted to act in the film as well. That way, he could finish writing the movie and Roger wouldn't have to pay two people. The script is both underwritten and overwritten, full of heaviosity and over-the-topness.

Towne would go on to write the Academy Award winning screenplay to CHINATOWN and make a very nice living as a script doctor on such films as BONNIE & CLYDE and THE GODFATHER. He's still at it, having written DAYS OF THUNDER and the first two MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE movies for his pal Tom Cruise, and most recently, the 2006 film version of John Fante's ASK THE DUST.

After Evleyn leaves Harold for Martin, her husband catches up with them, leading to the big fight scene, where the gambler attempts to bludgeon the lawyer with a tuna.

SPOILER ALERT: After Harold kills Martin in a church, the murdering swine and his unfaithful lush of a wife patch it up and get back together in the end. At least Harold knows Evelyn won't be cheating on him again, so they can start repopulating the planet with little drunks and gamblers.

A low-budget variation of ON THE BEACH, THE LAST WOMAN ON EARTH is what they used to call a message picture, and the message seems to be "Humanity sucks."

The original version is available on DVD in a nice widescreen transfer as part of ROGER CORMAN's PUERTO RICO TRILOGY from Retrovision Media, and in lesser-quality prints from Alpha Video and other purveyors of public domain titles.

No comments: