New York City abandoned




That great staple of science fiction and horror stories—the derelict city—turns up again in the trailer for the latest adaptation of Richard Matheson’s pulp classic, I Am Legend. The novel has an obvious appeal for filmmakers since Matheson was an accomplished screenwriter and an expert at crafting taught, high concept storylines. Other notable productions of his work include The Incredible Shrinking Man (one of JG Ballard’s favourite films; currently being remade), British horror thriller Night of the Eagle, Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations, the Night Stalker/Night Strangler TV movies, Steven Spielberg’s early film, Duel, and one of the most memorable episodes of The Twilight Zone, ‘Nightmare at 20,000 feet‘.


First edition jacket (1954).

The premise of I Am Legend is simple and direct: what would it be like to be the last man on earth if vampires (actually plague victims with vampire-like symptoms) had taken over the world? The book was first filmed in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price. I’ve never seen this but due to one of those copyright quirks it’s now in the public domain and can be downloaded for free here. George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead (and his subsequent zombie saga) was influenced by Matheson’s novel, then a big budget version arrived in 1972, The Omega Man, with Charlton Heston in typical gung-ho mode. I was impressed with that when I saw it as a teenager but it now seems fatuous for the most part. The new film has Will Smith as Matheson’s lone survivor in a setting that greatly benefits from judicious use of CGI to roughen the views of the abandoned city (especially good in the HD trailer). I’ve no idea yet how this will fare as an adaptation. Matheson’s novel ends on a bleak note that a director like Romero would have no problem with but which Hollywood hates so I’m inclined to be suspicious; The Omega Man changed the tone and the ending of the book substantially. The film is released in December, so we’ll find out then.

The I Am Legend Archive

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13 thoughts on “New York City abandoned”

  1. No more so than little kids smashing their toys every now and then. We Aussies did much the same thing in the Mad Max series of films.


  2. Urban dystopia has been around for as long as there’s been science fiction. HG Wells destroyed London in War of the Worlds and the Japanese have a lengthy history of city-smashing, don’t they? You see it a lot in American films partly because the best special effects come from Hollywood and special effects now are better than they’ve ever been.

  3. John

    Impressive images, from a film that I suspect has only emerged from a decade or so of false starts after the U.S. success of 28 Days Later, which borrows heavily from the premise and tone of Matheson’s novel. Having been to New York twice (1993 and 2001 – the latter trip 6 months before you know what, during which I walked past the WTC, looked up and, on remembering the original attempt the bring one of the towers down, thought ‘Hmmm, if they had came down they’d make one hell of as mess…’) and seen it’s transition from neon mausoleum to tourist-friendly snowshaker, I for one will enjoy the sight of Times Square overgrown with weeds, with the lights switched OFF, filled with a silence that Beckett would approve of. And I think you’re right to be suspicious of an amended ending. I wonder what Hollywood will do the same with the rumoured film version of McCarthy’s The Road though?

  4. I think Ridley Scott was once slated to direct Arnold Schwarzenegger in the lead role, which is enough to make any sane man shudder…
    “A morgue-like silence” – just what this world needs.

  5. Looks like the perfect landscape to walk through while listening to Raison D’etre.

  6. Yes, Ridley Scott had plans for this for years. Can’t see how Arnie would have added anything that wasn’t already there in the Heston version. Director of this new one is the guy that made a mess of Constantine so it may well be that the trailer is the best thing about it.

    I shudder to think how The Road might get mangled in Hollywood’s claws. They’d want the main characters to have names for a start. The Coen Bros film of No Country for Old Men is a lot more promising, with this month’s Sight & Sound saying it’s a) a faithful adaptation and b) one of their best to date. Roll on November.

  7. Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys also had some good abandoned city shots although only briefly. Wintry and a lion (?) wandering around. It’s been ages since I saw it. Which city was it shot in again?

  8. I seem to recall reading that Twelve Monkeys was filmed in Canada somewhere. Toronto maybe?

  9. Where the Internet Movie Database comes in handy.

    Filming locations for 12 Monkeys:

    Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Maryland, USA
    Camden, New Jersey, USA

    City Hall – Broad and 15th Streets, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Delaware Generating Station, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Eastern State Penitentiary – 2124 Fairmont Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Garrett-Jacobs Mansion – 11 W. Mount Vernon Place, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

    Girard College – 2101 S. College Ave, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Memorial Hall – 42nd and Parkside, Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Met Theatre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Montréal, Québec, Canada

    Mount Vernon, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

    Philadelphia Convention Center – 1700 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Renfrew Center – 475 Spring Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Richmond Generating Station – 3901 N. Delaware Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Ridgeway Library – 901 S. Broad Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Senator Theatre – 5904 York Road, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
    Upperco, Maryland, USA

    Wanamaker’s Department Store – 1313 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

    Westport Power Plant, Baltimore, Maryland, USA

  10. Ha, god knows where I got the Canada thing from. Must have been confusing it with David Cronenberg’s films or something.

  11. I’m really behind here, didn’t know they were making this.

    Read about it in David Hughes’ The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, which is now fast becoming obsolete as Watchmen is also in there. I guess it’s like Jodorowsky’s Dune, reading about it and having it suspended in the imagination is somehow always better than the CGI landscapes we’re going to see in this. Still think Ridley would’ve done a good job as he was in his prime (and would’ve used matte paintings and probably a great old skool cinematography like Storaro, Ballhaus or Willis), and Schwarzenegger reeked of Sci-Fi with a skull like a robot.

    Will Smith they probably chose because of I Robot. Not sure about that one, although he proved he can act in that 6 Degrees of Separation.

    What happened to Stephen Norrington? LXG was not his fault as he had zero control –heard he renounced directing after that?–, but Blade had a great atmosphere and he could’ve pulled this one off.

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