MEALS FOR MONSTERS: THE LAST MAN ON EARTH
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel
This year, on May 27th, Vincent Price would have been 102 years old. This year also marks a decade since his passing. Price had a rare talent for adding a touch of class to even the most lowly, trashy films. Because of this, and his superior acting chops, he was in constant demand for decades, and graced us with over a hundred film roles. It’s a great icebreaker among other horror film fans to play the “What’s Your Favorite Vincent Price Film?” game. However, whatever answer they give is wrong…unless they name THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964).
LAST MAN ON EARTH was the first adaptation of Richard Matheson’s classic vampire novel, I am Legend, and is definitely the most loyal to the source material, even more so than the recent version that bares its name. For those unfamiliar with the story, a plague has ravaged the planet. It quickly kills the infected, who then return to life as something else. They stumble mindlessly yet relentlessly, as zombies, but cannot stand the light or garlic, and can be killed by a wooden stake through the heart. The disease was brutal and heavily contagious. In fact, almost everyone on the planet has fallen to the sickness. Everyone, it seems, but Price’s Robert Morgan. A scientist who once studied the plague, after watching both his wife and young daughter die, has become a shell of a man, hunting down and killing the other beings by day, and at night, hoping that somewhere out in the world is another person, that he really isn’t the last man left on Earth.
I’m trying to come up with something negative to say about THE LAST MAN ON EARTH, but I can’t. That said, I can understand why some people aren’t so enamored. The flick is very claustrophobic; a large chunk of it consists of Price alone onscreen, or with a zombie. Among the parts where he is interacting with others is an extended flashback sequence, where we get to watch with Price as his daughter and wife succumb. These are not your typical horror movie “why our hero needs revenge” scenes. No, they’re heartbreakingly real. Opposite his usual role as the wacked mad scientist with sinister, but exuberant, glee, in LAST MAN, Price reminded audiences that he was a true artist, capable of subtlety and nuance. And, although some horror fans might be scared away from this film, I would recommend this for a dinner and a movie in, and toast the life of one of the great ones, if not the greatest.
Throughout LAST MAN, Morgan drinks coffee. Quite a bit of coffee. He offers coffee to his wife and friends, his recent acquaintances. But now and then he needed a sip of the hard stuff to get him through the emotional turmoil until the next day started. Combining those, I offer up a mug of:
LAST COFFEE ON EARTH
1 mug of good coffee
1 shot Irish whiskey
1/4 tsp lemon extract
Splash of cream
Mix that up and enjoy one or two before dinner.
With dinner, I suggest a nice glass of wine. Not just because it would taste good with the main dish, but because Price himself was a connoisseur and even recorded an LP extolling its virtues. I had to acknowledge that when coming up with a dinner. Yet, I couldn’t ignore the vast amounts of garlic used in the movie (wreaths of bulbs were always on Morgan’s door). The raspberries? They just taste good. So, for a dinner with LAST MAN, please enjoy:
RASPBERRY GARLIC COQ AU VIN
2 tbsp olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (halved through the center)
Salt and pepper to taste
10 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 bottle white wine
2 heaping tbsp raspberry preserves
2 tbsp butter
Minced chives (optional)
Heat the oil in a pan. Salt and pepper the chicken. Sauté until browned and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and cover to keep warm.
In remaining oil, sauté the shallot and garlic until just barely browned, about a minute or so. Pour in the bottle of wine, and let reduce by about 3/4. Add the preserves and stir in as it melts down. Adjust the salt and pepper after this step. Stir in the butter. Once butter is melted, return chicken to pan and heat through. Serve over rice and sprinkle with chives.
I had a similar dilemma when figuring out a dessert. Price, not only was he a wine lover, but a gourmet as well, having authored numerous cookbooks. One of his after-dinner specialties was the “Ice Box Cake” and its many variations (Ice Box Cake being a fancy term for an ice cream cake). Yet I couldn’t ignore making it relevant to the film, and the one scene that stuck in my mind was the flashback to Morgan’s daughter’s birthday party. Her last birthday party, and perhaps even the last birthday party celebrated by humans. In that scene, Morgan is discussing this new plague, but is interrupted by his daughter wanting him to come eat some cake. What kind of ice box cake would be fitting for a little girl’s birthday party? Ice cream cupcakes!
ICE BOX CUPCAKES
1 dozen cupcakes, freshly baked, either by box mix or scratch
1 or 2 pints ice cream, softened (amount depends on what kind of ice cream used
(NOTE: flavors of all the above are your choice, just make sure they are flavors that blend well together)
Prepare cupcakes as directed by the instructions. After they’ve cooled, take a spoon and scoop about an inch worth of cake from the center. Fill with softened ice cream and refreeze. Once the ice cream is hardened again, frost and decorate.
(NOTE–the density of the ice cream used will determine how many pints are needed. Lighter ice creams like Dryers get compacted as they are melted and refrozen. On the other hand, things like gelatos start out pretty dense don’t change much in the process. Both have tasty, tasty endings, so both will work equally as well.)
I have to amend my earlier comment about THE LAST MAN ON EARTH being the only acceptable answer to “What was Vincent Price’s best film role.” WHALES OF AUGUST (1987) would also be okay, as long as we’re including non-starring roles and non-horror movies. He was simply brilliant in that as well. So pop one or the other in the DVD player, raise a glass (or mug) and wish a posthumous happy birthday to one of the best things to ever happen to horror films. Happy Birthday, Mr. Price!
© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel