To the Ultimate Luddites: “Build Coffins, That’s All You’ll Need”

   Charlton Heston as Robert Neville, the last scientist on earth.  Source of photo:


In the 1970s, one of my favorite films was "The Omega Man" (1971) starring Charlton Heston as the doctor/scientist who was the last healthy man on earth.  A plague had killed most of humanity, leaving a few in a demented "tertiary" condition.  Heston as "Robert Neville" had developed a vaccine, but only had been able to test it on himself, as the world collapsed.  

Those in the "tertiary" state had been organized by a former broadcast commentator named "Matthias" into the "family" whose goal it was to burn books, and destroy all remnants of science and technology. 

At one point near the end, the family captures Neville, and as the family destroys Neville’s paintings, and laboratory, Matthias rants that Neville is the last scientist, the last remnant of the old world, and that all will be well when they have destroyed him.  Then comes one of my favorite exchanges.


Matthias: Now we must build.

Robert Neville: Build coffins, that’s all you’ll need.


When I saw the movie again today (3/16/07) for the first time in decades, I was worried that I had built it up in my memory, and that the reality would be way disappointing. 

I was relieved to see that the movie, though not perfect, was still plenty good enough.


One thought on “To the Ultimate Luddites: “Build Coffins, That’s All You’ll Need””

  1. Try watching it in Autumn 2021 at the height of the Covid-19 Pandemic…It becomes quite eerie in light of all that has gone on…Denialism, Woodstock footage gone ironic and unheeded in the age of social distancing…People who won’t stay in their homes, no masks anywhere for a respiratory contagion, overwhelmed hospitals and medical staff, civil disorder, bodies left in the streets, attacks on the police, National Guard on standby, collapse of government, China involved in belligerent acts, germ warfare, experimental vaccine, a portion of the population who does not want the vaccine and hates scientists (The Family)…A portion of the population who does not trust The Man and The Establishment (Lisa, Dutch, and the kids)…Old racial grudges (Brother Zachary, Lisa in the original script)…Pregnancy in the age of pandemic (Lisa and Robert Neville, original script)…Kids who let their ideals get in the way of rational caution (Richie)…Bizarre, End Times, technology/vaccine-hating religious group (Matthias and The Family)…Crushing Pandemic isolation (Robert Neville, Lisa & Richie)…Look at the opening credits with the abandoned school room — nowadays it is chilling…

    I actually run an FYI Covid series on my Facebook page with some features “Life Imitating Art” referencing clips from The Omega Man…

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