'The Last Man on Earth,' in Classic Cool Context

Happy Halloween! This Wednesday at 9 p.m. , KCET brings you 1964's "The Last Man on Earth," a sci-fi horror classic about a doctor who believes himself to be the sole survivor of a plague that's turned the human race into vampires. This is the latest entry in KCET's "Classic, Cool Theater" series, which aims to give you not only a great film but also a vintage cartoon, two newsreels and an of-the-era musical number. All those extras add up to what makes "Classic Cool Theater" so special: context. In the spirit of this unique package, we're offering you a peek at the America -- and the Los Angeles -- that received "The Last Man on Earth" on March 8, 1964.

Vincent Price became a vampire hunting "legend" long before Will Smith did. Both "The Last Man on Earth" and 1971's Charlton Heston starrer, "The Omega Man," are adaptations of Richard Matheson's 1954 horror novel, "I Am Legend." The book was most recently turned into a summer blockbuster of the same name starring Will Smith in 2007.

Here are the trailers to both of those films:

Take a Closer Look Back

While the plague in "The Last Man on Earth" that turned humans into bloodthirsty vampires is fictional, the United States experienced its largest rubella epidemic ever in 1964. The disease, also known as the "German measles," is a viral infection spread through the air that causes a rash on the skin. That year, 20,000 cases of Congenital Rubella Syndrome were diagnosed, which occurs when an infected mother passes the disease on to her child during pregnancy, leading to deafness, eye abnormalities and heart disease in the baby, among other symptoms. The vaccine wasn't licensed until five years later.

It just so happens that a blood-related disorder was responsible for bringing the Beatles to Los Angeles in 1964. No one in the group suffered from the condition, but they all showed up to a Hemophilia Foundation fundraiser thrown by the head of Capitol Records: Alan Livingston. Here's news footage from the event:

"The Last Man on Earth" was filmed in Rome, Italy and also stars Franca Bettoja, Emma Danieli and Giacomo Rossi Stuart. The movie was directed by Sidney Salkow and Ubaldo Ragona.