Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Richard Matheson: He is legend

My one-sided relationship with Richard Matheson (I knew who he was, he never heard of me) goes back to at least 1959, when I read his novel, I Am Legend. Until that point in my life I did not realize a novel could take me and place me a setting, in a series of circumstances, and make me identify to the point it felt like I was the one experiencing it all. That's how real that novel was to me.

This is my copy of the original printing of I Am Legend, published July 1954 as a paperback original.

I Am Legend has been filmed three times. It was made as The Omega Man with Charlton Heston, The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price, and under its original title in 2007, starring Will Smith. Frankly, none of them ever captured the true feeling and spirit of the novel, and that even includes the last, even though the screenplay was written by Matheson.

The most successful adaptation of the novel wasn't really an adaptation at all; it was that it helped inspire George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968. (Romero also claims he was inspired by EC Comics of the fifties, but his movie looks more like Matheson’s story than it does Tales From the Crypt.)

You could draw a line from Matheson to the recent movie, World War Z, the megabuck picture starring Brad Pitt. An inspiration like that may not even know the genesis of its inspiration, but everyone making a movie about walking dead people owe a debt to I Am Legend. (Incidentally, the characters in I Am Legend are not walking dead; they are vampires, who became vampires from a virus. But the feelings of human beings at being besieged by people who are no longer human is the same, whether vampire or zombie.)

You could say that Matheson inspired Stephen King. Stephen King and I are the same age. We, and everyone else our age, grew up reading the same literature, watching the same movies (like Matheson-scripted versions of Poe for Roger Corman) and watching the same television shows (Matheson wrote some of the most popular episodes of The Twilight Zone (episodes like “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Little Girl Lost.”)

We saw Dennis Weaver trying to outrun a pissed-off semi-truck driver in Duel, shown as a TV movie in 1971, and directorial debut of Steven Spielberg. It came from Matheson’s short story in Playboy, which in turn he claims was inspired by his own highway encounter with a truck.

We saw the movies made from Matheson’s books (besides the aforementioned versions of I Am Legend), like The Legend of Hell House, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Somewhere in Time, or What Dreams May Come.

Matheson wrote some Western novels, and at least one novel set in World War II, The Beardless Warriors, which I read when I was in the Army in 1968.

Richard Matheson published dozens of short-stories. Before he hit the big time as a writer, his work mainly appeared in the science fiction magazines of the early 1950s. There were a lot of those magazines, and Matheson’s name on the cover meant people would buy the magazine just to read his latest story. He wasn’t as famous then as Ray Bradbury, but as time went on Richard Matheson built his own success, story by story, novel by novel, screenplay by screenplay, until his name was definitely on the A-List.

Some of my favorite short-story collections by Matheson:

Matheson, born February 20, 1926, died June 23, 2013 at age 87.

Richard Matheson bibliography:


    Someone is Bleeding (1953)
    Fury on Sunday (1953)
    I Am Legend (1954) filmed as The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, I Am Omega and I Am Legend
    The Shrinking Man (1956); filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man and subsequently reprinted under that title; also the basis of the film The Incredible Shrinking Woman
    A Stir of Echoes (1958); filmed as Stir of Echoes
    Ride the Nightmare (1959); adapted as an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and later filmed as Cold Sweat (1970 film)
    The Beardless Warriors (1960); filmed as The Young Warriors
    The Comedy of Terrors (1964), with Elsie Lee; filmed as The Comedy of Terrors
    Hell House (1971); filmed as The Legend of Hell House
    Bid Time Return (1975); filmed as Somewhere in Time and subsequently reprinted under that title
    What Dreams May Come (1978); filmed as What Dreams May Come
    Earthbound (Playboy Publications, 1982), as by Logan Swanson[4] — editorially abridged version; restored text published as by Richard Matheson, 1989[citation needed]
    Journal of the Gun Years (1992)
    The Gunfight (1993)
    7 Steps to Midnight (1993)
    Shadow on the Sun (1994)
    Now You See It ... (1995)
    The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickock (1996)
    The Path: A New Look at Reality (1999)
    Passion Play (2000)
    Hunger and Thirst (2000)
    Camp Pleasant (2001)
    Abu and the 7 Marvels (2002)
    Hunted Past Reason (2002)
    Come Fygures, Come Shadowes (2003)
    Woman (2006)
    Other Kingdoms (2011)
    Generations (2012)

Short stories:

    "Born of Man and Woman" (1950)
    "Third from the Sun" (1950); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1960)
    "The Waker Dreams" (a.k.a. "When the Waker Sleeps") (1950)
    "Blood Son" (1951)
    "Through Channels" (1951)
    "Clothes Make the Man" (1951)
    "Return" (1951)
    "The Thing" (1951)
    "Witch War" (1951)
    "Dress of White Silk" (1951)
    "F---" (a.k.a. "The Foodlegger") (1952)
    "Shipshape Home" (1952)
    "SRL Ad" (1952)
    "Advance Notice" (a.k.a. "Letter to the Editor") (1952)
    "Lover, When You're Near Me" (1952)
    "Brother to the Machine" (1952)
    "To Fit the Crime" (1952)
    "The Wedding" (1953)
    "Wet Straw" (1953)
    "Long Distance Call" (a.k.a. "Sorry, Right Number") (1953)
    "Slaughter House" (1953)
    "Mad House" (1953)
    "The Last Day" (1953)
    "Lazarus II" (1953)
    "Legion of Plotters" (1953)
    "Death Ship" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963)
    "Disappearing Act" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1959)
    "The Disinheritors" (1953)
    "Dying Room Only" (1953)
    "Full Circle" (1953)
    "Mother by Protest" (a.k.a. "Trespass") (1953)
    "Little Girl Lost" (1953); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1962)
    "Being" (1954)
    "The Curious Child" (1954)
    "When Day Is Dun" (1954)
    "Dance of the Dead" (1954); adapted as a Masters of Horror episode (2005)
    "The Man Who Made the World" (1954)
    "The Traveller" (1954)
    "The Test" (1954)
    "The Conqueror" (1954)
    "Dear Diary" (1954)
    "The Doll That Does Everything" (1954)
    "Descent" (1954)
    "Miss Stardust" (1955)
    "The Funeral" (1955); adapted as story segment for Rod Serling's Night Gallery
    "Too Proud to Lose" (1955)
    "One for the Books" (1955)
    "Pattern for Survival" (1955)
    "A Flourish of Strumpets" (1956)
    "The Splendid Source" (1956); the basis of the Family Guy episode "The Splendid Source".[22]
    "Steel" (1956); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963); loosely filmed as Real Steel (2011)
    "The Children of Noah" (1957)
    "A Visit to Santa Claus" (a.k.a. "I'll Make It Look Good," as Logan Swanson) (1957)
    "The Holiday Man" (1957)
    "Old Haunts" (1957)
    "The Distributor" (1958)
    "The Edge" (1958)
    "Lemmings" (1958)
    "Mantage" (1959)
    "Deadline" (1959)
    "The Creeping Terror" (a.k.a. "A Touch of Grapefruit") (1959)
    "No Such Thing as a Vampire" (1959)
    "Big Surprise" (a.k.a. "What Was in the Box") (1959)
    "Crickets" (1960)
    "Day of Reckoning" (a.k.a. "The Faces," "Graveyard Shift") (1960)
    "First Anniversary" (1960); adapted as an Outer Limits episode (1996)
    "From Shadowed Places" (1960)
    "Finger Prints" (1962)
    "Mute" (1962); adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (1963)
    "The Likeness of Julie" (as Logan Swanson) (1962); adapted into "Julie" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
    "The Jazz Machine" (1963)
    "Crescendo" (a.k.a. "Shock Wave") (1963)
    "Girl of My Dreams" (1963)
    "'Tis the Season to Be Jelly" (1963)
    "Deus Ex Machina" (1963)
    "Interest" (1965)
    "A Drink of Water" (1967)
    "Needle in the Heart" (a.k.a. "Therese") (1969); adapted into "Millicent and Therese" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
    "Prey" (1969); adapted into "Ameilia" in the 1975 TV film Trilogy of Terror
    "Button, Button" (1970); filmed as a The Twilight Zone episode in 1986; filmed as The Box (2009)
    "'Til Death Do Us Part" (1970)
    "By Appointment Only" (1970)
    "The Finishing Touches" (1970)
    "Duel" (1971); filmed as Duel (1971)
    "Big Surprise" (1971); adapted as story segment for Rod Serling's Night Gallery
    "Where There's a Will" (with Richard Christian Matheson) (1980)
    "And Now I'm Waiting" (1983)
    "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (as The Twilight Zone episode in 1963; as segment four of Twilight Zone: The Movie, 1983; first published in 1984)
    "Getting Together" (1986)
    "Buried Talents" (1987)
    "The Near Departed" (1987)
    "Shoo Fly" (1988)
    "Person to Person" (1989)
    "Two O'Clock Session" (1991)
    "The Doll" (as Amazing Storiesin 1986)
    "Go West, Young Man" (1993)
    "Gunsight" (1993)
    "Little Jack Cornered" (1993)
    "Of Death and Thirty Minutes" (1993)

Short story collections:

    Born of Man and Woman (1954)
    The Shores of Space (1957)
    Shock! (1961)
    Shock 2 (1964)
    Shock 3 (1966)
    Shock Waves (1970) Published as Shock 4 in the UK (1980)
    Button, Button (1970)
    Richard Matheson: Collected Stories (1989)
    By the Gun (1993)
    Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (2000)
    Pride with Richard Christian Matheson (2002)
    Duel (2002)
    Offbeat: Uncollected Stories (2002)
    Darker Places (2004)
    Unrealized Dreams (2004)
    Duel and The Distributor (2005) Previously unpublished screenplays of these two stories
    Button, Button: Uncanny Stories (2008) (Tor Books)
    Uncollected Matheson: Volume 1 (2008)
    Uncollected Matheson: Volume 2 (2010)
    Steel: And Other Stories (2011)
    Bakteria and Other Improbable Tales (2011) (e-book exclusive)

Richard Matheson Filmography:


    The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
    Beat Generation (1959)
    House of Usher (1960)
    Master of the World (1961)
    The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
    Burn Witch Burn (1962); a.k.a. Night of the Eagle (screenplay co-written with Charles Beaumont and George Baxt) based on the novel Conjure Wife by Fritz Leiber
    Tales of Terror (1962)
    The Raven (1963)
    The Comedy of Terrors (1963)
    The Last Man on Earth (as "Logan Swanson", based on Matheson's novel I Am Legend)(1964)
    Fanatic (1965)
    The Young Warriors (1967)
    The Devil Rides Out (1968)
    De Sade (1969)
    The Legend of Hell House (based on his novel) (1973)
    Somewhere in Time (based on his novel) (1980)
    Twilight Zone: The Movie: Fourth segment "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1983)
    Jaws 3-D (1983)
    Loose Cannons (1990)
    What Dreams May Come (film) (1998)
    The Box (2009)
    Real Steel (2011)

    Buckskin: "Act of Faith" (1959)
    Wanted Dead or Alive :"The Healing Woman" (1959)
    Twilight Zone: (16 episodes) (1959–1964)
    Have Gun Will Travel: "The Lady on The Wall" (1960)
    Bourbon Street Beat: "Target of Hate" (1960)
    Cheyenne: "Home Is The Brave" (1960)
    Lawman (Six episodes) (1960–1962)
    Thriller: "The Return of Andrew Bentley" (1961)
    Combat!: "Forgotten Front" (as Logan Swanson) (1962)
    The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "Ride the Nightmare" (1962)
    The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "The Thirty-First of February" (1963)
    The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.: "The Atlantis Affair" (1966)
    Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater : "Time of Flight" (1966)
    Star Trek: The Original Series: "The Enemy Within" (1966)
    Duel (1971)
    The Night Stalker (1972)
    Night Gallery (1972): " The Funeral" (1972)
    The Night Strangler (1973)
    Dying Room Only (1973)
    Circle of Fear (originally titled Ghost Story (1973))
    Bram Stoker's Dracula (1974)
    Scream of The Wolf (1974)
    The Morning After (1974)
    Trilogy of Terror (1975)
    Dead of Night (1977)
    The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver (1977)
    The Martian Chronicles mini-series (1979, 1980)
    Twilight Zone: "Button, Button" (as Logan Swanson) (1986)
    Amazing Stories: "One for the Books" (1987)
    Dreamer of Oz (1990)
    Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994)
    Trilogy of Terror II (1996)

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