He Is Legend: Richard Matheson RIP
I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say that Richard Matheson has been a more influential genre writer than even Stephen King — who of course was greatly influenced by his scripts for THE TWILIGHT ZONE series and THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN (1956) and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1960), along with his novels such as the original modern zombie tale, “I AM LEGEND” (1954). He transcended generations, working from the 1950’s all the way up until his exit from this realm at age 87. He excelled in his scribe arena when given reign and respect; Roger Corman said today on his passing; “Richard Matheson was a close friend and the best screenwriter I ever worked with. I always shot his first draft. I will miss him.”
He remains in modest anonymity among the masses, despite his imprint on TV, film and literature. Possibly because his work was more eclectic, organic and he never developed a characteristic “voice” outside his innate creative intelligence. He not only wrote the killer truck classic, DUEL (1971), Steven Spielberg’s first feature but veered into science fiction romance with “BID TIME RETURN” (1975) which became beloved as the film SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1979), inspiring intense cult devotion (and remains John Barry’s best-selling score!). He wrote the fantastic script for THE NIGHT STALKER (1972), creating one of the genre’s most unique characters, occult reporter Carl Kolchak; and the best haunted house film of the 1970’s, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE (1973) — one of the few movie posters I own. His work on TRILOGY OF TERROR left a tubed generation scarred by the screeching stabbing “Zuni” doll. He wrote steadily into the 1980’s, re-teaming up with Steven Spielberg for TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1982) and his TV series, AMAZING STORIES. Matheson’s son, Chris, wrote BILL AND TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and the pair worked together as well. Matheson remained hotter in the aughts with 100 million dollar adaptations of I AM LEGEND (2007) and REAL STEEL (2011) and others in the Hollywood pipeline.
And finally, some of Richard Matheson’s own wise words from “WHAT DREAMS MAY COME”:
“If men only felt about death as they do about sleep, all terrors would cease. . . Men sleep contentedly, assured that they will wake the following morning. They should feel the same about their lives.”