Richard Matheson 1926-2013

Posted: 25th June 2013 by Podwits Administrator in Film, Literature, News, Obituaries, Television
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Richard MathesonRichard Matheson, the prolific writer of horror, sci fi and fantasy, passed away Monday at age 87. Matheson penned classics for well over sixty years and could almost be called the “Willie Dixon” of horror.

Matheson was born in New Jersey and raised in Brooklyn, New York, then moved to the west coast in 1951. His first professionally published short story, the brief vignette “Born of Man and Woman”, was published in the Summer 1950 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and he proceeded to write dozens of other brilliant, horrifying and fantastic short stories in various publications. As the pulps waned, Matheson’s career expanded to include television and film, often at the same time.

I Am LegendHis 1954 vampire/zombie classic I Am Legend has been filmed no less than three times: as The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price, in 1964; as The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston, in 1971, and under its original title, starring Will Smith, in 2007. It’s this author’s opinion that it’s a seminal work which should be taught in schools.

Matheson’s first screenplay, the beloved 1957 B movie The Incredible Shrinking Man, was an adaptation of his own 1956 novel The Shrinking Man. Matheson recalled in Stephen King’s 1981 non-fiction book Danse Macabre:

The entire novel was written in the cellar of (a) rented house in Long Island. I did a shrewd thing in that. I didn’t alter the cellar at all. There was a rocking chair down there and, every morning, I would go down into the cellar with my pad and pencil and I would imagine what my hero was up to that day. It took me 2 and a half months to write the novel.

Aside from I Am Legend, Matheson is perhaps best known for the fourteen episodes of the original Twilight Zone television series he wrote, many of which were based on his own short stories. Best known are “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet”, “The Invaders” and “Steel” (on which the 2011 film Real Steel, starring Hugh Jackman, was based).

KolchakHe also wrote the 1966 Star Trek episode “The Enemy Within,” and the teleplay for the 1971 television movie Duel, considered Steven Spielberg’s first feature length film. That year he also wrote a what became (up until that time) the most watched television film ever, The Night Stalker, which starred Darren McGavin as the intrepid, vampire-chasing reporter Carl Kolchak. He followed that up with a sequel, The Night Strangler, which in turn spawned the short-lived but fantastic TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, also starring McGavin.

Matheson’s work showed up everywhere, and his name was attached to a surprisingly varied list of projects: The Legend of Hell House, Stir of Echoes, What Dreams May Come and Somewhere in Time were all based upon novels or stories written by Richard Matheson.

The world of science fiction, fantasy and horror in all mediums is a less rich place with the passing of this genuine genre legend.