One of the greatest American Horror and Sci-Fi authors of all time has passed away at the age of 87. Richard Matheson wrote some incredibly influential novels such as I am Legend, The Shrinking Man, A Stir of Echoes, Hell House, Somewhere in Time and What Dreams May Come just to name a few. Several of his short stories were made into episodes of the Twilight Zone and Rod Serling’s Night Gallery such as Nightmare at 20,000 Feet featuring William Shatner In the lead role.
Matheson also wrote some excellent made for TV movies in the 70s including Duel, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Kolchak: The Night Strangler, Dead of Night, Dan Curtis’ Dracula, and Trilogy of Terror. Trilogy of Terror was unforgettable with an amazing performance by Karen Black in an anthology of three short stories written by Matheson. Kolchak went on to inspire a very successful TV series starring Darren McGavin that in turn inspired many modern shows like X-Files and Supernatural. Matheson has often been compared to Ray Bradbury, another prolific Sci-Fi author, for his many contributions to classic TV. Even Stephen King says he was a huge influence on his own writing.
Matheson will be sorely missed in the Horror community but he leaves behind an impressive following. What a legacy of Horror to leave behind for his fans. Thank you Mr. Matheson for all the stories and nightmares, but thanks especially for the dreams that may come.
After going through the extensive list of movies and TV shows that Matheson was involved with, I have come up with an excellent list of movies to try out…
5. Duel (1971)
Duel is a perfect example of how a simple story with only a few characters can be full of suspense. The film was directed by Stephen Speilberg and is based on one of Matheson’s short stories by the same name. It stars Dennis Weaver who is on the run from a psychotic Truck driver toying with him on a long road trip.
During the filming of Duel there was only one truck on hand for the shooting of all the scenes, so Speiberg had just one shot to get the final scene right.
4. The Devil Rides Out (1968)
The Devil Rides Out is actually based on a 1934 novel by Dennis Wheatley. The screenplay was written by Richard Matheson for Hammer Studios and was directed by Terence Fisher, one of the best directors employed by Hammer.
The film stars Christopher Lee in one of the few roles where he gets to play the hero instead of the villain and is one of my favourite Hammer Movies starring Lee. Lee finds a strange Cult that is worshipping Satan and even manages to manifest the devil himself in a ceremony. Lee and a group of friends must fight off the evil Mocata before he raises the Devil again for good.
3. The Legend of Hell House (1973)
Matheson wote the screenplay for Legend of Hell House and is based on a novel of his simply called Hell House. It stars Roddy McDowall as a psychic medium that is invited back to Hell House in order to provide proof that it is haunted even though he barely escaped with his life on a previous visit.
An out of the ordinary and extremely effective ghost story is the result. The suspense is slowly built up and you are not really sure what is going on until the surprise ending.
2. The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
During the sixties Roger Corman and Vincent Price collaborated on several films together based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. It became a very successful franchise and attempted to compete with the wildly popular Hammer Horror Studio from Britain. Matheson wrote the screenplays for several of Roger Corman’s well known movies such as House of Usher, Pit and the Pendulum, Tales of Terror, and The Raven all starring Vincent Price.
Roger Corman recently tweeted “Richard Matheson was a close friend and the best screen writer I ever worked with. I always shot his first draft. I miss him”. Pit and the Pendulum is the second movie from Corman and Matheson, and its a true classic of Gothic Horror.
1. The Last Man on Earth (1964)
There are several movie versions of I am Legend including the recent one starring Will Smith and the 70s version, The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston. However the closest adaptation of the novel is the original movie starring the one and only Vincent Price. Not only is it one of Mr. Price’s best performances but I think it best depicts the despair and agony that Dr. Morgan feels being the sole survivor of world wide plague of Vampirism.
At night Morgan locks himself in his house safely away from the vampires but during the day he ventures out to stake as many vampires as he can and burns their bodies. Matheson has said that he was inspired by a screening of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi when he was very young for the story of I am Legend. He said if one Vampire is scary, then what if the entire world were Vampires and you were the only human left?