A god amongst writers has fallen.
When Ray Harryhausen died, that was a tough day. Not many people in my generation got the chance to be raised on the mans work like I was. Thankfully, I had a father that saw fit to expose me to his films. The fact that the man no longer walks the earth still hasn’t settled in with me.
If Harryhausen was the godfather of movie magic and special effects, then Richard Matheson was the simply a god amongst writers. Little did I know when I was a kid, and my dad was showing me old Twilight Zone episodes and trying to freak me out with Trilogy of Terror that one man was behind most of it. That man was Matheson.
Richard Matheson was a one of a kind writer. Unique in his tales of horror, scifi, fantasy. He was never held down by one specific genre. He wrote numerous books and short stories that ended up being adapted, by the man himself, for the Twilight Zone. Episodes like Steel (That inspired Real Steel), Little Lost Girl, and possibly his most famous, A Nightmare at 20,000 feet. (There’s something one the wing!) He wrote screenplays for the telemovies of Kolchak the Night Stalker, the western Lawman, and even wrote an episode of the original Star Trek “The Enemy Within”. In the 70’s many of his short stories found themselves as made for TV films. Most famously were Trilogy of Terror, which featured Karen Black fighting off a possessed Zuni fetish doll, and more importantly, he wrote the film that would start the career of a young upstart director named Steven Spielberg with Duel.
Suspense was his art. Terror was his brush strokes. He commanded an unique voice amongst literature by added s bit of realism to the supernatural. Most famously perhaps in his most well known work of all time, I Am Legend. The tale of the last normal man on Earth surrounded by Vampires. Not zombies, but Vampires. His take on the Nosferatu was spelled out in the pages of his opus as not a curse, but by a germ. Predating the Zombie craze by ten years when George Romero, who cited Matheson’s work as inspiration, would create Night of the Living Dead. The book would go on to be adapted 3 times. The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, Omega Man starring Charlton Heston, and most recently, I Am Legend starring Will Smith. While all had their unique take on the source material, no one has yet to properly adapt that book in my opinion.
Matheson left behind a variable kings ransom of work that has forever influenced the literary and film world as we know. With out Matheson, people like Ann Rice or Stephen King might not be who they are today. The man’s career spanned a whopping 60 years, and he was still going up until his death yesterday.
No details on what finally took him from the world, but he was 87.
Matheson will always live on in his works. He will, ironically, go down in history, as a legend.