Richard Matheson dies: A look back at his big-screen legacy

June 25, 2013 | 4:31 p.m.

"The Incredible Shrinking Man" (1957): Grant Williams plays Scott Carey, a man who begins to shrink after being exposed to radiation and insecticide, in this adaptation of Richard Matheson's 1956 novel "The Shrinking Man." (AMC)

"The Last Man on Earth" (1964): Vincent Price plays Dr. Robert Morgan, who survives a plague that turns humanity into vampires, in this adaptation of Matheson's 1954 novel "I Am Legend." (Los Angeles Times Archive)

"The Omega Man" (1971): Also based on Matheson's "I Am Legend," this adaptation starred Charlton Heston as the protagonist, Army Dr. Robert Neville. (Los Angeles Times Archive)

"The Legend of Hell House" (1973): John Hough directed this adaptation of Matheson's ghost story "Hell House." (Handout)

"Somewhere in Time" (1980): Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve starred in this time-travel romance, an adaptation of Matheson's 1975 novel "Bid Time Return." (Universal Studios)

"Jaws 3-D" (1983): Matheson penned the screenplay for this sequel, in which a 35-foot shark gets trapped in a theme park. (Nuart Theatre)

"Twilight Zone: The Movie" (1983): Vic Morrow is shown in a scene from the film, which finally saw some of Matheson's "Twilight Zone" stories on the big screen. (TV Land)

"What Dreams May Come" (1998): Robin Williams plays a dead man who searches for his wife in the afterlife in this film based on Matheson's 1978 novel of the same name. (NBC)

"Stir of Echoes" (1999): Based in Matheson's 1958 novel "A Stir of Echoes," this mystery starred Kevin Bacon as a blue-collar worker haunted by visions of a ghost girl. (Michael P. Weinstein / Artisan Entertainment)

"I Am Legend" (2007): In yet another adaptation of Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name, Will Smith plays the vampire-hunting protagonist Robert Neville. (Warner Bros.)

"The Box" (2009): Richard Kelly directed this film, based on Matheson's 1970 short story "Button, Button." In the film, James Marsden and Cameron Diaz play a couple who are given a box and told that opening it will grant them $1 million, but kill someone they don't know. (Dale Robinette / Warner Bros.)

"Real Steel" (2011): This robot boxing film, starring Hugh Jackman and Charlie Kenton, is based on Matheson's 1956 short story "Steel." (DreamWorks Pictures)

Science-fiction writer Richard Matheson died on Sunday at age 87, leaving a legacy of some of the best genre storytelling in literature, television and film.

Matheson’s prolific career includes dozens of novels and more than 100 short stories, not to mention screenplays for the big and small screens. Among Matheson’s works are “A Stir of Echoes,” “Ride the Nightmare” and his 1954 novel “I Am Legend” (on which no less than three movies were based, including the 2007 Will Smith feature), as well as many of “The Twilight Zone’s” most memorable episodes, such as “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.” Matheson also wrote several Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, including “House of Usher,” “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Raven,” for filmmaker Roger Corman.

Matheson had been scheduled to receive the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films’ Visionary Award during the Saturn Awards on Wednesday. The award will be presented posthumously, and the event will now be dedicated to him.

“We are heartbroken to lose a writer of towering talent, unlimited imagination and unparalleled inspiration,” said Robert Holguin, president of the academy, in a statement. “Richard was a genius whose visions helped bring legitimacy and critical acclaim to science fiction and fantasy…. Richard’s accomplishments will live on forever in the imaginations of everyone who read or saw his inspired and inimitable work.”

Among the many creators the writer influenced are Stephen King, who cites Matheson as his greatest influence as an author, and Steven Spielberg, whose early film “Duel” is based on Matheson’s short story of the same name.

“Richard Matheson’s ironic and iconic imagination created seminal science-fiction stories and gave me my first break,” Spielberg said in a statement released Monday. “For me, he is in the same category as Bradbury and Asimov.”

Spielberg wasn’t the only creative heavyweight to mourn Matheson’s passing. Roger Corman, Joe Dante, Neil Gaiman, John Lithgow and others took to Twitter to remember the writer’s legacy. Check out their tweets below. Click through the gallery above for a look at some of Matheson’s memorable silver screen contributions. And read more about his career on our sister blog, Movies Now.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark

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Comments


7 Responses to Richard Matheson dies: A look back at his big-screen legacy

  1. Jennifer says:

    I am a fan of Mr. Matheson's work and think he was a brilliant writer that contributed much to the literary world. I hope his afterlife is as brightly colored and free as he imagined in the novel What dreams may come. Rest in peace.

  2. AGE says:

    Richard Matheson, "looked out over the new people of the earth. He knew he did not belong to them; he knew that, like the vampires, he was anathema and black terror to be destroyed. And, abruptly, the concept came, amusing to him even in his pain. … Full circle. A new terror born in death, a new superstition entering the unassailable fortress of forever." And seeing no other option, Mr. Matheson, decided to sprinkle his subtle craft and make himself legend.

    Thank you for so many hours of reading and seeing your stories unfold in my childhood. I am truly sad at your passing. Hasta Luego Amigo!

  3. Captain Video says:

    If it wasn't for Richard Matheson, zombies would not be rampaging across movie and TV screens today!
    His novel, "I am Legend", and the first movie adaptation, "The Last Man on Earth", were the inspiration for George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" which redefined "zombies" in pop culture.
    In addition, Matheson was one of the three major contributors to the original "Twilight Zone" (along with creator Rod Serling and Charles Beaumont) with his most famous story, 'Nightmare at 20,000 Feet' filmed twice.
    Add to that a plethora of novels and short stories, most of which were adapted into tv episodes and movies, plus his own screenplay adaptations of other authors' works (including Roger Corman's Edgar Allan Poe flicks), and his own original scripts for shows like "Star Trek", and you have an amazing, creative, talent who will be missed.
    See the tribute at &lt ;http://captainvideossecretsanctum.blogspot.com/2013/06/richard-matheson-1926-2013.html>

  4. plaxton emmons says:

    Fairwell, Mr. Matheson. Thank you very much for your inspiration on me. I am now a published writer(of a collection of horror stories and dark poetry, "Ghoulish Games and Other Eerie Tales) and I've read your novel "I am Legend," one of the greatest horror/sci-fi novels every written.

    You won't be forgotten, Richard. You may count on that!

  5. Danny says:

    Sad day. My favorite writer is gone. Love his work forever. RIP.

  6. Gene H. says:

    Mr. Matheson,

    You and Harlan Ellison were the first two writers who convinced me that being able to write a screenplay didn't mean you couldn't just be a d*mn good writer.

    You Are Legend. R.I.P.

  7. Satya Keshava says:

    One of the best futuristic short Sci-Fi story by Mr Matheson is
    "Steel", in which a struggling prizefighter (in the period the
    fighters employed a robot) substitutes himself for his broken
    down and obsolete machine. Moving story. It was later
    adapted for Twililight Zone with Lee Marvin as the lead character.
    It made me a devotee of his short stories.

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