Richard Burton Matheson (February 20, 1926 – June 23, 2013) was an American author and screenwriter, primarily in the fantasy, horror, and science fiction genres. He is best known as the author of I Am Legend, a 1954 science fiction horror vampire novel that has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Matheson also wrote 16 television episodes of The Twilight Zone, including "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" and "Steel". He adapted his 1971 short story "Duel" as a screenplay directed by Steven Spielberg for the television film Duel that year. Seven of his novels and short stories have been adapted as motion pictures: The Shrinking Man, Hell House, What Dreams May Come, Bid Time Return (filmed as Somewhere in Time), A Stir of Echoes, Steel (filmed as Real Steel), and Button, Button (filmed as The Box). The movie Cold Sweat was based on his novel Riding the Nightmare, and Les seins de glace (Icy Breasts) was based on his novel Someone is Bleeding.
Matheson in 2008
|Born||Richard Burton Matheson|
February 20, 1926
Allendale, New Jersey
|Died||June 23, 2013 (aged 87)|
Los Angeles, California
|Pen name||Logan Swanson|
|Occupation||Novelist, short story writer, screenwriter|
|Alma mater||University of Missouri|
|Genre||Science fiction, fantasy, horror|
|Notable awards||World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement, Science Fiction Hall of Fame (2010)|
Matheson was born in Allendale, New Jersey to Norwegian immigrants Bertolf and Fanny Matheson. They divorced when he was 8, and he was raised in Brooklyn, New York by his mother. His early writing influences were the film Dracula, novels by Kenneth Roberts, and a poem which he read in the newspaper Brooklyn Eagle, where he published his first short story at age 8. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and served with the Army in Europe during World War II; this formed the basis for his 1960 novel The Beardless Warriors. He attended the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, earning his BA in 1949, then moved to California.
His first-written novel, Hunger and Thirst, was ignored by publishers for several decades before eventually being published in 2010, but his short story "Born of Man and Woman" was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Summer 1950, the new quarterly's third issue and attracted attention. It is the tale of a monstrous child chained by its parents in the cellar, cast as the creature's diary in poignantly non-idiomatic English. Later that year he placed stories in the first and third numbers of Galaxy Science Fiction, a new monthly. His first anthology of work was published in 1954. Between 1950 and 1971, he produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres.
Several of his stories, including "Third from the Sun" (1950), "Deadline" (1959), and "Button, Button" (1970) are simple sketches with twist endings; others, like "Trespass" (1953), "Being" (1954), and "Mute" (1962) explore their characters' dilemmas over 20 or 30 pages. Some tales, such as "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) and "The Funeral" (1955) incorporate satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an overblown prose very different from Matheson's usual pared-down style. Others, like "The Test" (1954) and "Steel" (1956), portray the moral and physical struggles of ordinary people, rather than the then nearly ubiquitous scientists and superheroes, in situations which are at once futuristic and everyday. Still others, such as "Mad House" (1953), "The Curious Child" (1954), and perhaps most of all, "Duel" (1971), are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening. "Duel" was adapted into the 1971 TV movie of the same name.
Matheson's first novel to be published, Someone Is Bleeding, appeared from Lion Books in 1953. In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a non-fantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II. It was filmed in 1967 as The Young Warriors though most of Matheson's plot was jettisoned. During the 1950s he published a handful of Western stories (later collected in By the Gun); and during the 1990s he published Western novels such as Journal of the Gun Years, The Gunfight, The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok, and Shadow on the Sun.
His other early novels include The Shrinking Man (1956, filmed in 1957 as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson's own screenplay) and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend (1954) (filmed as The Last Man on Earth in 1964, The Omega Man in 1971 and I Am Legend in 2007).
Matheson wrote screenplays for several television programs including the Westerns Cheyenne, Have Gun – Will Travel, and Lawman. He is most closely associated with the American TV series The Twilight Zone, for which he wrote more than a dozen episodes, including "Steel" (1963), "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1963), "Little Girl Lost" (1962), and "Death Ship" (1963). For all of his Twilight Zone scripts, Matheson wrote the introductory and closing statements spoken by creator Rod Serling. He adapted five works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman's Poe series, including House of Usher (1960), The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), and The Raven (1963).
He wrote the Star Trek episode "The Enemy Within" (1966).
For Hammer Film Productions he wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (1965; US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) based on the novel Nightmare by Anne Blaisdell, starring Tallulah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers; he also adapted for Hammer Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out (1968).
In 1973, Matheson earned an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his teleplay for The Night Stalker, one of two TV movies written by Matheson and directed by Dan Curtis (the other was The Night Strangler, which preceded the TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker). Matheson worked extensively with Curtis; the 1977 television movie Dead of Night features three stories written for the screen by Matheson — "Second Chance" (based on the story by Jack Finney); "No Such Thing as a Vampire" (based on Matheson's story of the same name); and "Bobby", an original script written for this omnibus movie by Matheson. "Bobby" was later refilmed with different actors as the second segment of Trilogy of Terror II.
Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror (1975), including "Prey" (initially published in the April 1969 issue of Playboy magazine) with its famous Zuni warrior fetish doll. The Zuni fetish doll reappeared in the final segment of the belated sequel to the first movie, Trilogy of Terror II.
Other Matheson novels turned into notable films in the seventies include Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House), both adapted and scripted by Matheson himself.
In the 1980s Matheson published the novel Earthbound, wrote several screenplays for the TV series Amazing Stories, and continued to publish short fiction.
Matheson published four western novels in this decade, plus the suspense novel Seven Steps to Midnight (1993) and the blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, Now You See It ..., aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch (1995).
He also wrote several movies—the offbeat comedy and box-office flop Loose Cannons, the biopic The Dreamer of Oz (about L. Frank Baum), a segment of Rod Serling's Lost Classics, and segments of Trilogy of Terror II. Short stories continued to flow from his pen, and he saw the adaptations by other hands of two more of his novels for the big screen—What Dreams May Come and A Stir of Echoes (as Stir of Echoes). In 1999, Matheson published a non-fiction work The Path, inspired by his interest in psychic phenomena.
Many previously unpublished novels by Matheson appeared late in his career, as did various collections of his work and previously unpublished screenplays. He also wrote new works, such as the suspense novel Hunted Past Reason (2002). and the children's illustrated fantasy Abu and the Seven Marvels.
Matheson cited specific inspirations for many of his works. Duel was derived from an incident in which he and a friend, Jerry Sohl, were dangerously tailgated by a large truck on the same day as the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
According to film critic Roger Ebert, Matheson's scientific approach to the supernatural in I Am Legend and other novels from the 1950s and early 1960s "anticipated pseudorealistic fantasy novels like Rosemary's Baby and The Exorcist."
In 1952, Matheson married Ruth Ann Woodson, whom he met in California. They had four children. Bettina Mayberry, Richard Christian Matheson, Chris Matheson and Ali Matheson.
Matheson received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984 and the Bram Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Horror Writers Association in 1991. The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted him in 2010.
At the annual World Fantasy Conventions he won two judged, annual literary awards for particular works: World Fantasy Awards for Bid Time Return as the best novel of 1975 and Richard Matheson: Collected Stories as the best collection of 1989.
Matheson died just days before he was due to receive the Visionary award at the 39th Saturn Awards ceremony. As a tribute, the ceremony was dedicated to him and the award was presented posthumously. Academy President Robert Holguin said "Richard's accomplishments will live on forever in the imaginations of everyone who read or saw his inspired and inimitable work."
The tribute anthology He is Legend was published by Gauntlet Press in 2009.
Stephen King has listed Matheson as a creative influence and his novel Cell is dedicated to Matheson, along with filmmaker George A. Romero. Romero frequently acknowledged Matheson as an inspiration and listed the shambling vampire creatures that appear in The Last Man on Earth, the first film version of I Am Legend, as the inspiration for the zombie "ghouls" he envisioned in Night of the Living Dead
After his death, several figures offered tributes to his life and work. Director Steven Spielberg said:
Another frequent collaborator, Roger Corman said:
On Twitter, director Edgar Wright wrote "If it's true that the great Richard Matheson has passed away, 140 characters can't begin to cover what he has given the sci fi & horror genre." Director Richard Kelly added "I loved Richard Matheson's writing and it was a huge honor getting to adapt his story 'Button, Button' into a film. RIP."
... the things Serling said at the beginning and the end, in the wraparounds, which I wrote. I wrote all the wraparounds to my Twilight Zone episodes.
EMP SFM is proud to announce the 2010 Hall of Fame inductees: ...
"And When the Sky Was Opened" is episode eleven of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It originally aired on December 11, 1959. It is an adaptation of the Richard Matheson short story "Disappearing Act".Bram Stoker's Dracula (1973 film)
Dracula is a 1973 British television film adaptation of Bram Stoker's 1897 novel Dracula written by Richard Matheson and directed by Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis, with Jack Palance in the title role. It was the second collaboration for Curtis and Palance after the 1968 TV film The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.Button, Button (The Twilight Zone)
"Button, Button" is the second segment of the twentieth episode from the first season (1985–86) of the television series The Twilight Zone. The episode is based on the short story of the same name by Richard Matheson; the same short story forms the basis of the 2009 film The Box. In a documentary on the making of the movie The Box, Matheson states the inspiration of the story came from his wife, whose college professor had asked a similar question as a way of promoting a class discussion.Dead of Night (1977 film)
Dead of Night is a 1977 American made-for-television anthology horror film starring Ed Begley Jr., Anjanette Comer, Patrick Macnee, Horst Buchholz and Joan Hackett. Directed by Dan Curtis, the film consists of three stories written by Richard Matheson (although the first segment, "Second Chance", was adapted from a story by Jack Finney) much like the earlier Trilogy of Terror. The film originally premiered on NBC on March 29, 1977.Death Ship (The Twilight Zone)
"Death Ship" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone, based on a short story with the same title by Richard Matheson. The story was inspired by the legend of the Flying Dutchman. In this episode, a spaceship crew discovers a wrecked replica of their ship with their own dead bodies inside.Duel (1971 film)
Duel is a 1971 American television (and later full-length theatrical) road thriller film written by Richard Matheson, which is based on his own short story. The film is the full-length film directing debut of American director, producer, and screenwriter Steven Spielberg.
Duel stars Dennis Weaver who portrays a terrified motorist driving a Plymouth Valiant who is stalked upon remote and lonely California canyon roads by the mostly unseen driver of an unkempt Peterbilt 351.Hell House (novel)
Hell House is a horror novel by American novelist Richard Matheson, published in 1971.I Am Legend (novel)
I Am Legend is a 1954 science fiction horror novel by American writer Richard Matheson. It was influential in the development of the zombie-vampire genre and in popularizing the concept of a worldwide apocalypse due to disease. The novel was a success and was adapted into the films The Last Man on Earth (1964), The Omega Man (1971), I Am Legend (2007), and the direct-to-video production I Am Omega (2007). It was also an inspiration behind Night of the Living Dead (1968).Little Girl Lost (The Twilight Zone)
"Little Girl Lost" is episode 91 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It is about a young girl who has accidentally passed through an opening into another dimension. Her parents and their friend attempt to locate and retrieve her.Loose Cannons (1990 film)
Loose Cannons is a 1990 comedy film, written by Richard Matheson, Richard Christian Matheson and Bob Clark, who also directed the film. The film is about a hard-nosed cop who is teamed up with a detective with multiple-personality disorder to uncover a long-lost Nazi sex tape, featuring Adolf Hitler, which would jeopardize the political future of the German chancellor-elect.
The film stars Dan Aykroyd, Gene Hackman, and Dom DeLuise. The theme song features vocals by Katey Sagal and Aykroyd. The film was released by Tri-Star Pictures on February 9, 1990 and, upon its release, was a critical and financial disaster, bringing in only $5.5 million worldwide on a $15 million budget.Mute (The Twilight Zone)
"Mute" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It was written by Richard Matheson, based on his own short story of the same name. The episode deals with a young girl raised to communicate only through telepathy, and her struggles after the sudden death of her parents forces her to enter mainstream society.Night Call
"Night Call" is episode 139 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. The story follows an elderly woman, played by Gladys Cooper, who receives persistent disturbing phone calls from an anonymous caller. It is based on Richard Matheson's short story, "Long Distance Call", although it ends much differently.Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" is episode 123 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone, based on the short story of the same name by Richard Matheson, first published in Alone by Night (1961). It originally aired on October 11, 1963 and is one of the most well-known and frequently referenced episodes of the series. The story follows the only passenger on an airline flight to notice a hideous creature lurking outside the plane.Steel (The Twilight Zone)
"Steel" is an episode of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. Set in the near future, its premise is that human boxing has been banned and replaced by android boxing. The story follows a once-famous human boxer who works as a manager for an antiquated android while struggling to come to grips with his career having been taken over by machines.The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Incredible Shrinking Man is a 1957 American black-and-white science-fiction horror film from Universal-International, produced by Albert Zugsmith, directed by Jack Arnold, and starring Grant Williams and Randy Stuart. The film was adapted for the screen by Richard Matheson from his novel The Shrinking Man. The opening credits music theme (uncredited) is by Irving Gertz, with a trumpet solo performed by Ray Anthony.
The film won the first Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (at the time called "Outstanding Movie") presented by Solacon, the 16th World Science Fiction Convention in Los Angeles. By coincidence, Richard Matheson was the convention's guest of honor that year. The film was named in 2009 to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant.Additionally, the cover variant to the third issue of IDW Comics' The Shrinking Man miniseries, adapted from Matheson's novel, includes "Incredible" in the comic's title as a direct reference to the film.The Invaders (The Twilight Zone)
"The Invaders" is episode 15 of season 2 (and episode 51 overall) of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. The episode, which originally aired January 27, 1961, starred Agnes Moorehead. It was written by Richard Matheson, directed by Douglas Heyes, and scored by Jerry Goldsmith. Distinctive features of this episode include a near-solo performance by one character (interacting with miniature puppet "characters"), and an almost complete lack of dialogue. The protagonist portrayed by Moorehead often cries out in pain, terror, etc., but never speaks.The Last Flight (The Twilight Zone)
"The Last Flight" is episode 18 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. Part of the production was filmed on location at Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California. The vintage 1918 Nieuport 28 biplane was both owned and flown by Frank Gifford Tallman, and had previously appeared in many World War I motion pictures.The Last Man on Earth (1964 film)
The Last Man on Earth is a 1964 science fiction horror film based on the 1954 Richard Matheson novel I Am Legend. The film was produced by Robert L. Lippert, directed by Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow, and stars Vincent Price. The screenplay was written in part by Matheson, but he was dissatisfied with the result and chose to be credited as "Logan Swanson". William Leicester, Furio M. Monetti, and Ubaldo Ragona finished the script.
The Last Man on Earth was filmed in Rome, with scenes being completed at Esposizione Universale Roma. It was released in the US and the UK by American International Pictures. In the 1980s the film entered the public domain. MGM Home Video, the current owners of the AIP film catalog, released a digitally remastered widescreen print of the film on DVD in September 2005.Third from the Sun
For the Richard Matheson story collection that carries the same title in some editions, see Born of Man and Woman (collection)."Third from the Sun" is episode 14 of the American television anthology series The Twilight Zone. It is based on a short story of the same name by Richard Matheson which first appeared in the first issue of the magazine Galaxy Science Fiction in October 1950.