The Master (of the zuni fetish doll)

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Trilogy of Terror

I Am Legend

A Tribute To Richard Matheson

My Opinion

Richard Matheson is a very talented writer who is probably the most influential horror writer of the TV/movie era. His writing started in the sci-fi 50s, then lent believability to Corman’s Poe inspired horrors of the early 60s, his book "I Am Legend" all but kick started Romero’s genre rejuvenating "Night of the Living Dead", his work on "The Twilight Zone" was second to none, Stephen Spielberg chose Matheson's short story "Duel" for his debut feature film, and almost any horror fan of my generation remembers the zuni fetish doll from "Trilogy of Terror". His finger prints are still everywhere from "Stir of Echoes" to his influence on films like "28 Days Later", which was obviously a reworking of "I Am Legend" if in spirit only ("I Am Legend" was also the inspiration behind "The Last Man On Earth", "The Omega Man", and I believe to some extrent "Blade" too, as well as, of course Will Smith as Neville in "I Am Legend").



Richard Burton Matheson (born February 20, 1926) is an American author and screenwriter, typically of fantasy, horror or science fiction.

Born in Allendale, New Jersey to Norwegian immigrant parents, Matheson was raised in Brooklyn and graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1943. He then entered the military and spent World War II as an infantry soldier. In 1949 he earned his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and moved to California in 1951. He married in 1952 and has four children, three of whom (Chris, Richard Christian, and Ali Matheson) are writers of fiction and screenplays.


His first short story, "Born of Man and Woman," appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1950. The tale of a monstrous child chained in its parents' cellar, it was told in the first person as the creature's diary (in poignantly non-idiomatic English) and immediately made Matheson famous. Between 1950 and 1971, Matheson produced dozens of stories, frequently blending elements of the science fiction, horror and fantasy genres.

Several of his stories, like "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 twenty or thirty pages. Some tales, such as "The Funeral" (1955) and "The Doll that Does Everything" (1954) incorporate zany satirical humour at the expense of genre clichés, and are written in an hysterically overblown prose very different from Matheson's usual pared-down style. Others, like "The Test" (1954) and "Steel" (1956; later adapted as a Twilight Zone episode (Matheson also contributed several original scripts to the Twilight Zone, one written for silent screen star Buster Keaton), 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 famously, "Duel" (1971) are tales of paranoia, in which the everyday environment of the present day becomes inexplicably alien or threatening.

He wrote a number of episodes for the American TV series The Twilight Zone, including the famous "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet"; adapted the works of Edgar Allan Poe for Roger Corman and Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out for Hammer Films; and scripted Steven Spielberg's first feature, the TV movie Duel, from his own short story. He also contributed a number of scripts to the Warner Brothers western series "The Lawman" between 1958 and 1962. 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 that preceded the series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Fanatic (US title: Die! Die! My Darling!) starring Talullah Bankhead and Stefanie Powers.

Novels include The Shrinking Man (filmed as The Incredible Shrinking Man, again from Matheson's own screenplay), and a science fiction vampire novel, I Am Legend, which has been filmed twice, under the titles The Omega Man and The Last Man on Earth. A third film version, under the novel's original title and involving star Will Smith and director Francis Lawrence, is currently filming, and set for release in winter 2007. Other Matheson novels turned into notable films include What Dreams May Come, Stir of Echoes, Bid Time Return (as Somewhere in Time), and Hell House (as The Legend of Hell House) and the aforementioned Duel, the last three adapted and scripted by Matheson himself. Three of his short stories were filmed together as Trilogy of Terror, including "Prey" with its famous Zuni warrior doll.

In 1960, Matheson published The Beardless Warriors, a nonfantastic, autobiographical novel about teenage American soldiers in World War II. During the 1950s he published a handful of Western stories (later collected in By the Gun); and during the 1990s he has published Western novels such as Journal of the Gun Years, The Gunfight, The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok and Shadow on the Sun. He has also written a blackly comic locked-room mystery novel, Now You See It..., aptly dedicated to Robert Bloch, and the suspense novels 7 Steps to Midnight and Hunted Past Reason.

Matheson cites specific inspirations for many of his works. Duel 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 Kennedy assassination. A scene from the 1953 movie Let's Do It Again in which Aldo Ray and Ray Milland put on each other's hats, one of which is far too big for the other, sparked the thought "what if someone put on his own hat and that happened," which became The Shrinking Man. Somewhere in Time began when Matheson saw a movie poster featuring a beautiful picture of Maude Adams and wondered what would happen if someone fell in love with such an old picture. In the introduction to Noir: 3 Novels of Suspense (1997), which collects three of his early books, Matheson has said that the first chapter of his suspense novel Someone is Bleeding (1953) describes exactly his meeting with his wife Ruth, and that in the case of What Dreams May Come, "the whole novel is filled with scenes from our past".

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."


A character named "Senator Richard Matheson" appeared in several episodes of The X-Files. The series's creator, Chris Carter, was a fan of Matheson's work on two series that influenced The X-Files (The Twilight Zone and Kolchak: The Night Stalker). Also, the TV series adaptation of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids had the Szalinski family relocating to the town of Matheson, Colorado.

The telepath "John Matheson" in Crusade was named in honor of Matheson.

Stephen King has listed Richard Matheson as a creative influence.

Matheson St. in the Konami game, Silent Hill was named in his honor.

Richard's son, Richard Christian Matheson, penned the screenplay for "Battleground" for the first segment of Stephen King's Nightmares & Dreamscapes (TV Series). He paid homage to his father by including the Zuni fetish doll from the last segment of Trilogy of Terror in a scene.

In Richard Christian Matheson's novel Created By, the hero's father is named Burt, a reference to Matheson senior's middle name.

Richard Christian Matheson re-wrote his father's short story "Dance of the Dead" for the TV series Masters of Horror. It was directed by Tobe Hooper and notably starred Robert Englund and Ryan McDonald.

From Wikipedia



The Incredible Shrinking Man (2008)
The Box (2008)
I Am Legend (2007)
My Ambition (2006)
Blood Son (2006)
"Masters of Horror" (1 episode, 2005)- Dance of the Dead (2005) TV Episode (short story)
Stir of Echoes (1999)
What Dreams May Come (1998)
Trilogy of Terror II (1996)
"The Outer Limits" (1 episode, 1996)... aka The New Outer Limits (USA: promotional title)
Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994)
The Dreamer of Oz (1990)
Loose Cannons (1990)
"Amazing Stories" (3 episodes, 1986-1987)
... aka Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories (USA: complete title)
- Miss Stardust (1987) TV Episode (short story)
- One for the Books (1986) TV Episode (short story) (teleplay)
- The Doll (1986) TV Episode (writer)
"The Twilight Zone" (1 episode, 1986)
... aka The New Twilight Zone (Australia)
- Profile in Silver/Button, Button (1986) TV Episode (segment "Button, Button")
Jaws 3-D (1983)
Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) (screenplay "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet") (segment 4) (segment 2) (segment 3) (short story Nightmare at 20,000 Feet) (segment 4)
The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981)
"The Martian Chronicles" (1980) (mini) TV Series
Somewhere in Time (1980)
"Racconti di fantascienza di Blasetti, I" (1 episode, 1979)
- L'esame (1979) TV Episode (story)
The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver (1977)
Dead of Night (1977)
Trilogy of Terror (1975)
The Stranger Within (1974)
Seins de glace, Les (1974)
The Morning After (1974)
Scream of the Wolf (1974)
Dying Room Only (1973)
The Legend of Hell House (1973)
The Night Strangler (1973) (TV)
Dracula (1973/I)
"Ghost Story" (7 episodes, 1972)
- Alter-Ego (1972) TV Episode (developer)
- The Summer House (1972) TV Episode (developer)
- Bad Connection (1972) TV Episode (developer)
- At the Cradle Foot (1972) TV Episode (developer)
- The Concrete Captain (1972) TV Episode (developer)
(2 more)
The Night Stalker (1972)
"Night Gallery" (2 episodes, 1971-1972)
- The Funeral (1972) TV Episode (short story The Funeral) (teleplay)
- Big Surprise (1971) TV Episode (short story Big Surprise) (teleplay)
Ghost Story (1972)
Duel (1971) (TV)
The Omega Man (1971)
De la part des copains (1970)
De Sade (1969)
"Journey to the Unknown" (1 episode, 1969)
- The Girl of My Dreams (1969) TV Episode (story)
'It's Alive!' (1969) (TV)
The Devil Rides Out (1968)
"Late Night Horror" (1 episode, 1968)
- No Such Thing as a Vampire (1968) TV Episode (short story)
The Young Warriors (1967)
Soy leyenda (1967)
"The Girl from U.N.C.L.E." (1 episode, 1966)
- The Atlantis Affair (1966) TV Episode
"Star Trek" (1 episode, 1966)
- The Enemy Within (1966) TV Episode (writer)
"Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre" (1 episode, 1966)
- Time of Flight (1966) TV Episode (writer)
Fanatic (1965)
... aka Die! Die! My Darling! (USA)
The Last Man on Earth (1964)
"The Twilight Zone" (16 episodes, 1959-1964)
- Spur of the Moment (1964) TV Episode
- Night Call (1964) TV Episode (writer)
- Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963) TV Episode (writer)
- Steel (1963) TV Episode (writer)
- Death Ship (1963) TV Episode (writer)
(11 more)
The Comedy of Terrors (1964)
The Raven (1963)
"The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" (2 episodes, 1962-1963) - The Thirty-First of February (1963) TV Episode (teleplay)
- Ride the Nightmare (1962) TV Episode (also novel)
"Combat!" (1 episode, 1962)
- Forgotten Front (1962) TV Episode (teleplay) (as Logan Swanson)
Tales of Terror (1962)
Night of the Eagle (1962)
... aka Burn, Witch, Burn! (USA)
"Thriller" (1 episode, 1961)
- The Return of Andrew Bentley (1961) TV Episode (adaptation)
Pit and the Pendulum (1961)
Master of the World (1961)
"Lawman" (1 episode, 1960)
- Samson the Great (1960) TV Episode (writer)
House of Usher (1960)
"Cheyenne" (1 episode, 1960)
- Home Is the Brave (1960) TV Episode (teleplay)
"Bourbon Street Beat" (1 episode, 1960)
- Target of Hate (1960) TV Episode
"Have Gun - Will Travel" (2 episodes, 1958-1960)
- The Lady on the Wall (1960) TV Episode
- The Solid Gold Patrol (1958) TV Episode (writer)
"Wanted: Dead or Alive" (1 episode, 1959)
- The Healing Woman (1959) TV Episode (story)
The Beat Generation (1959)
"Buckskin" (1 episode, 1959)
- Act of Faith (1959) TV Episode
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Young Couples Only (1955)
"Studio 57" (1 episode)
- Young Couples Only (????) TV Episode (story)


My Reviews

Incredible Shrinking Man, The (1957)- Goofy 50s sci-fi garbage? Not when Richard Matheson's writing. Yeah it has a definite 50s feel but it still works. A guy is out on his boat when it drifts through a weird fog that leaves him covered in glitter. Shortly thereafter his clothes no longer seem to fit. After awhile it becomes obvious, he's getting smaller... and smaller... and smaller. Mr. Drysdale's goofy sci-fi explanations aside, the rest of this movie is pretty good. The FX are impressive (considering the times) as the shrinking man lives in a doll house, fights his cat, a spider, cardboard boxes, and a leaky hot water heater, and the acting is believable throughout. The un50s-like psuedo-religious ending surprised me, even though it was kind of weak. Strong B+.

The Fall of the House of Usher (1960)- Richard Matheson's script is pretty faithful to Poe's tale of a man held prisoner in his house and haunted by the past deeds of his nefarious family members. The house is crumbling around them and there are no heirs and he plans on keeping it that way as a suitor tries to woe away his sister, who he has also kept in his prison. Vincent Price plays Roderick Usher in a very subdued believable manner and we are never totally clued into whether or not Usher is insane or if in fact what he says is true. This is part of the power of the film along with the magnificent sets and great acting. While I liked the film quite a bit I don't feel that it is the masterpiece many reviewers set it up to be so I'll give it a strong B.

The Pit and the Pendulum (1961)- Vincent Price's dad was an inquisitor and he witnessed some heinous stuff when he was young, including the torture of his mother. Rough childhood. Luckily he's grown out of all that stuff and has a lovely and caring young wife... or has he... or is she... Nice twist on the Poe tale (which as it is wouldn't make for much of a full length movie but makes for a great read). I really liked the twist and twist again ending too. Corman was hitting his stride with these Poe/Price vehicles at this time and I think this is one of his best. Great sets, color, and acting throughout. A.

Tales of Terror (1962)- Pretty strong entry into the Roger Corman Poe Cycle. This is a 3 tale omnibus, story one being that of ‘Morella’. She died young and blamed her infant daughter on her sickness, her husband sent the daughter away when she was young and keeps his wife’s body in the bedroom. The daughter, now 26, returns and all is far from well. It is well acted with great sets and use of color but seems to end a tad abruptly; I’ll give it a B-.Story two combines ‘The Black Cat’ with ‘The Cask of Amontillado’. A drunken wine expert embarrasses a famous wine expert in a contest. The famous wine expert then begins an affair with the drunkard’s wife and things of course do not end well for anyone involved. Peter Lorre is great as the drunkard and Price as the over the top wine taster, A+. Finally ‘The Case of M. Valdemar’ gives us a dying Price character who agrees to be hypnotized at the moment of death, against the advice of his doctor and wife, so that moment can be studied. He becomes trapped between life and death and winds up being very unhappy. I’ll give this an A+ too. These are subtle flicks that fall in line with the rest of Corman’s Poe output of this era, if you dislike them then you will dislike this, but if you dig the others then this is a must see. The 3 grades average to an A-.

Comedy of Terrors (1963)- A very fitting name! Here we have some of the greatest horror movie actors ever (Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Basil Rathbone), one of the great directors (Jacques Tourneur) and one of the greatest horror writers ever (Richard Matheson) all coming together for this horror/comedy about a funeral parlor owner who is falling on hard times and needs some new ‘customers’. There is plenty of scenery chewing over-the-top, 110% or nothing acting and writing going on, all of which is completely spoiled by ‘zaniness’. This falls pretty quickly into piss-poor sound effects, fast motion, and 3 Stooges slapstick (which had to even feel dated in 1963), and well, pretty much sucks because of that. Seriously, I hated this, just not my cup of tea, F.

The Last Man on Earth (1964)- Another take on a Matheson novel. This is based on his "I Am Legend". A great book about a virus that turns people into vampires. Matheson hated this movie, as I believe did its star Vincent Price but I like it quite a bit. You can really see where modern zombie movies comes from, as this movie is a bridge between the old school Voodoo zombies and the cannibal zombies of Romero. Price is locked away in his house all night waiting out the vampire/zombies as they try to get in and kill him. During the day he reinforces his house and kills the sleeping vampires/zombies. There are some suspenseful moments as he is late getting home etc. and the ending, though weird, is effective. The pseudo-scientific explanations work too rather then getting in the way of the story and the flash backs to the plague sweeping Europe and coming to America work well for me. I'm not sure why this movie is looked down on most of the time; yeah it's cheap and slow at times, but over all it still works. B.

Die! Die! My Darling! (1965)- Hammer saw the success of "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane" and took the theme of old actresses playing intriguing and bat shit insane parts for this suspense thriller. This flick, obviously inspired by Hitchcock also, is the story of an American, played by Stephanie Powers, who is going to England to marry her fiancée, but first she feels obliged to meet her former fiancée’s mother who lives in what looks like it was at one time a nice house but has fallen into disrepair in the English countryside (her first fiancée has died in what we are told was a terrible manner). After arriving at the old gal’s house, and meeting her help, we learn the old gal is a tad on the religious side, putting it mildly, and a light hearted comedy about the old fashioned and the modern seems to be underway. It isn’t long until things begin to turn sinister though, as we realize that the old gal, along with her help, plan on making sure Powers stays pure for when she is reunited with Steven in the afterlife. This is a very suspenseful movie that works really well and gives great performances by all involved, but especially Tallulah Bankhead in her final role, spouting off religious quotes and talking about how corrupt the rest of the world is (a lesson in hypocritical religiosity very relevant in today’s world). Bette Davis still keeps the reward for insane old lady parts in "... Baby Jane" but Tallulah comes in second in a photo finish. A

Omega Man, The (1971)- This is a remake of "The Last Man On Earth" which it seems many people hate but I actually liked well enough. Both are of course based on Richard Matheson’s book "I Am Legend" (as, at least to some degree, is "Night of the Living Dead", "28 Days Later" and of course film of the same name) but this one adds a bigger budget and a tougher main character in Charlton Heston. Heston is apparently the last (Omega) man on earth and tools around LA in some nice rides, scavenging for whatever he needs. He’s obviously lonely as Hell and we soon learn is being hunted by some sort of zombie/vampire types, but he hunts back! It’s not long before we are then assaulted by some pretty heavy handed 70s clichés, music, slang, race relations, and clothes as Heston takes on the zombie/vampires and learns he is in fact not the last man (or person) on earth. The end is pretty predictable and that last shot of Heston is well, an interesting choice. They tried so hard to make the movie relevant to the times that they made it totally irrelevant to any time so it really doesn’t hold up too well at all but early on it almost manages to capture that elusive ‘feeling’ of desolation these movies need to succeed for me personally. Yeah, it is very dated and definitely looses steam and believability with ‘honky paradise’ type of lines and the heinous soundtrack but still, it is a classic. B.

Duel (1971)- Another Matheson work. The movie description on satellite was something like "A truck driver tries to run a traveling salesman off the road." Which does pretty much sums up the movie but it is a little more exciting than that description would lead you to believe. This was released as a made for TV movie directed by Steven Spielberg (before he made a name for himself with "Jaws"). This is a tight little thriller that pulls you right in from the beginning and holds you there until the very end, despite most of the movie just being Dennis Weaver trying to out run a huge tanker truck in his little Plymouth. I remember digging this movie a lot when I was a kid and it holds up well. I can't find a specific reason to give this an A+ but I can't really find a reason not to so it may not really deserve it but I am going to give this one an A+ simply because I like it a lot.

Trilogy of Terror (1975)- A trilogy of terror penned by Richard Matheson. Story one is good and is about a college student seducing his timid English teacher, or is she really so timid? Story two is terrible. It's about twin sisters, one evil and one good. You'll see the ending a couple miles away. Which brings us to story three. The Zuni Fetish Doll. A woman hold back by her nagging mother buys her new boyfriend a funny little doll. The doll promptly comes to life and attacks her. Great use of sound effects and nice camera work without resorting to crappy clay-mation and the like. Classic ending too. Story one gets a B-, story two gets a D, and story three an A+, which averages to about a B-.

Dead of Night (1977)- A Dan Curtis/Richard Matheson made for TV omnibus. I can tell you right now I’m partial to these so my judgment is skewed! Story 1, a young guy gets his hands on an old car from the 20s. The original owners were killed racing a train back when the car was new; he restores it like new and suddenly winds up in the 20s. Is the car trying to set things right, or something sinister? Goofy and predictable but well told so dammit I liked it! An A. Story 2 is about a doctor whose wife believes she is being visited by a vampire, the local villagers begin to believe it too, but her scientific husband refuses to buy it, until no other explanation seems to fit. It has a quick twist ending that would’ve worked with a little better set up, but overall really well done in an almost Hammer-esque fashion. B+. Story 3 finds a grieving woman who recently lost her son in a drowning accident, she is losing her mind and turning to the occult to bring him back, and naturally things don’t turn out well when weak minded folk turn to the occult. Predictable and the kid is pretty annoying in a 70s annoying kid way, but again well done, and the ending is worth it (keeping in mind this was made for TV). I’ll give it an A for an average of an A.

Stir of Echoes (1999)- Richard Matheson strikes again. A development of his book by the same name this movie road in on "The 6th Sense's" coat tails. It works though. Kevin Bacon gets a 'door opened' in his mind while under hypnosis by a new age friend of his wife's and suddenly he is seeing a ghost in his house and can 'sort of' tell the future (his son apparently has a permanent door open and talks to ghosts quite a bit). One thing leads to another and he discovers, to his and his families' jeopardy, a secret some in the neighborhood will kill to keep. Well acted with good direction and scares. A.

I Am Legend (2007)- Yet another interpretation of Matheson’s novella joining "The Last Man On Earth", "The Omega Man", Romero’s Living Dead films (more or less), "28 Days Later", "Blade" (sort of) and probably some others I am forgetting about. It proves what a ripe idea his book was to begin with: a virus turns people into vampire like creatures and one man who is immune fights them. That is the basic gist. Here we have Will Smith as Legend, capturing the creatures by day, hoping to find a cure for them as he races around an otherwise completely empty New York City. Many of the effects are great, including the look and feel of the dead city and Smith’s acting carries the film. I was leery about him playing the part when I first heard about it but I must say he is perfect for the role, with a very believable range of emotion you can’t help but feel for him as he slips near insanity from loneliness and a feeling of responsibility for not being able to stop the virus in time (he is a military scientist assigned to find a cure). We get an overview of what happened (a genetically mutated measles virus was released as a cure for cancer), and brief glimpses of New York falling apart, but like "28 Days Later", not much time is spent in the past. This is really a very effective interpretation of the book and I liked it quite a bit. I have two complaints: The CGI vampire creatures leave quite a bit to be desired and give an otherwise intense flick an almost comic book feel when they are around. CGI works for Spider Man movies but here I think it would’ve been a lot more intense had the creatures been batshit insane humans (and I won’t even bother with the CGI vampire dogs, they almost lost me there). And second we miss the relationship between Neville and the vampires. That is part of the appeal of the book, the vampires pounding on Neville’s door, taunting him, and calling him, some of them his friends (and even his wife). The creatures are much more distant and not human enough here, even though we know his assessment of them as having lost all of their humanity is proven wrong, the reason for their attacks on him are only hinted at (he is Legend, who travels by day, killing their kind). All in all I liked this one a lot, a couple of weak spots hurt its final grade but don’t let that deter you if you like these apocalypse type flicks like me. A-.