Richard Matheson on Screen: A History of the Filmed Works (Book)
Reviewed by Scott A. Johnson
Written by Matthew R. Bradley
Published McFarland and Company, Inc.
Horror has its icons, heroes, and legends. It also has its gods. Among that incredibly short list of names is one that influenced almost every single person reading this review, and they might not even know it. The man wrote for Twilight Zone, Tales From the Darkside, Star Trek and even Have Gun, Will Travel; penned some of the most horrific and memorable movies ever made; and wrote stories and novels that captivated, chilled, and enthralled audiences for more than fifty years. In fact, he's still doing it. His name is Richard Matheson, and if you don't recognize the name, believe me, you know his work.
Matthew R. Bradley's book concentrates on one aspect of Matheson's notable career: his movies. Detailed in its pages is a timeline of all of them, from the earliest (1957's The Incredible Shrinking Man) to the latest (2007's I Am Legend), with details given about the various productions, how they came about, casting decisions, and interviews with those involved as well as the man himself to provide remarkable insight as to the goings-on from initial idea to finished product. For example, there is a point in the section about the flop Loose Cannons in which the director candidly discusses his murder of Matheson's original script, which was intended to be a sequel to Cobra and ended up being a goofy comedy starring Dan Aykroyd and Gene Hackman.
Don't think of this book as a collection of Matheson's greatest works. It is a compendium of all his movies, from hits to stinkers. In addition to classics like The Legend of Hell House and A Stir of Echoes, there sit proudly movies like Jaws 3D. In doing so, Bradley tells the behind-the-scenes stories of rewrites and sends fans drooling for movies that might have been.
If there is a drawback to this book, it's that so little of it is devoted to Matheson's television credits. But doing so would've increased the size of the book threefold, and the subject really deserves its own volume. With the care and passion that Bradley shows in this book to Matheson's career, he's the man to write it. Richard Matheson on Screen is a remarkable tribute to one of the true luminaries of not just horror, but literature in general. The respect with which Bradley treats it is appreciated without being maudlin. Any fan of Matheson needs to have this book in his collection, as does any fan of cinema. This is the sort of primer that should be required reading for anyone who loves film.
5 out of 5
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