Overview of the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies’ I Am Legend Talk

As a lifelong horror fan, I’m constantly trying to broaden my horizons by learning as much as I possibly can about our genre. So part of the reason why I enjoyed Stacey Abbott’s talk about Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend as much as I did was because in the space of just under three hours, I felt that I had absorbed everything there is to know about the classic novel.

The talk was part of the┬áMiskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, an ongoing series dedicated to offering university-level history, theory, and production-based masterclasses relating to the horror genre. It took place at The Horse Hospital, one of London’s leading underground arts venues.

Abbott, who is a Reader in Film and Television Studies at the University of Roehampton, started off by talking about the history of the book and its initial reception, before going on to describe the massive impact it had on the horror genre as a whole.

For me, the really juicy stuff was when she described how Matheson’s own script for his novel was rejected by both the MPAA and the BBFC (scripts had to be approved by the censors back then before a film could go into production), leading to the studio being forced to tone down the more gruesome horror elements before they were finally allowed to go ahead and make the film. The result was 1964’s The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price, which, whilst not exactly a bad movie, left both Matheson and fans of I Am Legend feeling somewhat disappointed.

As Abbott explained, whilst there were various other screen versions of I Am Legend released after The Last Man on Earth, Matheson was always explicitly clear that George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead, whilst not an official adaptation, was always his favorite filmed version of his book.

The talk ended with Abbott saying that because of the legacy of the novel, Matheson himself is now legend. Can’t argue with that.

If you would also like to broaden your knowledge of the history of horror, be aware that the next Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies talk, which will be about the restoration of F. W. Murnau’s 1922 film Nosferatu, will take place on April 19th, also at The Horse Hospital. Get your tickets here.

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