Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I AM LEGEND. Richard Matheson. 1954.

Richard Matheson's famous fifties horror novel I Am Legend has been made into a movie three times: The Last Man on Earth with Vincent Price; The Omega Man with Charlton Heston; and I Am Legend with Will Smith. 56 years after its publication the novel still has power and fascination in its story of a man, Robert Neville, who seems to be the last human alive on Earth after a plague of vampirism has turned everyone else into blood-drinkers. Some of these creatures, who gather outside Neville's house/stronghold at night, are still human, but infected, while others have crossed all the way over. Matheson offers a scientific explanation for vampirism instead of a supernatural one, and explains how garlic and crosses affect vampires [the latter due to their own superstitions/religiosity]. While things do get a bit confusing as to the differences between infected humans and true vampires, I Am Legend is extremely well-written and you do get caught up in Neville's struggle against loneliness and for survival. He can't really search for other humans because he always has to return to his stronghold at night. There are many exciting and chilling scenes, as well as ironic developments. In addition to the three movies made from the novel, it also influenced many other films, books, and comics, and certainly had a hand in inspiring Night of the Living Dead, not to mention the much more recent Daybreakers.

Verdict: Excellent classic horror tale. ***1/2


Matthew Bradley said...

Thanks for acknowledging what a profound influence this classic novel--which may be Matheson's best--has had on horror in all its forms since 1954. I must confess I've always been a little hazy on the whole vampires vs. infected thing myself! Interested parties can learn more about all three feature-film versions in my forthcoming book RICHARD MATHESON ON SCREEN. (And, speaking of books, I have STAY OUT OF THE SHOWER and your ELM STREET volume on my shelf...)

William said...

Thanks for your comments, Matthew. Your book sounds like it will be a welcome addition to film studies as Matheson has a long, long list of credits. I'm in the midst of re-viewing the three film versions of the novel now. [I'm glad I wasn't the only one who got a little confused in regards to certain aspects.]

You've got an excellent blog, as well. I enjoyed reading your take on certain Marvel bronze age comic books. I have a book comijng out soon on the silver age of super-hero comics.

Good luck with the book. I look forward to reading it!