Posts Tagged ‘Richard Matheson’

In Matheson’s ‘Legend,’ the build-up may often be slow, but the payoff is typically deadly

April 22, 2013

The premise of I Am Legend is almost primal in its appeal. To use the tag line on a recent edition of this Richard Matheson, in the eponymous novella, “The last man on Earth is not alone.”

So powerful is the concept of this 1954 story that I Am Legend has been filmed not once but four times, with varying degrees of fidelity. (I’ve seen none of these movies, the most notable of which have starred Vincent Price, Charlton Heston and Will Smith.)

The original story by Matheson centers on Robert Neville, a seemingly unremarkable suburban Los Angeleseño who appears to be the only man to have survived intact a plague that converted the world’s population into vampires.

Neville alternates between despair and resolve. Matheson follows him as he makes his daily rounds: Killing vampires in their slumbers and researching possible causes and cures for the plague on sunny days, maintaining and fortifying his home on cloudy ones.

The author deftly paints the psychological stresses his hero suffers. Neville is very much an Everyman, or at least he fits the image of John Q. Public that many 1954 magazine readers likely had. He’s handy with tools but has limited ability to absorb the scientific knowledge that could lead him to an antidote. Still, he makes do, fighting off the temptations of alcohol and suicide.

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