Thursday, February 26, 2009

Focus: Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson, who turned 83 February 20 this year, is one of my favorite sci-fiction and horror novelists (together with Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, Philip K. Dick, Peter Straub, Dean Koontz and Stephen King). I first became aware of him when I saw Duel, the first film directed by Steven Speilberg. Matheson wrote the book and screenplay which greatly impressed Spielberg that the latter decided to meg it.
Last year, the film version of his book, I am Legend, raised a ruckus because it was quite different from the novel like the film The Running Man (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger) is several miles away from the novella by Stephen King. This blogpost is prompted by the thread in Plurk where Slumdog Millionaire was discussed. I said Slumdog was based on a novel titled Q and A by Vikas Swarup and this was met by a collective gasp from those plurking with me. One plurker said most films are based on novels. If not, they're based on screenplays. I added, if a film becomes a hit, usually a novelization of the screenplay is released. If one has read the novel, has seen the film version and is delighted by the latter, then that doubles the appreciation. If not, then one can always say the book is better. A non-reader then has nothing to fall back on if one has only seen the film (and is disappointed) and has not read the book.

Some would argue that reading the book and seeing the film version raises comparisons. True. But in the case of Robert James Waller's novel The Bridges of Madison County, the film version enhanced appreciation for the book. Same is true with Matheson's Bid Time Return and its film version Somewhere in Time. Raise your hands, those of you who have seen these films and were enticed to read the novels later.
In true Hollywood fashion, book titles deemed not commercial enough are renamed. When I saw Somewhere in Time (starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour), I was wondering throughout the movie why the storyline was familiar to me. Years later, after watching the opening credits of the DVD version, I realized it was based on Matheson's Bid Time Return (which was retitled to sync with the film title) which I had read years before it was filmed. The film though was in general faithful to the plot and theme of the book.

Other Matheson books turned into movies include Stir of Echoes, What Dreams May Come, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Hell House, among others.
(Photos culled from the internet)

1 comment:

Dominique said...

Oh, wow! I enjoyed "I Am Legend" and I knew Matheson also wrote "The Incredible Shrinking Man", but I didn't know he wrote those other books-turned-movies. Must...get...my...hands...on...Matheson...books!

Looks like PKD has a competitor for the most filmed scifi novelist ever.

Thanks for this post, Gilbert!