"The Weekend Rent offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Friday."
The science fiction, fantasy and horror community lost one of its legends this week when writer Richard Matheson passed away on Sunday at the age of 87. The I Am Legend author was set to receive the Visionary Award at the 39th Annual Saturn Awards on Wednesday, but instead much of the ceremony gave tribute to Matheson. In remembrance of one of the genre's greats, here are five samples of work from his long career.
The Fall of the House of Usher: This 1960 Roger Corman-directed version of Edgar Allan Poe's short story of the same name was written by Matheson and starred Vincent Price as Roderick—the damned Usher with a crippling acuteness of the senses. The film is now considered the high point in Corman's filmography. The Fall of the House of Usher is available on DVD bundled with The Pit and the Pendulum, which is also a Poe story starring Price that was written for the screen by Matheson.
The Twilight Zone: Matheson penned 16 episodes of Rod Serling's landmark series, the most famous of which is probably "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," which stars William Shatner as a salesman on an airplane who keeps seeing a gremlin on the wing of the aircraft during midflight. The episode was later remade for 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie with John Lithgow in Shatner's role. The original series is available on DVD, Blu-ray and various VOD services.
I Am Legend: This 2007 film starring Will Smith as one of the few people on Earth immune to a virus that decimated the human population is the third film adaptation of Matheson's 1954 novel of the same name. Although this version deviates from Matheson's work more than 1964's The Last Man on Earth or 1971's The Omega Man, the Blu-ray contains an "alternate theatrical version" with a "controversial ending"—according to the packaging—that, if nothing else, radically changes the outcome of the film. You decide which way you want to go.
Somewhere in Time: This rare romantic sci-fi film was based on Matheson's novel Bid Time Return and stars Christopher Reeve as a playwright who becomes smitten by a photo of an actress (Jane Seymour) at the Grand Hotel and, through self-hypnosis, travels back in time to the year 1912 to find love with Seymour. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for the film, which is available on DVD and various VOD services.
Real Steel: The most recent film to be based on Matheson's work is this 2011 sci-fi hit starring Hugh Jackman as a former boxer who now manages robots in the ring since humans have been banned from actually boxing. The movie is based in part on Matheson's 1956 short story "Steel," although the setting for the movie was changed by screenwriter John Gatins to U.S. state fairs for an Americana feeling. Real Steel is available on DVD, Blu-ray and VOD.
Follow Robert B. DeSalvo @zuulboy