Thursday, September 03, 2009

Visions Deferred- Richard Matheson

I can't think of a better current bargain than this collection of three Richard Matheson screenplays as well as two excellent pieces about him.

If you're like most Matheson fans, you didn't much care for any of the versions of I Am Legend, not the very early b&w Vincent Price one, not the 60s hippie version (though I do have a certain fondness for the kitschiness of it) or the Will Smith version, which I like least of all. In Visions you get to see I Am Legend as a screenplay written by Matheson himself. It's the only version that counts, savage and true to the novel. This is accompanied by an egregious letter from the Motion Picture Association informing Richard of why his movie is too brutal and uses too many "bad" words.

The second script is based on Matheson's famous short story "The Distributor." Here we have wealthy Theo Gordon imposing himself on a reasonably happy suburb. It is his pleasure to destroy it. He starts so many rumors and falsehoods about the neighbors that they begin to believe them and turn on each other, even turning to violence. To me this is one of Matheson's true masterpieces, a story that never loses its shock value. It is a bitter commentary on how lies can turn human being into savages. And the screenplay captures it all perfectly.

The third, "Sweetheart and Horrors," is an ingenious piece of black comedy. After the murder of the the insane family elder, The Sweetheart siblings are ensconced in a mansion filled with booby traps for one night, the elder's money going to the sibling who can knock off the others by the time the sun comes out. Matheson has fun with the farce but introduces us to some truly terrible people in the meantime. A fine funny dark script.

Mark Dawidziak and Matthhew R. Bradley both o sensational work addressing Matheson and his work. Between them they offer a great deal of new information about the most influential horror writer of all time. Richard himself writes afterwards as well.

As I said at the begining, this is the best current bargain I know of. $16.95 for a seminal piece of the Matheson library.


Todd Mason said...

"The Distributor" could make a very good that could only have been filmed in the States since the '70s at earliest.

Ed Gorman said...

"The Distributor" reminds me of what the GOP has done to health care reform.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like King's "Needful Things" owes a lot to "The Distributor". He's probably acknowledged that somewhere, given his citing of Matheson as a general influence.

There is a film version of Matheson's "Button, Button" coming out soon, w/ Cameron Diaz. They changed the title, and I can't recall it right now. The trailer didn't look too hot, but who knows?

Jeff P.

John Scoleri said...

Button, Button is now called The Box.

Without spoiling anything for anyone, Ed, I am curious what you thought of Matheson's ending to his screenplay adaptation of I Am Legend.

As a long time fan of the book, I have to admit I was surprised when I first read it during the production of Gauntlet's Bloodlines (from which it is reprinted in Visions Deferred).

Todd Mason said...

Jeff P.-- King's willingness to credit his "sources of inspiration" tends to be honest...pity he brings so little to his versions of these rather close copies. THE RUNNING MAN being only the most obvious other example.