Links to the works of Richard Matheson in television shows, short stories, books and movies.

Eighty-eight years ago yesterday, on February 20th, 1926, Richard Matheson was born. In 1950, his story, Born of Man and Woman, was published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionIt garnered a great deal of attention and his literary career was launched. He died on June 23rd, 2013. Between those dates, he changed everything in the field of horror. (He also wrote sci-fi, fantasy, westerns and mysteries, but I think his greatest contribution was to my own beloved genre.) To read a simple but complete biography of his life, visit Bio.

If you are a casual horror / sci-fi fan, you may not realize just how influential this writer was in his lifetime. Stephen King is frequently quoted as saying “[Richard Matheson is the] author who influenced me most as a writer.” Just days after Matheson’s death, King posted a tribute, at StephenKing.com, which you can read HERE.

Right now, I want to celebrate this man’s life by getting some of his brilliance into your head. I’ve collected the most easily accessible works in the lists below. Please note that I’ve NOT seen or read everything here. Those pieces that I especially recommend are highlighted in green text. (Please also know that seeing any adaptation of I Am Legend is going to be frustrating. None of them do it justice. In the video interview at the bottom of this post, Matheson says so himself.)

*****

TELEVISION SERIES

TheTwilightZoneLogo

It’s possible at hulu.com to stream all episodes of the original Twilight Zone series on your computer for free. This is what Matheson contributed to that series:

THE TWILIGHT ZONE:

S1 E11 And When the Sky Opened
S1 E14 Third From the Sun
S1 E18 The Last Flight
S1 E23 A World of Difference
S1 E36 A World of His Own

S2 E7 Nick of Time
S2 E15 The Invaders
(This is, perhaps, the most memorable episode from my childhood, when I’d sneak to turn the TV on the middle of the night, when everyone else was asleep.)

S3 E13 Once Upon a Time
S3 E26 Little Girl Lost
S3 E34 Young Man’s Fancy

S4 E5 Mute
S4 E6 Death Ship

S5 E2 Steel
S5 E3 Nightmare at 20,000 Feet
S5 E19 Night Call
S5 E21 Spur of the Moment

NIGHT GALLERY (1971):

S2 E8 (segment The Big Surprise)
S2 E22 (segment The Funeral)

STAR TREK:
S1 E5 The Enemy Within (You must be a subscriber to watch Star Trek on hulu.)

*****

SHORT STORIES

Return

Like so many authors of his generation, Matheson wrote for periodicals, and in his time there were many wonderful, inexpensive pulp-style magazines to host his creativity. At unz.org, you will find “A Free Website for Periodicals, Books, and Videos” where you can view PDFs of certain stories, just as they appeared when they were published.

FROM STARTLING STORIES:
Miss Stardust (March, 1955)
Witch War (July, 1951)

FROM THRILLING WONDER STORIES:
Return (October, 1951)
The Foodlegger (April, 1952)

*****

BOOKS

hell house bantam 1973 matheson

Of course, Matheson was an author of books too … many of them horror. I believe you will (always and forever) find him on the shelves of any decent bookstore, but a lot of us have switched to e-books. Here’s what I found at Amazon:

KINDLE EDITIONS
The Memoirs of Wild Bill Hickok $6.64
The Gun Fight $5.98
Legends of the Gun Years $8.89
Other Kingdoms $7.59
The Path: A New Look At Reality $7.59
Shadow on the Sun $6.83
Duel: Terror Stories by Richard Matheson $8.89
The Beardless Warriors: A Novel of World War II $7.59
Hunted Past Reason $8.89
Steel: And Other Stories $6.95
A Stir of Echoes $8.89
What Dreams May Come: A Novel $8.89
Hell House $8.89
The Box: Uncanny Stories $6.83
Nightmare At 20,000 Feet: Horror Stories By Richard Matheson $8.89
Somewhere In Time $5.98
I Am Legend (RosettaBooks into Film) $6.09

… but as for that last one, if you are a horror fan, you should own the most beautiful copy of the bound book you can afford. It IS canon.

*****

MOVIES

Kolchak

When it comes to the movie adaptations of Matheson’s work, I’ve gathered a few resources for you. I’ve provided the IMDb listing for all of them, and the Netflix listing where I could. Any movie that is available on streaming is generally available on disc too. If I did not provide a Netflix link, that means it’s not available NOW, but many are expected to become available eventually.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) Netflix Disc IMDb

The Pit and The Pendulum (1961) Netflix Disc IMDb

Burn, Witch, Burn (1962) IMDb

The Last Man on Earth (1964) IMDb

Die! Die! My Darling! (1965) IMDb

The Devil Rides Out (1968) IMDb

De Sade (1969) Netflix Streaming IMDb

Cold Sweat (1970) IMDb

The Omega Man (1971) Netflix Disc IMDb

Duel (1971) Netflix Disc IMDb

The Night Stalker aka The Kolchak Papers (1972) IMDb

The Night Strangler (1973) IMDb

Kolchak: The Night Stalker SeriesSeries on Netflix Streaming

The Legend of Hell House (1973) Netflix Disc IMDb

Dying Room Only (1973) IMDb

Scream of the Wolf (1974) IMDb

Trilogy of Terror (segment, Amelia – the Zuni fetish doll piece, of course, 1975) Netflix Disc IMDb

Dead of Night (1977) Netflix Disc IMDb

The Martian Chronicles (series – 3 episodes 1980) Netflix Disc IMDb

Somewhere in Time (1980) Netflix Streaming IMDb

The Incredible Shrinking Woman (comedy, 1981) IMDb

Twilight Zone: The Movie (segment, Nightmare at 20,00o Feet, 1983) Netflix Disc IMDb

Loose Cannons (comedy, 1990) Netflix Disc IMDb

What Dreams May Come (based on the novel, 1998) Netflix Disc IMDb

Stir of Echos (based on the novel, 1999) Netflix Disc IMDb

I Am Legend (based on the novel, 2007) Netflix Disc IMDb

The Box (based on the short story, Button, Button, 2009) Netflix Disc IMDb

Real Steel (based on the short story, Steel, 2011) Netflix Disc IMDb


Oh, Johnny (Depp), what are you doing now?

A television series from my youth is coming to the big screen soon: Kolchak the Night Stalker. It is slated to star Johnny Depp.

I am … taken aback.

First, let me express my adoration of Johnny Depp. As a young mother – before I had any way to timeshift a favorite program – I did my damnedest to be in front of  the TV on Sunday nights to watch 21 Jump Street. In the years since, I have seen twenty-four of his forty-two films. I own seven DVDs of his work, and four more are on my movies-I must-someday-own list. You know how some married couples have that ridiculous “free pass” agreement? Yeah. It’s like that.

It’s the quirky, I suppose. And the persona of rebellious independence. And, of course, the impossible good looks. Most endearing, however, is that he regularly stars in decent horror / thriller / fantasy films. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Benny and Joon and Chocolat. He won my heart, though, with his performances in these:

I still need: Nightmare on Elm Street, Benny and Joon, Ed Wood, and Sleepy Hollow.

That said, I have to confess that I’m refusing to go watch his latest excursion into my genre, Dark Shadows. I’ve seen the trailers, and I am not happy. I suppose I should withhold my judgement until I actually see the thing, but I didn’t want a comedy; I wanted something that maintained the eerie flavor of the soap opera.

When the giant, promotional cut-outs of Barnabas Collins first went up in theater lobbies, I was excited. I am too young to have seen much of the series, and have always regretted that I had missed out. I was eager to get a feel for what it must have been like. I read that Johnny Depp was an aficionado of the original show, so I expected the movie to be an homage, not a parody – and especially not a broad parody. I’m sure I’ll get over it. When I relent – and I will relent eventually – I  imagine I’ll enjoy it for what it is: a silly take on a show to which I have no particular attachment.

Kolchak the Night Stalker, on the other hand? That’s a show I grew up on, and I’m going to be irritated as hell if  they screw it up. There were wonderful flashes of humor in the series, but the meat of it was the way the pragmatic, rumpled, old-school reporter dealt with the monster hunting. The charm of a character like Kolchak (or Columbo … or Barnabus, for that matter) lies in his sincerity. To the audience, he might be a caricature or an archetype, but he sees himself as authentic. There should be no sense of nudge-nudge, wink-wink. These characters are supposed to have a tragic edge.

Having seen the over-the-top, cartoonish depiction of the ’70s, as it appears in the Dark Shadows trailer, I worry about how the same decade will be depicted in Kolchak. I don’t want to see pop-art and high-fashion. The original show (like most of the programs from that era) had a gritty tone, and a mostly neutral palette of grays and tans. Yes, the ties were wide. Yes, he wore a straw hat. But his clothes, his tools, his office – they all felt lived in and real, not like costumes or set pieces.

I worry, too, about how paranormal events and creatures will be presented. In its day, Kolchak used state of the art special effects, when they were necessary. There would be no cleverness in retaining that dated, accidentally-cheesy tone, nor of turning the story into an excuse to showcase today’s most elaborate CGI.

I guess I just don’t want the new movie to turn the old television show into a joke. I don’t want Kolchak to be … well, to be figuratively defanged, the way Barnabus was in Dark Shadows.


The Paranormalist’s 13 creepiest title sequences from television series.

Tonight I watched some episodes of Dexter with my husband. It’s been a couple of years since I checked in with the show, and I had forgotten how much I like its opening title sequence. Of course, the experience sent me down the rabbit-hole otherwise known as youtube. I’m resurfacing at four o’clock in the morning, happily creeped out by a combination of real and remembered thrills inspired by my trip through TV’s horror-world. ‘Thought I’d share.

13. The Addams Famiy – a favorite childhood memory. 🙂

12. Kolchak: The Night Stalker.

11. Forever Knight.

10. Fringe – short but effective.

09. Millenium – does anyone besides me remember this show?

08. The X-Files – in truth, the sequence isn’t very creepy … but that music!

07. American Gothic – this is the “series trailer” which isn’t quite the same as the opening sequence I recall, but it’s got the right flavor.

06. American Horror Story – season one. Presumably season two will have a different opening, matched to the new story.

05. Carnivale – beautiful work here, but the real eeriness was in the show itself.

04. Dexter.

03. Tales From the Darkside – this one still gets me right in the creepy spot every time I hear it.

02. True Blood – Some graphic stuff here, kids.

01. The Twilight Zone – nothing will ever take its place in my heart.

Signing off now. Good night all.