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Patrick Macnee
Antonio Margheriti
Chris Marker
Hugh Marlowe
William Marshall
Arlene Martel
Ross Martin
Richard Matheson
Sir Paul McCartney
Roddy McDowall
Leo McKern
Lee Meriwether
Ricardo Montalban
Agnes Moorhead
Billy Mumy
Eddie Murphy
 
MATHESON, RICHARD
(1926– ). American writer.

SCIENCE FICTION, FANTASY, AND HORROR FILM CREDITS
Wrote: The Incredible Shrinking Man (Jack ARNOLD 1958)*; "The Last Flight," "A World of Difference," "A World of His Own," "Nick of Time" (1960), "The Invaders," "Once upon a Time" (1961), "Young Man's Fancy," "Little Girl Lost" (1962), "Mute," "Death Ship" (1963), "Spur of the Moment," "Steel," "Night Call," "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (1964), episodes of The Twilight Zone (1958-64); House of Usher (Roger CORMAN 1960); Master of the World (William Witney 1961); The Pit and the Pendulum (Corman 1961); "The Return of Andrew Bentley," episode of Thriller (1962); Burn, Witch, Burn (with Charles BEAUMONT and George Bast) (Sidney Hayers 1962); Tales of Terror (Corman 1962); The Raven (Corman 1963); The Comedy of Terrors (Jacque TOURNEUR 1963); The Last Man on Earth (as Logan Swanson with William P. Leichester) (Sidney Salkow 1964)*; Fanatic (1965); Die! Die! My Darling (Silvio Narizzano 1966); "The Enemy Within" (1966), episode of Star Trek; "The Atlantis Affair" (1966), episode of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.; The Devil's Bride (Terence FISHER 1968); De Sade (with Peter Berg) (Cy Endfield 1969); "The Funeral" (1970), "The Big Surprise" (1971) episodes of Night Gallery (1970); Duel (tv movie Steven SPIELBERG 1971); The Night Stalker (story by Jeff Rice) (tv movie) (John Moxey 1971); The Night Strangler (tv movie) (Dan CURTIS 1972); Ghost Story (tv pilot) (John Llewelyn Moxey 1972); Dying Room Only (tv movie) (1973); Dracula (tv movie) (Curtis 1973); The Legend of Hell House (John Hough 1973)*; Scream of the Wolf (tv movie) (Dan CURTIS 1974); The Stranger Within (tv movie) (Lee Phillips 1974)*; Trilogy of Terror (with William F. NOLAN) (tv movie) (1975)*; Dead of Night (tv movie) (Curtis 1976); The Strange Possession of Mrs. Oliver (tv movie) (Gordon Hessler 1978); The Martian Chronicles (tv movie) (Michael ANDERSON 1979); Somewhere in Time (Jeannot SZWARC 1980)*; Jaws 3-D (with Carl Gottlieb) (Joe Alves 1983); 2 segments of Twilight Zone—The Movie (Joe DANTE, John LANDIS, George MILLER, and Steven SPIELBERG 1984); "The Doll" (1985), episode of Amazing Stories; "Button, Button" (as Swanson) (1986), episode of Twilight Zone; The Dreamer of Oz (tv movie) (Jack Bender 1990); "The Theatre" (story Rod SERLING), segment of Rod Serling's Lost Classics (tv movie) (Robert Markowitz 1994).

Also: episodes of The Incredible Hulk, Knight Rider, The Powers of Matthew Star.

Films based on his work: works starred (*) and "And When the Sky Was Opened," episode of The Twilight Zone (1959); It's Alive (Larry BUCHANAN 1968); The Omega Man (Boris SAGAL 1971); What Dreams May Come (Vincent Ward 1998); Stir of Echoes (David Koepp 1999).

 
Consider film as a vast array of data, and the people who make films as vectors you can use to travel through and select pieces of that data. If you follow the careers of producers, directors, actors, or special effects artists, the results are often mixed: you find some very good films, some very bad films, and everything in between. However, if you follow the careers of writers, there is usually a clear pattern: certain writers consistently seem to produce superior films, while others consistently produce inferior films. The more I watch and study film, the more I suspect that it is the writers, not the directors, who are the true creative geniuses of film; yet paradoxically, writers are typically the least examined of all film creators.

Take, for example, Richard Matheson.

If you want to stage a film festival filled with interesting and entertaining films, select as your theme the films and television programs written by Richard Matheson; your audiences will not be disappointed. Begin—spectacularly—with The Incredible Shrinking Man, a film that brilliantly employs the trope of gradual shrinkage to depict a man's gradual alienation from society, his embrace of the nether world of little people, his humiliating reduction to the status of his wife's doll, his struggle to gain a piece of food from a spider—just about the only battle between human and giant insect in the history of science fiction film that means anything, as the spider is neither anthropomorphized nor demonized but granted the status of a valid yet inhuman foe—and his final realization of his true value as an individual. Next, show a few of his contributions to The Twilight Zone, which include three of that series' best episodes: "Little Girl Lost," an evocative horror story about a man's daughter mysteriously transported to another dimension; "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," where a passenger cannot get anyone to believe that he is seeing a gremlin on the airplane wing, a scenario that effectively plays on people's natural disquiet in the distant and confined environment of an airplane; and best of all, "The Invaders," a script virtually without dialogue, where a poor woman greets the arrival of little aliens as nothing more than household pests tormenting her lonely life—and the final revelation that the aliens are astronauts from Earth, the typical sort of corny twist endemic to The Twilight Zone, here has an unsettling message.

In the 1960s, Matheson wrote primarily for horror films, where assignments were at times less than stimulating and his work sometimes suffered from others' interference—as in the mess that emerged as The Last Man on Earth; but there are several good selections available for the festival. The three episodes of Tales of Terror are the best of his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, undoubtedly because he was not burdened by the need to stretch a slender story to movie length; while you should avoid the vastly overpraised The Raven, The Comedy of Terrors is about as good as the genre of horror-comedy gets; Die! Die! My Darling is diverting fluff; and his Star Trek episode, "The Enemy Within," makes unusually effective use of a tired idea, the man who splits into good and evil halves.

In moving on to Matheson's film and television work in the 1970s, your festival will reach another high point with Duel, which remains the best script Steven SPIELBERG has ever had to work with, as its ferocious execution of a single horrific motif—a driver pursued by a malevolent truck—perfectly suited Spielberg's simple-mindedness. Yet there are signs of flagging imagination: although written with intelligence and style, The Legend of Hell House seems derivative, a film haunted more by its superior predecessor, The Haunting (Robert WISE 1963), than by household spooks; his adaptation of Dracula is unremarkable; and The Stranger Within mines familiar territory—a woman impregnated by aliens—to no great effect. But his script of The Martian Chronicles is undervalued, since Matheson respectfully chose the best moments from Ray BRADBURY's story collection, often with impressive results. Considered as another of Matheson's anthologies, The Martian Chronicles stands with his best work; it fails as a film for the same reasons that Bradbury's book fails as a novel. And Somewhere in Time is a charming and evocative time-travel story, rather betrayed by Jeannot SZWARC's indifferent direction and the lackluster performance of its star Christopher REEVE.

Only in the 1980s does the vector seem to falter, as your festival may wind down a bit anticlimactically with an episode of The Powers of Matthew Star and the toothless Jaws 3-D, which a charitable observer might detect was originally an effective horror scenario grotesquely distorted to accommodate the gimmick of 3-D. But The Dreamer of Oz will serve as a mellow, heartwarming conclusion, as Matheson evidently seemed to identify with its hero, L. Frank Baum, a man who delighted in telling entertaining stories, surprisingly well played by John Ritter.

In the arena where the horror film intersects with the science fiction, Matheston stands as a masterful creator, virtually without peer in the quality and quantity of his work. Many books have been written that celebrate science fiction film producers, directors, actors, and special effects artists, and these people surely merit some attention; but somebody, someday, should write a book that pays tribute to a science fiction film writer. And Richard Matheson would be an ideal subject.

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