New York City abandoned




That great staple of science fiction and horror stories—the derelict city—turns up again in the trailer for the latest adaptation of Richard Matheson’s pulp classic, I Am Legend. The novel has an obvious appeal for filmmakers since Matheson was an accomplished screenwriter and an expert at crafting taught, high concept storylines. Other notable productions of his work include The Incredible Shrinking Man (one of JG Ballard’s favourite films; currently being remade), British horror thriller Night of the Eagle, Roger Corman’s Poe adaptations, the Night Stalker/Night Strangler TV movies, Steven Spielberg’s early film, Duel, and one of the most memorable episodes of The Twilight Zone, ‘Nightmare at 20,000 feet‘.


First edition jacket (1954).

The premise of I Am Legend is simple and direct: what would it be like to be the last man on earth if vampires (actually plague victims with vampire-like symptoms) had taken over the world? The book was first filmed in 1964 as The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price. I’ve never seen this but due to one of those copyright quirks it’s now in the public domain and can be downloaded for free here. George Romero’s 1968 Night of the Living Dead (and his subsequent zombie saga) was influenced by Matheson’s novel, then a big budget version arrived in 1972, The Omega Man, with Charlton Heston in typical gung-ho mode. I was impressed with that when I saw it as a teenager but it now seems fatuous for the most part. The new film has Will Smith as Matheson’s lone survivor in a setting that greatly benefits from judicious use of CGI to roughen the views of the abandoned city (especially good in the HD trailer). I’ve no idea yet how this will fare as an adaptation. Matheson’s novel ends on a bleak note that a director like Romero would have no problem with but which Hollywood hates so I’m inclined to be suspicious; The Omega Man changed the tone and the ending of the book substantially. The film is released in December, so we’ll find out then.

The I Am Legend Archive

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