Friday, December 01, 2006

I am Legend

Years ago I remember enjoying a movie called The Omega Man. It starred Charleton Heston as the last normal human trying to stay alive on a world where everyone else has turned into vampires as a result of biological warfare. The movie was based on a book by Richard Matheson called I Am Legend, and I finally got around to reading that book this week, a lapse on my part since it is considered a classic in the horror genre. I have to say that I was disappointed. I didn't think it was well written at all, and for the most part it is very static. We spend most of our time inside a boarded-up house, locked into the thoughts of the main character, Robert Neville. There are very few interactions with any other characters, including the vampires, until the very end. Matheson also glosses over some scenes that could have been quite dramatic, such as when the body of Neville's dead child is stolen by vampires, and when his wife comes back after he's buried her. These powerful scenes are told only in very quick flashbacks that are over almost before they begin. I was looking forward to reading this book but I think this is one of those rare cases, for me, of a movie being better than the book it was based on.

6 comments:

Sphinx Ink said...

I'm sorry to hear it's such a disappointing read. I love the title of the book--"I Am Legend"--and I understand much of Richard Matheson's work is considered classic SFF. Tastes in literary styles have changed greatly over the years. I, too, have read or tried to read older books that are famous, only to find myself disappointed and/or unable to finish them. When it's a re-read of something that I last read 20 or 30 years ago, I often realize that the book wouldn't be accepted for publication nowadays, due to changes in what readers like and/or what contemporary editors expect in writing crafts and techniques.

On the other hand, there are still a lot of great classics (both genre and literary fiction) that are every bit as wonderful now as they were when I first read them. They pull me into their stories so completely I don't notice archaic usages or techniques.

Stewart Sternberg said...

I read the book a long time ago...I loved the concept and the concept carried me through any critical interpretation. Of course, I was seventeen.

If you liked Omega Man, you might try finding a copy of Last Man On Earth. It is a black and white film starring Vincent Price as Neville. Watching it you will say to yourself: "So that's where George Romero got his inspiration"

I also keep hearing rumors of a new version of Matheson's book. But I am not sure it ever went into production. Personally, I think it should be a musical with the principles in drag. I have this image of the title song being done with a staircase and a chandelier and....I'm saying this out loud aren't I?

Charles Gramlich said...

Thanks for the feedback, Sphinx and Stewart.

nolasteve said...

Talk about synchronicities, I was thinking about this movie over the weekend. I was wondering if it would be as good as I remember (most things re not) and if I could even find a copy to watch. There were so many of these "last" man, people, town, etc. and I remember that I loved them all.

Eric Paul said...

Amazing, Matheson wrote many of the creepiest screenplays for the Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock, as well as some raise-the-hair-on-the-nape-of-the-neck short stories I read in my, errr, youth. Still, isn't that just the way? I finally got a DVD with the original House on Haunted Hill, which scared all hell out of me as a kid...it is hilariously funny to me now as an adult. Mr. W was right, you can't go home.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yeah, the collection that I have by him has some short stories in it too and many of them are quite creepy, as well as reminding me of the scripts that were filmed based on them.