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January 1976 – Everyman Robert Neville becomes the only survivor of a global pandemic which turned humans into vampire-like creatures. Fighting for his life every night, he will try to find a cure for the disease, eradicate as many vampires as he can and track down survivors.
Published in 1954, Richard Matheson‘s short novel I Am Legend proved to be a welcomed breath of fresh air for the horror and post-apocalyptic genres.
Single-handedly bringing the apocalyptic and vampire genres back in fashion, basically creating the zombie fiction, its clever, intriguing twists and scientific approach had a huge influence on genre movies.
It is to be noted that despite departing grandly from Polidori‘s vampire mythos, I Am Legend bears similarities to Mary Shelley‘s appocalyptic novel The Last Man, written in 1826 but mostly forgotten until 1960.
Richard Matheson, being both a novelist and screenwriter, wrote an adaptation of I am Legend in the 1950’s.
Bought by the Hammer studios, it was later sold to another producer and made in Italy under the title The Last Man On Earth, starring Vincent Price. The rewrites by italian screenwriters never pleased Matheson, who was credited under a pseudonym.
The Last Man On Earth has fallen into public domain and can be enjoyed in its entirety here:
Screenwriter and producer Akiva Goldsman, director Francis Lawrence and actor Will Smith joined forces in 2007 to deliver an adaptation titled I Am Legend, the first to make use of the original title & stick to some core elements of the book while updating it.
Charlton Heston‘s 1971 The Omega Man strongly strayed from the novel by turning the vampires into albinos mutant and taking a more realistic, militaristic approach. Controversial at the time, it was the first movie to depict an interracial kiss on screen, which occurred between Chalrton Heston and actress Rosalind Cash.
Learn more about Richard Matheson‘s unfilmed screnplays and censored version of I Am Legend in “The Greatest Story Never Told : Richard Matheson” soon on the digital magazine The Scribes (english) / Le Scribe (french)
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