When I was in junior high I owned an anthology of short stories in speculative fiction titled "Possibilities," which I just loved. It included weird, twisted tales like those that appeared on "The Twilight Zone" and "Night Gallery." One of my favourites was called "Button, Button." It's about a couple who find a box at their doorstep. Inside is a mounted push button and a note explaining that the couple will receive $50,000 if they press the button. The catch is that if they press it, someone in the world will die. The rest of the story is about the couple's decision. I hadn't thought about this for many years until I read that a new film, "The Box," starring Cameron Diaz, will be released next year based on this very story. That led me to finding out the name of the author of "Button, Button," which turned out to be Richard Matheson (the guy in the picture above). And that led me to reading more about his other contributions. Oh my! It turns out that many of my favourite stories, TV shows, and movies from the '70s and early '80s were written by Matheson, but I had no idea that he was the common thread among all these works. Among his many accomplishments:
- he was one of the original writers for "Twilight Zone" and he wrote two episodes of "Night Gallery"
- he wrote the story and screenplay for "Duel," Steven Spielberg's first major work, which featured motorist Dennis Weaver being terrorised by an unknown trucker for the entire movie
- he wrote the novel and screenplay for "Somewhere in Time," starring Christopher Reeve (definitely a sentimental favourite of mine)
- he wrote one of the first teleplays that led to the eerie TV show "The Night Stalker," starring Darren McGavin, which was sort of the "X-files" of the early '70s
- he wrote the episode for the original "Star Trek" that introduced Spock's "Vulcan grip"
- he wrote "I am Legend," which has been filmed in various forms over the years
Here's a fuller summary of his life and work (he's now 82). It's amazing that all of this stuff I loved during my adolescence were all products of the same mind. Now I want to reread "Button, Button" and some of Matheson's other works, but I'll probably have to wait until I go back to the States in November to find his books, as I haven't been able to locate more than one of two of them here.