I Am Legend

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I Am Legend is a 1954 science fiction novel by Richard Matheson about the last man alive in Los Angeles. (He actually lives in a suburb of what was then a not-so-built-up L.A.) The book takes place in the then-future of 1972, and opens with the monotony of his day, which we learn is a monotony of horror. Every day he makes repairs to his house, boarding up windows, stringing and hanging garlic, disposing of the bodies on his lawn...

As the story unfolds, we discover that although Robert Neville is the last man alive, he is not alone.

He is the sole survivor of a pandemic of a bacterium that causes vampirism. He lives in a house fortified against nocturnal attacks by the infected, and sallying forth by daylight to kill the vampires besieging him. Eventually, the protagonist becomes a source of terror to the creatures. Just as vampires were regarded as a legendary monster that preyed on the vulnerable humans in their beds, Neville has become the last of a dead breed; a mythical figure that kills the vampires while they are sleeping in their refuges.


It has twice been filmed, though the films are generally regarded by critics as having been very poor adaptations:

  • 1964: The Last Man on Earth (Italian film, original 1963 title L'Ultimo Uomo Della Terra) Matheson wrote the screenplay for this adaptation, but it was so changed in later rewrites that he did not want his name in the credits, and is listed there under the pseudonym "Logan Swanson". The film starred Vincent Price.
  • 1971: The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston and Anthony Zerbe. Matheson had no influence on the screenplay for this film.

Further films directly inspired by I Am Legend may include:

I Am Legend also indirectly inspired The Homega Man, a segment on a Halloween episode of The Simpsons parodying The Omega Man, in which Homer Simpson survived a French neutron bomb attack to apparently become the last man on Earth.

In addition to 28 Days Later, just about all movies that feature vampiric-like creatures attacking individuals can be (broadly) said to have been inspired by I Am Legend, most notable amongst them being George Romero's Living Dead movies and Tobe Hooper's Lifeforce.

Rumour abounds that a new film adaption of I Am Legend is in the works, and will be starring Will Smith.

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