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Horror master Richard Matheson inspired and was inspired by movies

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Writer Richard Matheson, the prolific author of science fiction, fantasy and horror whose works inspired famous "Twilight Zone" episodes and such movies as "I Am Legend," "The Incredible Shrinking Man" and "Real Steel," sometimes found his inspiration in movies.

Watching "Dracula" as a teenager gave him the idea for "I Am Legend," the 1954 novel about the last man standing against the vampiric hordes. It was adapted three times, most recently in the 2007 movie of the same title that starred Will Smith.

The idea for his next classic novel came, oddly enough, during a showing of "Let's Do It Again," a light-hearted 1953 musical romantic comedy starring Jane Wyman, Ray Milland and Aldo Ray.

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"I remember it all very vividly," Matheson, who was watching the movie in a Redondo Beach theater, told the San Francisco Chronicle in 1990. "Ray Milland is leaving an apartment when he angrily and by mistake picks up Aldo Ray's hat and slams it on his head. It slides down around his ears. I thought, 'What would happen if a man put his own hat on his head and it slipped down over his ears, and suddenly he realized he was shrinking?' "

What happened was "The Shrinking Man," his 1956 novel about a man who fights for survival against household spiders and cats after he is miniaturized by a radioactive cloud. It was made into the 1957 movie "The Incredible Shrinking Man," which won a Hugo award and is preserved in the Library of Congress.

Matheson died Sunday in Calabasas at age 87.

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