Thursday, March 28, 2019

Holmes, Sweet Holmes

This is my entry in the Mystery Mania Blogathon hosted by Pop Culture Reverie

Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, during the final years of the Victorian age,  with the appearance of A Study in Scarlet in The Strand magazine.  Doyle was a prolific writer, but outside of Sherlock Holmes (and possibly The Lost World), not many people could name another creation by the author.  It may seem impossible to believe, but Doyle spent much of his life trying to distance himself from his most famous creation.  He wanted to be known as a writer who created great novels, and at one point even killed off his consulting detective in a rather useless attempt to do this. (See the story "The Final Problem")

But the public howled over the loss and demanded more.  Initially Doyle wrote a novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, which took place some time prior to Holmes' death to satisfy the public, but even that was not enough.  He eventually had to accede to the public's wishes and bring back his detective from Death's door.  He continued writing stories well into the Edwardian age.

Sherlock Holmes, to me, has always belonged firmly entrenched in the Victorian era, an age when hansom cabs were the primary mode of travel, and gaslight lit homes and streets.  When Hollywood came to call, this was sometimes ignored however.  Except for the first two Rathbone/Bruce films, most of the output from the 40's had Holmes combating the primary enemy of the age, the Nazis.  And cars are almost ubiquitous.  As well as electric lighting.

Over the years, Holmes has sometimes been used in his original historical setting.  The 1965 TV series featuring Douglas Wilmer and Nigel Stock kept Holmes in his own historical milieu, but on the other hand, some of the attempts just adapted the Holmes character into the historical era of the time of the production.  Not that they were all bad, just because Holmes wasn't limited to late 19th century technology,  however.

Given my predilection for Holmes and Watson to be portrayed in their own historical setting, you would think that a series that put Sherlock and friends in the 21st century would be an anathema to me right?  Well, I admit I approached it with some reservations, I admit.  But barely 15 minutes into the first episode I was hooked.  One of the things that helped was how Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat, the creators of the series, managed to weave in new interpretations of events that happened in the original canon.

One rather convenient factor helped make the transition a bit more acceptable.  Instead of being a veteran of the Second Anglo Afghan war in Afghanistan, our new Watson is still a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, albeit the one fought in the early 21st century.  Otherwise, except for the fact that Martin Freeman is quite a bit younger than the traditional portrayals of Dr. Watson, he manages to become a modern day equivalent of what we expect.  Although this Watson is definitely a bit more on the uptake.

Benedict Cumberbatch takes the diffidence and isolation of Holmes to whole new levels.  And there is an added twist to the new portrayal of the old character.  He has a love interest.  Well, not exactly...  Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), a doctor in the morgue of St. Bartholomew's has an unrequited crush on Sherlock, but he, for the most part, seems entirely unaware of it.  To round out the recurring cast, we have Rupert Graves playing a more well-rounded Inspector Lestrade, co-creator Mark Gattis as Sherlock's brother Mycroft, and a very entertaining Mrs Hudson, Sherlock and John's landlady, played by Una Stubbs.

Other characters from the canon make appearances.  Rather than just being a one off villain, Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) manages to span two entire seasons as a nemesis for Holmes, up to the final episode of season two in which we get a new twist on the old story of the death of Moriarty and Holmes.

Sherlock (BBC TV series 2010-2017):

The series kicks off with "A Study in Pink" which gives a whole new twist to the original Holmes story A Study in Scarlet.  It seems there is a rash of suicides going on in the city, but the police force are clueless as to why.  Only Sherlock has the idea that they are not really suicides, but the work of an ingenious serial killer.

In "The Blind Banker"  (which in my opinion is the least interesting of the entire series), Sherlock has to deal with a Chinese Tong (the Chinese variation of the Mafia), and try to discover why two unrelated deaths are connected.  (Only he sees the connection.  Of course, until he tells Lestrade that they are, the police think they are separate.)

The final episode of the first season,  "The Great Game", one of the best in the series, finally introduces us to Jim Moriarty and a series of riddles that he sends Sherlock on, with the added danger that if he doesn't solve the riddle in time an innocent citizen will be blown up with explosives.  The season ends with a cliffhanger that will have you waiting with bated breath to watch season two's opening episode.

Season two brought the three most famous original Holmes stories into a new light.

In "A Scandal in Belgravia" Holmes meets his ultimate female nemesis, Irene Adler.  Pretty much the same as the original "A Scandal in Bohemia" with some additional twists that make it one of the best in the entire arc of the series.  In this one Irene is transformed from an actress to a high-class dominatrix.  The conservative sector of the country was scandalized by the appearance of a nude Lara Pulver, the actress who played her, on screen during a time-slot that was supposed to be safe from such prurient things.  (Note:  Much of the nudity is from behind, and what you see from the front is still tasteful, but maybe this episode should only be watched by adults in the family.)

The second episode of the season gives us a new twist on the classic "The Hound of the Baskervilles".  The entire episode covers mysterious events happening at a secret government facility (think area 51, for you readers in the U.S.)  The "gigantic hound" of the Baskervilles is still here, but the twist on it makes this episode my second favorite of the series.

The second season ends with a twist on the classic Holmes tale "The Final Problem".  In "The Reichenbach Fall",  Moriarty engineers a plan to fully discredit Sherlock Holmes and make him not only the laughing stock of the public, but even bring him under suspicion for crimes he didn't commit.  Of course, it inevitably leads to Moriarty and Holmes in a duel of wits at the top of a tall building.  And this being a parallel of the original, the seeming death of Sherlock.  However, unlike the original story, we are given a cliffhanger, again as the final scene we see Sherlock, still alive, watching on as Watson attends to his grave.

One can only wonder how the British public responded to this.  It was reported to be a water cooler type moment, not much unlike the season ending cliffhanger of "Who shot J.R.?" that ended the third season of the American TV show Dallas.  And which also paralleled the actual response to the death of Sherlock Holmes when Doyle killed him off in the original canon.

When Sherlock returned for a third season, the first thing that had to be done was resolve how Sherlock had supposedly survived the fall.  "The Empty Hearse", true to the feel of the entire series, never really gives us a concrete solution, but there are many theories proposed.  Including one by (former) Det. Anderson (Jonathan Aris), a thorn in Holmes' side on the police force from the previous two seasons.  (Note:  There is a mini-episode, available as near as I can tell, only online, and which I've never seen, which details how Anderson deteriorates from a good detective into one who is obsessed with trying to prove Sherlock is still alive.)  There is also a plot involving terrorists which Mycroft sets Sherlock to try to solve.  And we have to deal with Watson's reaction to the fact that his friend is still alive.  Plus Watson is finally going to get married.

Which he does in The Sign of Three".  But there is a decent mystery behind the scenes involving the mysterious death of one of the Queen's Guardsmen, which Holmes was never able to solve.  This comes to the fore as he tries desperately to fulfill his obligation of delivering a best man speech at Watson's wedding to Mary.  It is during the speech that he not only figures out the solution to that case, but is able to prove that one of the guests not only killed that soldier but is intent on doing likewise to another of the guests.

Season three ends with Holmes battling wits with Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), a man whom Holmes is absolutely certain has committed several murders, but for a while is at a loss to prove his conclusions.  He also uncovers someone who is actual a secret agent within the close knit family of Holmes.  The cliffhanger for this one will make you reel, as Holmes, who is being sent away from the country by Mycroft has to return, as a former enemy, though to be dead, makes his presence known.

The fourth (and so far final) season has three more equally intriguing mysteries for Holmes and Watson.  "The Six Thatchers", "The Lying Detective" and "The Final Problem" may require you to devote an entire afternoon/evening because all three arc nicely together and will be enthralling to say the least.  Suffice to say there are more twists here than a donut shop.  Not the least of which is the discovery a second, heretofore unremembered, sibling of Sherlock.

Most of the episodes in the series could be watched individually without having to devote time to the entire series, but my humble suggestion is you start with season 1 episode 1.  After all, it all subtly arcs together to the final denouement at the end of season 4 episode 3.  If there are never anymore Sherlock episodes, the series wraps up neatly, and after you have spent the 18 hours or so it takes to digest the entire series, I feel you won't be disappointed.

Time to take the ride home.  Drive safely, folks.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

School Daze

This is my entry for the M. Emmet Walsh Blogathon hosted by Dubsism

School days!  I remember going to college back in the 80's.  For the first couple of years it was a real party.  Partly because I was just going to avoid the responsibility of getting a real job.  Of course, until I moved away from home (the first two years I went to a jr. college about 10 miles away and just commuted), it didn't really turn into a real party atmosphere.

When I moved to San Marcos to go to what was then still known as Southwest Texas State University (now just Texas State University), I lived on campus.  And I lived in the freshman dorm.  Which meant I was old enough to buy beer, while the rest of the freshman I lived with were still under age.  Yes, I admit I was a bad influence because anytime any of them asked me, I went to get their beer and alcohol for them.  Which made me a pretty popular guy (if only because I could accommodate them.  I hold no illusions that they actually would have liked me if I was the same age as them.)

But I spent an entire year at the top floor of Jackson Hall. The 12th floor was where they put all the malcontents who were disruptive of the quieter floors.  I fit in like a glove.  If I had been rich, like Thornton Melon, I might have even tried to re-adapt the floor to be more conducive to more of a party atmosphere, but I made do with what I had. 

Back to School (1986):

What do you do when your son wants to drop out of college because he can't hack it?  Probably have a good heart-to-heart talk with him and tell him to buck up.  (At least I would.)  OK.  What do you do if you are an obnoxious but rich man whose son tells you he wants to chuck it all and just get a job?  Well, if you are Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield), the owner of a prominent line of clothing for people of, shall we say, prominent size, (aka "Tall and Fat Stores"), you join him in his endeavor by coming the world's oldest freshman.

Thornton's son, Jason (Keith Gordon), has been lying to his father all this time.

He is not, as he claimed, on the swim team.  He is an accomplished swimmer, as was Thornton in his day, but Jason failed to impress the coach, Coach Turnbull (M. Emmet Walsh).  (Possibly due to his lack of interest in actually succeeding in college, but that's just speculation on my part...)

 Instead, he is just a towel boy at the gym.  Where he is harassed by Chas Osbourne (William Zabka), the star or the university's swim team.  (Zabka made a name for himself early in his acting career playing elitist snobbish bullies and is pretty much the same here.)

Jason is also not a member of the fraternity scene, which he also told his father he was. So in fact, Jason has been living a lie, and when he decides he wants to drop out, it was only inevitable.  But Thornton, who himself had gone through a similar situation in his childhood, wants to discourage Jason from taking that route.  His solution is to join Jason as a student.

Of course, being rich, but not having the pedigree of education that most of the incoming students have, Thornton has to find a way to get admitted, and that solution is being the benefactor of a new business college building.  In other words, a bribe.  Dean Martin (Ned Beatty), whose eye is only on the bottom line, accepts the "bribe", to the dismay of Dr. Phillip Barbay (Paxton Whitehead), the head of the business college. (Another elitist snob).

Of course, Thornton doesn't take the endeavor seriously.  Coming from a background that would allow him to bribe his way into college, he also does things that would get any other student expelled.  Including hiring Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. to write his essay on the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  And having his personal secretary show up in his class to take notes for him, while he is presumably occupied with extracurricular activities.

But he does manage to convince Coach Turnbull to give Jason a second look, and he does it without any untoward activities.  Jason actually is pretty good, which would not be surprising since Thornton himself was a star stunt diver at Coney Island in his youth.  (Whether you accept Rodney Dangerfield as a star diver or not...)

Robert Downey, Jr. makes one of his earliest appearances in a movie here as Derek Lutz, a malcontent who shines as Jason's best friend and roommate.

Terry Farrell, who went on to play Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, also makes an appearance as Valerie Desmond, the love interest of both Jason and Chas.

One of his teachers, Prof. Turgidson (Sam Kinison) is a real gung-ho history teacher.  Kinison essentially adapts his stage comedy act for the role, but his scenes are some of the highlights in the film for me.

And Sally Kellerman plays Dr. Turner,  an English professor who sparks a real May-December romance between her and Thornton.  (Dangerfield was actually 16 years older than Kellerman, but he looks older by at least 10 more years... Talk about robbing the cradle...)

 Life on campus, as far as Thornton is concerned, is a party party weekend.  Until it comes down to midterms and Thornton is on the verge of flunking out.  And thoroughly alienating his son, who has had a change of heart and decided to buckle down and drive toward his degree.  It comes down to a situation where Thornton has to face his entire body of teachers and prove that he has learned what he has supposedly learned during the semester.  Which of course, he hasn't.  But with the help of his son and his favorite teacher and some long cram sessions, he might just pull it off.

Never underestimate the ambition of a man to succeed.  A Dangerfield comedy typically has the common everyday loser trying to get ahead in an unfamiliar atmosphere, and this one is sure to entertain (unless, of course, you are a professor in a university who takes his or her job very seriously.  If you don't have a sense of humor about the education process, this one might annoy rather than entertain you...)

Time to fire up the Plymouth.  If I had taken the college life more seriously, it might have been a BMW, but such as it is...)  Drive safely, folks.


The Cat Gets the Cheese

The campy Batman TV series from the 60's is one of my favorite shows.  I was watching syndicated reruns of this show back in the early 70's.  (I was alive when the original show aired, but I was way too young, so I don't remember if I watched it when it was on network TV, but probably not.  I would have only been 5 or 6).  When I was growing up, there were only three major networks and no cable.  So TV stations would air a two hour block of syndicated reruns between 3 and 5pm.  It was a ritual to come home and watch the block, called "Dialing for Dollars".

During "Dialing for Dollars", the network would air old syndicated shows like Batman, Bewitched, I Love Lucy and Gilligan's Island, and in between, Norman Bennett, the weatherman on the local KXII news program and, I found out, also a high school math teacher, would come on and call people who had signed up for the promotion.  If they could tell him the exact amount in the kitty at that moment, they would win the prize money.  Otherwise, the prize kitty would increase and would continue until the next commercial break.  (BTW, if you've seen Tender Mercies or Terms of Endearment or a smattering of other movies, you've seen Bennett.  He went on to acting after his stint at KXII.)

Batman had a unique format in it's heyday.  For the most part, each episode was a two-parter, and the episodes would run on consecutive nights.  You tuned in on the first night and Batman and Robin did derring-do against the week's guest villain, always ending in a cliffhanger with the Dynamic Duo facing a seemingly imminent death.  Of course, on the following night, they would escape and eventually defeat the villain.  The show became so popular in Hollywood that many of the current stars lobbied for roles as the guest villain.  (Of course the villain roles were limited, but the studio still found a way to accommodate the stars.  That's why frequently you would see such Jerry Lewis, Don Ho and Dick Clark pop out of windows as Batman and Robin climbed up sides of buildings).

Batman (TV series) "Hot Off the Griddle"/"Cat and the Fiddle" (original air date: Sept. 14-15, 1966)

The episode opens, as was usual, with a crime being committed in the seemingly peaceful metropolis of Gotham City.  First a CATalog is stolen from a department store, second a model of a CATamaran is stolen from a nautical club and third three pairs of mittens are stolen from a rich man's apartment.  Although somewhat dimwitted on occasion Chief O'Hara (Stafford Repp) and Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton) come to the conclusion that obviously Catwoman (Julie Newmar) is back in town.

Of course the two are, as usual, completely incapable of dealing with the really devious minded criminals.  (Or maybe they just like taking the easy way out).  So they call on Batman and Robin.  The Dynamic Duo devise a plan to capture Catwoman by planting a story in the newspaper about a rare canary on exhibit.

Unfortunately they choose to release the story through columnist Jack O'Shea (Jack Kelly), a malcontent gossip columnist.  Bad idea, since O'Shea is in cahoots with Catwoman.  He tells her about the plan to capture her.  And Batman and Robin are foiled.

The Dynamic Duo are led by one of Catwoman's henchmen to her hideout, a nightclub called "The Pink Sand Box" where they are captured by Catwoman and put on a griddle to fry in the sun, leading to this episodes cliffhanger (and to my absolute favorite of one of Robin's "Holy ..." catchphrases).  After being informed the are have been coated in butter to help along the frying process, Robin moans "Holy oleo" to which Catwoman responds "I didn't know you could yodel."

Of course, Batman and Robin escape, due to a convenient eclipse of the sun and Batman's knowledge of esoteric subjects like math and geometry.  The second half of the episode involves an intricate plan by Catwoman to get a chunk of money.  She kidnaps a wealthy woman, Minerva Matthews (who was also played by Newmar).  Matthews was going to buy a pair of rare Stradivarius violins from Zubin Zucchini (David Fresco).  They arrange to meet in a penthouse room .  Catwoman, disguised as Minerva, takes the cash to the room via an armored car (driven by a very young James Brolin).  (She didn't just want only the money.  If she had, it seems she could just have ditched the armored guard and taken off with the loot.  But she also must have the violins).

Unfortunately, Batman and Robin are on to her scheme.  Instead of meeting with Zucchini himself, it turns out she has met with Robin in disguise and thus ensues the ultimate battle.

As usual, Batman and Robin save the day.   The thrill of the Batman series was never really the battle, at least for me.  The basic thrill of the series was the dialogue, especially Batman and Robin's repartee that sounds like it's been lifted from a low-rent episode of Leave it to Beaver.  Bruce Wayne (or Batman) admonishing Dick Grayson (or Robin) for lapses in adult thinking and Robin always responding with something like "Gosh, Bruce, you're right.  I'll never mix gasoline and Tide detergent again..."  And then of course, those ubiquitous "Holy..." of Robin's.  It's always fun just to see what new ones the writers came up with for each episode.

 Well folks, time to go home, The theater is closing.  Drive safely.


Saturday, March 9, 2019

The Legend of Matheson

This is my entry in the Richard Matheson Blogathon hosted by Wide Screen World and Moon in Gemini

"The last man on Earth sat alone in a room.  There was a knock at the door..."  (The shortest horror story ever written).

This is the story of a man and his (arguably) masterpiece of speculative fiction.

Richard Matheson (1926-2013) was one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century.  He was a favorite of Rod Serling who used Matheson's stories or original teleplays for no less than 16 episodes of the classic TV series The Twilight Zone, beginning with  the 11th episode of the first season ("And the Sky Was Opened", based on Matheson's short story, Disappearing Act.)  An incomplete list of Matheson's output for TZ would also include what eventually became the fan favorites of "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", "The Invaders". "Nick of Time", "Third from the Sun" and my personal favorite "Once Upon a Time".

Not only are his short stories fodder for film adaptation, several of his novels have made it to the big and small screen.  The Incredible Shrinking Man?  That was Matheson.  The Legend of Hell House?  Matheson.  What Dreams May Come?  Also by Matheson.  And for you romantic ladies (and men), Somewhere in Time, the Christopher Reeve / Jane Seymour movie was based on a Matheson book.  Plus such TV series as Rod Serling's follow up to The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery went to the Matheson well, as well did The Outer Limits, the Showtime series Masters of Horror and even a British TV series, Journey to the Unknown.

Matheson's third novel (the first two are largely unknown and probably forgotten by most people except real Matheson completists) was a book called I am Legend, the story of one man left alone in a world that is full of vampires.  (That was the original novel premise.  More on the movie adaptations and what they changed later.)  The novel, as indicated in the heading of the first chapter of the book takes place about a half a year after some catastrophe has drastically changed the human race.  It is never really explained, but sometime late in 1974 some disease started to kill off the human population of Earth.  (The events of the novel start 5 months after the events in January of 1976).

In the book, Robert Neville, a former factory worker (although that is pure speculation based on some bits of text, we never really know what Neville did before), is holed up in his house where he manages  to survive.  He goes out at daytime looking for surviving victims of the plague or whatever it is, the survivors having been turned into vampires.  For most of the novel he is alone, except for the vampires who continually show up outside his door each night shouting for him to "come out, Neville!"

Eventually Neville does try to learn a bit about the nature of the beast, such as it is.  For instance what makes the vampires detest garlic?  Why do they avoid mirrors?  Why are some of them afraid of the Christian cross, but others are not?  (He discovers that particular thing is only true of Christian vampires, but also discovers that Jewish vampires, while not deterred by a cross are deterred by a Torah, and Islamic vampires shy away from a Koran.)  He spends much of the novel trying to investigate what the origin of the plague that killed off most of the population and turned the rest into vampires.  Fortunately for him he has a whole library of book nearby to aid in his quest, but the reality is at the end he doesn't understand it any better than he did when he started. (Note: Unlike the movies, in the novel Neville was NOT formerly connected to anything in the science field).

When Hollywood came to call, they were interested in the one man against the rest of the world concept.  Unfortunately, as will be seen, they really didn't care about the vampires as much as they did about the idea of plague victims.  Throughout all three versions that hit the theaters, the "vampires" morphed into something else entirely.  For instance, in the Heston movie "The Omega Man", the enemy pretty much is just a radical religious sect of people who suffered deformities caused by the plague.  You really even couldn't call them zombies.  Sure, they are seeking the blood of Heston's Neville, but only for retribution from the harm he and the scientists have caused which made the world as desolate as it is, not as an element of survival.

The Last Man On Earth (1964):

The problem I have with The Last Man on Earth, aside from the subpar acting on nearly everybody's part, including, unfortunately, Vincent Price, is the fact that the plague victims are supposed to be vampires (witness the garlic, mirrors and stakes through the heart), but they act more like zombies.  (In fact this movie was one of the noted inspirations for George Romero's classic zombie flick, Night of the Living Dead, so that should tell you something.)

The movie changed the main character's name from Neville to Morgan.  THe original script was written by Matheson himself from his novel.  When casting came around, Matheson saw the Morgan/Neville character as a virile, macho he-man.  He was leaning towards Jack Palance as his odds on favorite to play his novel's hero, but casting decided to go with Vincent Price.  Although Matheson agreed that Price was a good actor, he was not what Matheson viewed his character as being.

That in itself would have been discouraging, but the producers added insult to injury by bringing in another scriptwriter, William F. Leicester, to make changes in the script.  The result was that Matheson asked that his name be removed from the credits, opting to use the pseudonym of "Logan Swanson".

Of the three "official" versions of the book, The Last Man on Earth is the least interesting.  It's not entirely bad, however.  Just the quality suffers a little.  (and it doesn't help that Rome, the setting for this version,  doesn't look a bit like the Los Angeles of the following two movies or the setting of the novel).

The Omega Man (1971):

Charlton Heston is Neville, the star of the movie.  He plays a military scientist who, through a series of unfortunate events, becomes immune to the virus that has turned the rest of the world into albino religious nuts.  He goes out by day, hunting the plague victims and holes up in his penthouse at night while the plague victims, led by Anthony Zerbe, assail his fortress.  The basic premise of the novel of them being vampires was rejected in favor of them being just creatures who can't see in the daylight.  And instead of them seeking the blood of Heston for survival, they are only out to take out the last remaining member of a society that caused the plague to befall the Earth in the first place.

One of the added features is that Zerbe has formed a "Family", a pseudo-religious cult that seeks to eradicate all remaining evidences of advanced technology, which they see as evil.  As such, when at one point Neville is captured by the Family, they sentence him to be burned at the stake, much like the witches of Salem.  He is rescued by what turns out to be a crew of remaining members of the former world who, although not immune to the plague, have managed to stay free from it for the past year or two.  They are holed up in the outskirts of the town, and one member of the group, Lisa (Rosalind Cash), has a brother  Ritchie whom she thinks can be saved from the plague by Neville.

In this part we also see a change from the original novel.  In the novel, Neville never actually finds any survivors (although he briefly does hook up with a woman who may or may not be what she seems.)  The movie has to have a happier ending, so indeed there is some hope for the future at the end.  This is Hollywood sticking its fingers in the pie, because at the end of the novel it appears that there is no hope for a return to a society that Neville would call normal.

(For a more in-depth insight into this movie, see my review of The Omega Man that I wrote a few years ago.)

I Am Legend (2007):

Once again, Neville is cast as a true scientist.  Will Smith garnered the role, and he searches for a cure to the plague. The original plague was started by an altruistic scientist who had morphed a virus into a supposed 100% cure for cancer.  Once again altruistic science goes awry, as it often does in apocalyptic fiction, and the cure takes on a life of it's own, turning it's people into pseudo vampires.  (Vampires whose bite transfers the virus to it's victims.)  This particular version comes as close as it gets to transferring the book's vampires to film, although in this film the "vampires" are barely sentient, more like animals.

This version benefits from a bigger budget in many ways.  First the CGI vampires are much more menacing than actors in make-up could do.  It was also a pretty good choice when Will Smith came on board as Neville.  (A far cry from the original expected star;  rumors circulated that when the idea of a remake came about 10 years earlier, Arnold Schwarzenegger was going to be cast in the lead.  This rumor was accepted about as reluctantly by Matheson's fan base as the decision to cast Michael Keaton as Batman was prior to that movie's premiere.)

In all three movies, there is a happy ending of sorts in that the main character manages to pass on a cure to the plague before his own untimely death.  As stated before this is Hollywood's finger in the pie.  The novel was not so optimistic.

As a footnote, there was also a made for direct to video movie I Am Omega, which was released basically to cash in on the then current release of I Am Legend, but since I never found a copy of it prior to press time I can't tell you much about it.

Drive home safely, folks.  And be careful of whom you see on the road.