SALEM’S LOT (1979 United States) Television review

salemslotshadows5First let me suggest you see the original TV miniseries version if at all possible. The “movie” version (for European theatres) is severely cut. The remaining pieces don’t fit together and leave gaping holes (such as, “what happened to Susan?”) Now you know which dvd to buy, if you were tossing up, lets move on. A cool 4 million dollars (big bucks back then) was spent on this production and it shows. You wish it could go on even longer, its that good.

Salem’s Lot is an almost unknown milestone in horror films. This superb combination linked the talents of director Tobe Hooper and Stephen King, bridging the gap between the Hammer-style films of the 1960’s and the modern touchy- feely politically correct, vampire flicks. You won’t be taking any of these vamps to your high school prom. This takes place in a sort of Peyton Place-like New England town.The cinematography reflects the ordinary turned extraordinary (which is the same effect achieved by King’s original writing for the audience of his time.) It begins looking almost like a Starsky and Hutch episode, then goes dark from there. Even the climax in the evil Marsten house looks *real*, just as you would imagine an old decrepit house to look. You can almost smell the dust. Hey, this was the seventies, the decade of naturalistic lighting. Everything coming out of Hollywood now looks artificial.

005e8d298d9b9472f0977574f67790d2The cast is great overall, David Soul is likeable as the lead, Ben Mears. Lew Ayres is believable as an elderly teacher. Bonnie Bedelia looks innocent and fresh as Susan Norton. Lance Kerwin is stoic as a teenager interested in the supernatural. James Mason is particularly memorable as the sinister Mr. Straker, antiques dealer extraordinaire. Cult-actor Reggie Nalder plays Barlow the vampire, and looks extremely creepy, Nosferatu-style. There is quite a bit of black humour peppered throughout. James Mason steals the show with his barbs at the red-neck constable. “Ciao inspector” “Ciao?” “Its a familiar Italian expression. It means goodbye.” “I didn’t know you were Italian.” “I’m not. The word is”. Later on when David Soul tells him that maybe trees have souls he sneers “Oh, you’re the writer! ” as if he’s referring to a lowly toilet cleaner. He continues to patronize him after Ben hints he wants to enter the  Marsten House: “Ahh, and you’d like to visit? The moment Mr Barlow arrives…you’ll enjoy Mr Barlow and he’ll enjoy you.” James Mason certainly had a fantastic voice.

hqdefaultThe fashions are absolutely hilarious, while the obvious “commercial break” freeze-frames ruin a few potentially tense scenes. So no cracks about how ‘dated’ it is. Aren’t we all? The finale in the evil old Marsten House is as tense and upsetting as any tasteful horror fan could want! The characters are very sympathetic while the music is loud and will keep you from falling asleep. There is something deep about Salems Lot. The interiors of rooms hum with evil. It has such a soulful atmosphere that you could bottle it, suggesting a menace that goes unspoken. I feel I could sing its praises for another six paragraphs but I won’t. And if any Twilight fans were wondering, the closest person to being sexy here is a very elegant old man in a black suit. Classy! OK, I tell a lie –  landlady Eva Millar (Marie Windsor) is pretty hot too.

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Comments

  1. Fantastic review! Barlow gives me the creeps just looking at his picture, definitely one of the scarier vampires on the big screen! 😈

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! I do tweak some of these posts later on. Maybe I’ll replace his ugly mug with something prettier.

    Like

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