Respectful Reel Review #27: Salem’s Lot (1979)

MOVIE TITLE:

Salem’s Lot

IMDB YEAR RELEASED:

1979

GENRE:

Vampire / Horror / TV Miniseries

STARRING:

David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Julie Cobb, George Dzundza, Elisha Cook Jr., Ed Flanders, Clarissa Kaye-Mason, Geoffrey Lewis, Fred Willard, Kenneth McMillan, Marie Windsor, Barbara Babcock, Bonnie Bartlett

DIRECTED BY:

Tobe Hooper

SUMMARY:

When a successful novelist returns to his hometown to write a new novel about a house that historically has magnetically drawn evil, he soon learns that the house that has haunted his dreams has become a lure to an unspeakable evil beyond even his prodigious imagination.

TAGLINES:

1. Someone is killing the people of Salem’s Lot. The one man they mistrust… is their only hope for survival.

2. Do you believe in vampires?

3. Salem’s Lot… where no one rests in peace…

PLOT:

The miniseries / movie opens in a Guatemalan church with a man and a boy filling blue glass bottles with holy water. When one of the bottles begins to glow, the man tells the boy, ´´They´ve found us again. ´´

Two years earlier in Maine, Ben Mears (David Soul), returns to Salem´s Lot, a successful novelist who grew up in the town. He intends to write a book on the Marsten House, a big creepy mansion sitting on the top of a hill that looks down on Salem´s Lot. The house is reputed to be haunted.

When Mears tries to rent the house he finds out that the house has already been purchased by Richard Straker (James Mason), a new arrival to the town who is opening an antique store. Straker has a business partner, Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder) who is supposedly traveling in Europe making purchases for the shop.

Ben Mears moves into the town boarding house owned by Eva Miller (Marie Windsor). He meets Sue Norton (Bonnie Bedelia) in the park. She is reading his novel and after establishing a conversation, decides he likes her.

After meeting up with his former teacher Jason Burke (Lew Ayres), they have a discussion about the possible inherent evil that might lay dormant in the Marsten House. In the meantime, Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) is hanging out with the Glick boys, and they decide to go home. Only one of the Glick boys manages to make it home.

The abduction and subsequent death of Ralphie Glick (the boy that never arrives home) is what opens the town to the evil that follows. There are many characters that the viewer gets introduced to, and they quickly either become fodder for the vampires or become vampires themselves.

There’s more to the plot obviously, but I will leave it here hoping that if you have never watched it that you check it out. What follows is my review. (At the time of this writing, the movie (3 hour) version is available on Tubi.)

REVIEW:

Salem’s Lot: The Miniseries originally aired on CBS November 17, 1979, and November 24, 1979. I was in eighth grade, and we talked about it in school the day after. Although most of my classmates were not geeky like me, it was still a sufficient enough of a phenomenon to warrant mainstream interest.

I had several classmates ask to borrow my paperback copy of the novel as a consequence. I had already read all five of his books (Carrie 1974, Salems Lot 1975, The Shining 1977, Night Shift 1977, and The Stand 1978.) So, when I was engaged in conversations, I was a great big KnowItAll.

All of that is to serve as preface that I was awed with what was shown on the TV screen. There are scenes that in my current rewatch were still scary. Clearly today’s audiences might find the scares mundane. There was really only one effective jump scare, but on the other hand, having a creepy kid knocking on a second story window, really works. To this day.

The visual effects are pretty good but dated. However, I think the effects are best when they are used sparingly. There’s a scene when the teacher, Mr. Burke, has invited an adult former student to spend the night at his house because the former student is inebriated and has no one to care for him in his state.

The former student passes away. Mr. Burke after attending the funeral, returns home to find the former student sitting in a rocking chair just rocking. Mr. Burke is startled and afraid, but when the vampire looks at Mr. Burke with glowing eyes, that is an authentic poop your pants moment with very minor visual effects used.

I love everything about this series. My nostalgia goggles are completely clouded when it comes to this movie. I will tell you that I don’t love the limitations forced on this movie by TV, but I love the creativity those kinds of restrictions engender. I am going to call this a solid 4 Grey Geeks. Check it out. Tubi is a free app.

That is all for me folks. Clearly the Beard and I are having difficulties in Puerto Rico, with our inability to get together due to lack of transportation, but we roll with the punches and try to provide you with quality content every single time. Thanks for reading. Take it easy. Peace.

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