Salem’s Lot (1979)

October 26th, 2015
Author: Meredith Taylor

Director: Tobe Hooper  Writer: Stephen King, Paul Monash

Cast: David Soul, James Mason, Bonny Bedelia, Clarissa Kaye-Mason, Ed Flanders, George Dzundza, Lew Ayres

183mins  | Horror | US | Warner Home Video

In SALEM’S LOTnovelist Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his hometown of Salem to find that things have changed. In fact, the previously warm and friendly community is now rather sinister and he suspects that the bizarre behaviour of his old friends and neighbours is the work of oddball antique dealer, James Mason. But Salem has a rich history of witchcraft dating back to the time of its New England, Pilgrim Fathers, and this adds a twist of historical intrigue to what is clearly one of the best known horror outings of the 1970s.

The innocuous title sequence presages doom but only due to Harry Sukman’s menacing theatrical score that attempts to elevate this massive TV outing to theatrical level. When Ben arrives in his Mini Moke (a nice seventies touch along with his signature blond tousled locks) Richard K Straker (James Mason) is already there to meet him on the stairs of his large mansion, The Marsten House, a doomladen edifice that dominates the small hamlet of Salem, near Boston, Massachusetts (the locations are actually California). And the dreaded house with its ferocious black dog, continues to looms large in the narrative, floodlit on the hillside. Ben has come home from Mexico to work on his novel that examines whether true evil can actually be embodied in the rafters and fabric of a mansion such as Marsten.

But Ben has other things to discover on his return, namely the young Susan Norton (Bonnie Bedalia) and she is just as interested to examine him. For a made for TV outing, Tobe Hooper’s SALEM’S LOT is expertly dirested, well-mounted and deeply horrific – as far a TV can be. Small town politics, haunted mansions, wild dogs, James Mason’s bloodshot eyes, and a collection of very suspect local denizens: all those well-oiled horror tropes are wheeled out for an airing. Tobe Hooper does his stuff well on a budget that exceeded that of Texas Chain Saw by a cool 4 million dollars, although, to be fair the latter was a good deal more scary.

The arrival of a ice cold package from Europe is the another sinister element to rear its head: along with coffins and of course vampires. The scene of the vampire Glick floating up to his brother’s closed bedrooms windows is one that will remain seared to the memory, impossible to eradicate, however hard you try. SALEM’S LOT runs for three hours  and is well worth the watch, if you’re looking for an unforgettable HALLOWEEN experience. MT



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