One of the first books by Stephen King to find its way on celluloid was the made-for-TV flick “Salem’s Lot,” starring David Soul of “Starsky and Hutch” fame. (Don’t even ask me which he was because not only do I not remember, I don’t think I even knew back then.)
Now, when you think 70s and made-for-TV, one usually isn’t too optimistic about the result. But this was the exception, with good acting, nice makeup and yes, vampires that were scary and not emo. Not that should be surprising under the direction of Tobe Hooper.
The plot synopsis: Writer Ben Mears (a thinly-veiled King) returns to his hometown to explore some childhood trauma for a new book. He meets a girl, played by Bonnie Bedelia, and befriends the young teen Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) who is obsessed with the macabre (a thinly-veiled teenage King) and they join forces when the townsfolk start falling ill and dying unexpectedly. It’s no coincidence this starts shortly after a stranger arrives and occupies the spooky Marsten house, getting it ready for its new mysterious owner who no one has seen.
Or at least no one who lives to tell the tale.
James Mason is supreme as the evil caretaker for one seriously fugly vampire, and this was the first time I had seen a Nosferatu-inspired vampire. Between him, and the vampires tapping on the windows, this one has some genuine creeps. Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette’s dad) also has a great scene, featured below.
Grab this while you can: It’s out of print and you may have to go VHS to stay in budget.
Salem’s Lot (1979) Cast
David Soul … Ben Mears
James Mason … Richard K. Straker
Lance Kerwin … Mark Petrie
Bonnie Bedelia … Susan Norton
Lew Ayres … Jason Burke
Julie Cobb … Bonnie Sawyer
Elisha Cook … Gordon ‘Weasel’ Phillips
George Dzundza … Cully Sawyer
Ed Flanders … Dr. Bill Norton
Clarissa Kaye … Majorie Glick
Geoffrey Lewis … Mike Ryerson
Barney McFadden … Ned Tibbets
Kenneth McMillan … Constable Parkins Gillespie
Fred Willard … Larry Crockett
Marie Windsor … Eva Miller
Barbara Babcock … June Petrie
Bonnie Bartlett … Ann Norton
Joshua Bryant … Ted Petrie
James Gallery … Father Donald Callahan
Robert Lussier … Deputy Constable Nolly Gardner
Brad Savage … Danny Glick
Ronnie Scribner … Ralphie Glick
Ned Wilson … Henry Glick