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When I was growing up, I was a voracious horror hound and Stephen King novels tended to be my favorite reading material. Of course, since I also had a particular fondness for vampire movies, 'Salem's Lot was one of my favorite King books. Back in 1979, I was particularly ecstatic when I learned that 'Salem's Lot had been turned into a two part miniseries for CBS (and even more ecstatic when I sat down to watch it on the two evenings when it aired). While Kingís novel had to be toned down to meet broadcast requirements of the time, the miniseries turned out to be creepy good fun that watched repeatedly over the years.

Almost a quarter of century later 'SALEM'S LOT ($20) was remade, reworked, revised and re-imagined as a new television miniseries that was broadcast on the TNT cable network. While the new version of 'SALEM'S LOT features a great cast, and excellent production values, I still seem to like the original version better. Perhaps it is my nostalgic feelings influencing my opinion, but I think director Tobe Hooper managed to imbue his production of 'SALEM'S LOT with a bit more old school vampire fright than Mikael Salomon, not to mention James Mason managed a lot more menace than Donald Sutherland and Reggie Nalderís Nosferatu-like appearance as the principle vampire was certainly unsettling and unforgettable.

The new version of 'SALEM'S LOT sticks to the basic premise of the Stephen King novel, although it has been updated and changed enough to differentiate it from both the book and first miniseries. Taking place in the small New England town of Jerusalemís Lot, the plot of 'SALEM'S LOT focuses on several new arrivals in the community. Ben Mears (Rob Lowe) is an author and former resident of the Lot who, during his childhood, made a mark for himself in the town by bearing witness to one of the most notorious events in the ĎSalem Lotís history. Richard Straker (Donald Sutherland) has recently taken up residence in the notorious Marsden house, whose overbearing presence is difficult to escape, especially since old the mansion looks down on the entire town. In addition to living in the Marsden house, Straker has also opened an antiques business that he shares with his elusive business partner Kurt Barlow (Rutger Hauer). As expected, soon after the arrival of the townís new residents, the local populace begins to exponentially diminish from a rather strange form of anemia. The cast of 'SALEM'S LOT also features Andre Braugher, Samantha Mathis, Robert Mammone, Daniel Byrd and James Cromwell.

Warner Home Video has made 'SALEM'S LOT available on DVD in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that has been enhanced for playback on 16:9 displays. This proves to be a rather good-looking presentation that will give one nothing to complain about. The image generally appears sharp and rather nicely defined for a television production. An occasional soft shot creeps in here and there, but they are hardly worth thinking about. Colors are rendered at natural levels of saturation, but much of this miniseries takes place at night or in dark settings, which tends to make the hues seem fairly subdued. Blacks are suitably inky, whites are accurate and contrast is good for this type of production. Shadow detail isnít at theatrical levels, but is just fine. Other than some occasional grain the source materials appear very clean. Digital compression artifacts are generally well concealed.

'SALEM'S LOT comes with a generally pleasing Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack. While not the most engrossing track on the market, 'SALEM'S LOT features a very capable mix that makes good use of the outlying channels to create a genuine sense of atmosphere that adds to the miniseriesí chill factor. Additionally, sound effects are nicely deployed at key moments, although the mix isnít what anyone would call aggressive. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. Music has good fidelity and is well integrated into the mix. The bass channel isnít going to rock anyoneís world, but is solid enough to keep things grounded. No other language tracks are provided, but English, French and Spanish subtitles have been included. Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features. Perhaps because of the miniseriesí three hour running time, no supplemental content has been provided on this single sided DVD.

I enjoyed watching the new version of 'SALEM'S LOT, although not as much as I enjoyed the original miniseries. Warner has done a fine job with the DVD, offering a good looking and sounding presentation. If you havenít seen the new version of 'SALEM'S LOT, the DVD certainly beats a cable rebroadcast in the audio and video departments, as well as being free from those annoying commercial breaks.



Salem's Lot - The Miniseries (2004)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2004 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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