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Among Stephen King’s huge arsenal of novels, SALEM'S LOT ($20) was always one of my favorites. Heck, when I was a lot younger, any book or movie that had anything to do with vampires always piqued my interest. Twenty years ago, when King’s very popular SALEM'S LOT was turned into a miniseries, and I was glued to the television set on the two nights it aired. Sure, a lot of the horror, gore and bloodletting had to be toned down for television, but the miniseries was creepy good fun and I was always eager to watch it, whenever it was repeated.

SALEM'S LOT tells the story of Ben Mears (David Soul), a writer who returns to the small New England town where he grew up to write a novel about the old Marsten house, a place that he has always believed to be inherently evil. However, when Ben gets to Salem’s Lot, he discovers that the Marsten house has been sold to an enigmatic antique’s dealer named Richard Straker (James Mason). Now even though he can’t purchase the property for himself, Ben begins to write his novel. When Straker’s even more mysterious partner, Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder), arrives in town, Ben’s convictions about the way the Marsten house attracts evil are proven true.

It turns out that Mr. Barlow is a vampire and that the town of Salem’s Lot will be his new feeding ground. One by one, the townsfolk fall victim to what the doctor’s consider a strange outbreak of pernicious anemia. Of course, Ben is the first to recognize the truth about Straker and Barlow. Unfortunately, no one else in Salem’s Lot is willing to believe the truth until it is almost too late. The cast of SALEM'S LOT also includes Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Julie Cobb, Elisha Cook Jr., George Dzundza, Ed Flanders, Clarissa Kaye, Geoffrey Lewis, Barney McFadden, Kenneth McMillan, Fred Willard, Marie Windsor, Barbara Babcock and Bonnie Bartlett. Director Tobe Hooper does a good job with the material, although he is constrained by the limitations of what was acceptable on television in 1979. Hooper uses a lot of old fashioned tricks, popular in classic vampire films, to build tension and lend atmosphere to the production.

Warner Home Video utilizes a single sided, dual layered DVD to present the full 183-minute version of SALEM'S LOT. The 1979 miniseries looks relatively good on DVD, but the original film elements have their share of problems. The print used for this transfer is rather worn, showing scratches as well as bits of dust and other signs of speckling. Perhaps Warner Bros. television never thought that a miniseries would have the longevity of SALEM'S LOT, so no one ever bothered to protect the film elements for future home video editions. In comparison to theatrical features released on DVD, SALEM'S LOT is somewhat soft and murky looking. Colors usually have pretty good saturation, although there are spots in the film that are a bit pale. Also, there are times that the colors appear somewhat sallow. While, this presentation is a good deal better than your average syndication broadcast, it quite obvious from the look of the film stocks used for the production that SALEM'S LOT was made-for-television. The DVD authoring is well done, with almost no visible traces of digital compression artifacts.

The soundtrack is offered one channel Dolby Digital monaural and sounds clean and intelligible. However, the production’s origins are quite evident, with the track offering all the fidelity of a twenty-year-old television movie. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English and French. The interactive menus are very basic, providing the standard scene selection and language set up features. A theatrical trailer for the European movie version of SALEM'S LOT is included as a supplement.


Salem's Lot


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 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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