Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Salem's Lot"(1979)d/Tobe Hooper

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To say a LOT of Stephen King's work has been translated to the screens,both big and television,would be a gross understatement.The best genre directors in the world have served up takes on his writing,some succesfully,others... not so much,quite frankly.I read a lot of his novels growing up(yes,even the thousand plus page "The Stand")and his early books remain favorites of mine to this day.Cinematically speaking,Salem's Lot,a three time Emmy nominated 1979 tv miniseries(originally offered up to George A. Romero who declined when they decided against turning it into a movie),directed by Tobe(Texas Chainsaw Massacre)Hooper,is right there at the top of my King list,next to Kubrick's "The Shining"(1980) and DePalma's "Carrie"(1976).Plus you gotta love a screenplay that incorporates a fictional place named "Pabisciutti Hill"(!).Come ON,now!
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The evil Marsten house,built upon Pabisciutti Hill(yeah I just wanted to say that again).
Ben Mears(David Soul,aka "Hutch"),a novelist,returns to Salem's Lot,the place of his birth,for writing inspiration and to face his childhood fears,most of which stem from a supernatural dwelling on the hill(I'll spare you the name this time)called the Marsten House.At the same time the haunted home in question has been bought up by a quaint old man in black,named Straker(James Mason,at his sarcastic best here)who,with his silent partner,Barlow(Reggie Nalder of "Mark of the Devil"), plan on pushing antiques on the local populace.As Mears settles in to write and cope,he revisits familiar faces from his past and meets new ones.One young boy,Mark(Lance Kerwin),reminds Ben of himself at that age,toying with magic and models and writing for high school plays as he did years ago.They're certainly both rocking the same goofy haircut.Some of the townsfolk are suspicious of Mears and his blazers with suede elbow patches,but one girl in particular,Susan(Bonnie Bedelia),becomes enamored of him.
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For the love of God,no,please don't make me listen to "Don't Give Up on Us" again!
Soon Straker enlists Cully Sawyer(George Dzunda of "The Deer Hunter")to fetch one of Barlow's crates of antiques back to the Lot for him with his truck.Sawyer in turn,farms the work out to two local handymen instead,as he plans to catch his nympho housewife Julie in bed with her boss,Larry(Fred Willard!).Unbeknownst to anyone involved,the crate in question holds more than mere antiques,and is in actuality the daylight resting place of Barlow,an ancient vampire,who bears more than a striking resemblance to Count Orlock(Max Shreck) in "Nosferatu;Eine Symphonie des Grauens"(1922).Maybe they're cousins.Salem's Lot at night becomes a harbinger of death,as Barlow begins to feed on the townspeople.Mark's school chums,"The Glick boys"(Glick?) are supped upon by the master,as is Larry,Mike(Geoffrey Lewis of "Every Which Way But Loose" fame),Ned Tebbets,the Glick boys' mother Marjorie,and the list grows.Ben enlists Mark and one of his high school teachers to investigate the deaths,and examine those suddenly suffering from overnight "pernicious anemia"(!),while the local constable questions Straker,who proves much too witty for the lawman,of course.
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"Back,shaman!Back,holy man!Back,priest!You can do NOTHING against the master..."
When Straker and Barlow barge in on a meeting between Mark's parents and the local priest,killing the adults but sparing the boy for another night,Mark and Ben set off for the Marsten House,where Susan has been taken,armed with makeshift crucifixes and wooden stakes(In hindsight,David Soul should have brought a recording of his lone pop hit,"Don't Give Up on Us",from the same year,the vampire's pointy blue ears would have bled out.).Though Straker has superhuman strength,the duo remove him from the equation with a pistol.As the sun sets,Barlow awakes in time to be staked through the heart,putting up little resistance save for an annoying hiss or two.The two set the Marsten House on fire,with Susan,now also a vampire,possibly trapped inside.We fastforward to a small town in Mexico,where the vampire hunters are hot on the trail of Susan and her undead minions...
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Holy water,Batman!
James Mason was always a treat to watch,and he shines throughout this miniseries as my favorite character in the production.The floating bestial vampire children in the mist scratching at Mark's window was a memorable effect,and Barlow is one terrifying blooddrinker,though it didn't hurt that Reggie Nalder was hideous to begin with.Inspiring a flaccid sequel,""Return to Salem's Lot", and a television remake in 2004 starring Rob Lowe,Donald Sutherland,and Rutger Hauer(as Barlowe!),The Lot remains a pleasurable viewing experience for me(and one of director Hooper's last watchable works,alas),and it will for you too,on a stormy night when you've got 180 plus minutes to spare.Check it out!
Three out of four B.W.'s


Stacie Ponder said...

Holy crap, that poster is friggin' SWEET. I love this movie/miniseries/whatever you want to call it!

beedubelhue said...

Wicked hot,it is!Damned Spaniards and their much cooler one sheets.I'm with you on this one,sister.


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