9 September 2017

STEPHEN KING'S 'SALEM'S LOT.' (1979) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS.




SALEM'S LOT. (1979) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY TOBE HOOPER. PRODUCED BY RICHARD KOBRITZ.
STARRING DAVID SOUL, JAMES MASON, CLARISSA KAYE-MASON, REGGIE NALDER, BONNIE BEDELIA, ED FLANDERS, LEW AYRES, KENNETH MCMILLAN, GEOFFREY LEWIS, LANCE KERWIN, BRAD SAVAGE AND RONNIE SCRIBNER.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

Ah, Stephen King, Stephen King. Making the rest of us feeble writers look bad with your brilliant ideas, great writing and inhuman output, haha. Don't mind me, Stevie. I'm just bitter. You know I loves ya really, don't ya? SALEM'S LOT is the vampire book I suspect a lot of us horror writers wish we'd written.

I'd always loved the book anyway but this television mini-series is one of the best Stephen King book-to-film adaptations I've seen yet, and there've been plenty already. CARRIE, THE SHINING, THE MIST, MISERY, DOLORES CLAIBORNE, THE LANGOLIERS, IT and so forth. Some great stuff in there.

A couple of nights ago, as a matter of fact, I watched a preview screening of the new film version of 'IT' and loved it. A terrific workmanlike job, that. I'm looking forward to Chapter Two, although we don't have an ETA for that one yet. Hopefully not too far in the future. I've no patience. 

Anyway, hi-ho, hi-ho, to Salem's Lot we go, and may God have mercy on all our souls. 'Seventies gleaming blonde heart-throb David Soul (STARSKY AND HUTCH) plays Ben Mears, a successful author who returns to his home town of Salem's Lot (short for Jerusalem's Lot) to write a book about the old house that terrified him as a child.

The old Marsten place, which in no small way resembles the Bates Motel from Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 horror triumph PSYCHO, dominates the landscape of the town. Certainly you can see it from every window you look out of in Salem's Lot, har-de-har-har. Years ago, Ben thinks he saw a ghost there.

Judging from what we see of this fantastically derelict and atmospheric old house, I can well believe it. It's one of the best haunted houses I've ever seen in a movie. Not too far off the Bates Motel for creepiness, in fact. It's even got the root (fruit) cellar, only Norman's dessicated old Mother doesn't occupy pride of place there, of course. Something else does...

The house is occupied now though, strangely enough. Hollywood actor James Mason (THE DESERT FOX, LOLITA, NORTH BY NORTHWEST, THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL) does a marvellous job as the posh English antiques dealer, Richard Straker, who's planning to open a shop in town with his mysterious, seldom-seen partner, Kurt Barlow.

James Mason is so wonderfully English here! You half except him to have a tea-cup and saucer in his hand, a furled umbrella and a rolled-up copy of THE TIMES somewhere about his delightfully British person. His dry, droll exchanges with the town policeman are a joy to watch. He's got an answer for everything, and his cut-glass accent is nothing short of pure spiffing.

The arrival of Ben Mears in town coincides with the sudden occupation of the Marsten House. Both these events coincide with the disappearance and/or sudden illness/death of various townspeople. The two Glick Boys, Danny and Ralphie, are terrific at channelling their inner Kate Bush with their 'Heathcliff, it's meeee, it's Cathieeeeeee, let me in at your window...!'-style shenanigans.

Even from just reading the book, the bits with Mike Ryerson in the teacher's house and Mrs. Glick in the mortuary have always been terrifying to me. Seeing these scenes done so well in the film nearly caused me to void my whatsits in sheer fright. The scenes in and around the root cellar are also chilling in the extreme. 

The whole movie was hilariously parodied by my buddies THE SIMPSONS in one of their TREEHOUSE OF HORROR episodes. Homer Simpson, with stake and hammer in hand: 'Do I dare live out the American dream... and kill my boss...?' Mr. Burns, unimpressed in coffin: 'You're fired...!' Also, Lisa Simpson during the actual staking-through-the-heart scene: 'Daaaad, that's his crotch...!'

Bonnie Bedelia is on duty here as Ben Mears's rather wishy-washy love interest, Susan
Norton. She chooses Ben, the handsome successful writer, over Ned Tebbetts, the local plumber, which is a total no-brainer really. 

The gorgeous blonde David Soul really fills out a pair of 'Seventies flared jeans beautifully, and when he teams 'em with a sports coat, well! My girlish heart fair flipped over and my ovaries were scrambling over each other to introduce themselves.

It's hard to praise a certain person's performance without getting into spoilers, but I'll do my best. Reggie Nalder is almost unbelievably scary in the role he plays. Only on-screen a handful of times and with no dialogue to utter, he still manages to make the most impact and steal the show. He's on the list of 'The Top Twenty Best/Scariest One-Of-Those-Guys Ever,' but naturally I can't say the word. You guys know what he is...!

I love the way that David Soul fashions a makeshift cross out of two ice-lolly sticks and a hank of cloth, and it has the same effect as a set of rosary beads blessed by Saint Peter himself and washed in the sweat of the Virgin Mary's holy armpits. 

Mind you, the great Peter Cushing has himself successfully attempted similar handicrafts many times in the HAMMER DRACULA films of the 'Fifties and 'Sixties. All you need are the right tools, apparently, and you can McGyver or Blue Peter your way to safety no bother.

This is my favourite of the horror films I've seen this year, although the 2017 'IT' was pretty damned good too. But this version of 'SALEM'S LOT' has the gritty authenticity and delicious nostalgia of the 'Seventies about it and it packs one hell of a powerful punch.

This is in no small part due to the superb direction of of the legendary Tobe Hooper (THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, POLTERGEIST), who sadly passed away earlier this year. But what a magnificent legacy he's leaving behind. We won't be forgetting him in a hurry.

Just one thing I didn't understand about the film. We spend the whole movie hearing about and eagerly awaiting the arrival of Richard Straker's business partner Kurt Barlow, and then he never shows up. What a swizz! What a cop-out! What a turn-up for the books.

After all the exciting things we hear about him in advance, how can the film-makers just leave us hanging like that, twisting in the wind like the gobshites we undoubtedly are? Did they just forget to finish that storyline? That's it, obviously. They just plumb forget, God bless 'em.

Shit like that can happen when you're overworked, I suppose. It's no problem. We can forgive 'em for one little slip. Wait, what's that you say? They didn't forget about him, he was there all the time? You're f***ing kidding me. No way. Well, fancy that. I'll be a monkey's uncle. The stuff you learn in this game...

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

You can contact Sandra at:


http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com







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