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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 12:52pm | IP Logged | 1 post reply

I visited my family today and instead of us chatting, we decided to watch a film (or, rather, a mini-series released as a 'film'): 1979's SALEM'S LOT.

I watch this at least once a decade. It never fails to impress me, and I consider it the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel. Originally a mini-series, it seems to be shown as a 'film' more often than not.

It stars David Soul as Ben Mears, a writer who returns to his hometown of Salem's Lot, Maine - and discovers that vampires are working rather surreptitiously (as I suppose they always do). Throw a mysterious house and an antiques dealer (James Mason) into the mix - and you have a rather eerie story.

By modern standards, this may seem ponderous and slow, but as always happens when I watch it, it's slow-burning nature is all part of what makes it so effective. Everyone seems so immersed in their performances, and I soak up every line of dialogue, every moment, every horrifying aspect, etc. Every performance is solid.

It all feels very credible, too. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but in a lot of horror films, people do seem a tad quick to accept the existence of vampires and the like once they see the evidence. They seem rather casual about it. Here it's different. Dr. Norton (Ed Flanders) sees a vampire with his own eyes, but during a car journey with Mears, he can't quite seem to accept it. When I finally come face to face with a vampire - not soon, I hope - I am not sure I'll totally believe it, either.

I feel adaptations of King's novels have been very hit and miss over time, but I am glad to have watched SALEM'S LOT again. I don't think it has dated much. The only thing that ever really dates a film/show for me are hairstyles and fashion. Other than that, I think it stands up well in 2018.
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Bill Collins
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 1:15pm | IP Logged | 2 post reply

I think the best adaptions are the ones that are not out
and out horror, Stand By Me, Misery, Shawshank, Green
Mile.I like Firestarter and Christine, but have not read
the original books of those, so maybe my perception of
those films is skewed?
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Doug Centers
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 4:36pm | IP Logged | 3 post reply

I'll tell you what, that floating boy tapping on the window scene scared the bejeezus out of me when it aired.

That and the doll from Trilogy of Terror are my scariest tv moments.

Haven't watched Salem in decades but if Robbie says it holds up, that's good enough for me.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 6:14pm | IP Logged | 4 post reply

Thanks, Doug.

I wonder, would a 2018 reboot have CGI vampires, glitz, glamour? Fast-paced action heroes.

There's something to be said for slow-burning and ponderous storytelling.
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Peter Martin
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 6:25pm | IP Logged | 5 post reply

The Salem's Lot mini is very good. The pacing of the second half definitely picks up, though there's an argument to be made that the whole benefits from the slow build-up of the first half.

An interesting cast of character actors populate the town, which contributes massively to capturing that rich tapestry depicted by the book. David Soul doesn't reflect the character as described in the book physically (who, let's face it, is more like Stephen King), but he is very good. I love his monologue about visiting the Marsten House as a child ("I ran. I RAN!").

Very good, creepy score and there are many genuinely scary scenes. Mr Barlow is memorable, though this is clearly where the TV adaptation diverges most severely from the source. Barlow in the novel is an articulate Dracula analogue, rather than the blue monster seen here.

One of the best TV horrors, in my opinion. The floating Glick boy is unforgettable.
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 6:32pm | IP Logged | 6 post reply

You know, I haven't read the book. I have started reading King's books chronologically recently. CARRIE was the first, so I am thinking SALEM'S LOT will be next.

Incidentally, RETURN TO SALEM'S LOT was a complete waste of time. 
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John Popa
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 7:42pm | IP Logged | 7 post reply

The floating child tapping at the window was my introduction to horror (as I've probably mentioned here before.) I sneaked down from my second story bedroom when I was six years old and peaked in at what my parents were watching just at that moment, and promptly refused to look out my window at night until I was practically in college.

I re-read the book every year in September or October, it's my favorite King book for sure.

The full version of 'Salem's Lot is certainly slow especially since it's not trying to be paced like a feature film, but it gives you a lot more of the town, which is what so much of the book is (it's 100 pages or so before anything evil happens.)  I like the slow awakening in the book of evil amongst them, so I like the full version taking its time to get to the jumps.

I haven't seen the cut down version in years to compare, but I've grown to consider the full mini-series a favorite.  David Soul is great (although, as noted, not much like the book's description of a smaller, 32 year-old writer.)  The biggest change though is the movie makes Barlowe into a silent, Nosferatu-inspired monster, whereas in the book the main vampire is elegant and well spoken.  The change doesn't especially bother me, much of that fueled by nostalgia, of course.

They did remake 'Salem's Lot' a few years back as a cable mini-series with Rob Lowe as the lead.  It's justifiably forgotten.


Edited by John Popa on 19 August 2018 at 7:44pm
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Trevor Smith
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 8:11pm | IP Logged | 8 post reply

“You know, I haven't read the book.”

**

Appropriately, perhaps, considering the subject matter - you are dead to
me, Robbie.
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Brandon Frye
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 8:20pm | IP Logged | 9 post reply


 QUOTE:
  The biggest change though is the movie makes Barlowe into a silent, Nosferatu-inspired monster, whereas in the book the main vampire is elegant and well spoken.

King has stated that one of his biggest influences for Salem's Lot was Bram Stoker's Dracula novel and that Salem's Lot was basically 'what if Dracula came to a modern American town.'  King's physical description of Barlow was pretty close to how Stoker described his Count (hawk nose, mustache, etc). 

But King was also heavily influenced by the more monsterous vampires of the old EC Comics and gave his vampires many of those attributes (white skin, red eyes). 

I'm not sure why the decision was made to make Barlow the speechless, feral monster he was in the film but he did succeed in scaring the crap out of me as a kid. 


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Peter Martin
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Posted: 19 August 2018 at 9:49pm | IP Logged | 10 post reply

I re-read the book every year in September or October, it's my favorite King book for sure.
---------------------------------
John, it was the first King book I read and it's definitely one of my favourites of his. It's a very satisfactory novel. I think the Dead Zone is probably up there with it and The Stand.
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Ed Aycock
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 9:09am | IP Logged | 11 post reply

I first read "Salem's Lot" when I was 14; it was the second Stephen King novel I ever read.  When I re-read it in my 30s after reading a lot more King, it seemed like an early novel, completely enjoyable but the thing that really got me was that the sly dog King had upended a famous New England novel (Grace Metalious' "Peyton Place." which I had also read in the interim) and added vampires to it.  It works very well.

I was a little disappointed in the miniseries as it didn't show the entire town being taken over but what only seemed like a small amount of people.  The book was terrifying in its depiction of everybody falling prey to it.    
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Matt Reed
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 9:46am | IP Logged | 12 post reply

 Robbie Parry wrote:
There's something to be said for slow-burning and ponderous storytelling.

I love a good slow burn.  Ponderous storytelling, however, no thanks.  It's all in the definition:

Definition of ponderous

1of very great weight 
2unwieldy or clumsy because of weight and size 
3oppressively or unpleasantly dull lifeless 
  • ponderous prose
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David Miller
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 10:07am | IP Logged | 13 post reply

I remember watching the video on a sunny afternoon, and found the little kid tap-tap-tapping on the window to be pretty unsettling -- my bedroom was on the ground floor -- and when his brother sat up in his coffin I ran out of the house screening.

Two years later some friends rented the movie on my recommendation at a sleepover and found the movie so lame and unscary they spent the rest of middle school making fun of me for it.
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Rick Senger
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 12:16pm | IP Logged | 14 post reply

It had a number of excellent scares for being on network TV in those days and I've always particularly liked Bonnie Bedelia, who has had a rewarding and productive career in television but never quite the movie career I anticipated after acclaim in films like HEART LIKE A WHEEL (DIE HARD notwithstanding.)   Memorable work from the likes of Geoffrey Lewis (Juliette's dad) and the incomparable James Mason also helps.  Arguably Tobe Hooper's finest hour (assuming you accept that Spielberg ghost-directed Poltergeist.) 
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 12:21pm | IP Logged | 15 post reply

Great music scores, too. So much came together. It all worked.

P.S. Should I stay away from Maine when I visited the US? 
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John Popa
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 12:35pm | IP Logged | 16 post reply

Just last year or so released a double LP of the score, with gatefold artwork by comic book artist Francesco Francavilla. I don't have a record player, but I bought it for the Francavilla's art anyway!



Edited by John Popa on 20 August 2018 at 12:36pm
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Ed Aycock
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 12:53pm | IP Logged | 17 post reply

Stick to the Maine coast, Robbie.  Stick to the coast.

King makes that interior seem so sinister, doesn't he?
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Robbie Parry
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 1:16pm | IP Logged | 18 post reply

Seeing as I have never had a supernatural encounter, I think I am immune to the likes of ghosts and vampires. ;-) How else do you explain that I have NEVER encountered one (at least 6 or 7 out of every ten persons I know has a ghost encounter to talk about)?

Edited by Robbie Parry on 20 August 2018 at 1:17pm
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 4:27pm | IP Logged | 19 post reply

I think SALEM'S LOT is King's best book. I've read it at least 5 times.

I enjoyed the 1979 mini-series for what it was. It wasn't 100% faithful to the book, but it was well acted by David Soul and especially James Mason. They changed Barlow fundamentally, yet it works for the story.

Stay far away from the 2004 mini series with Rob Lowe. Apart from Rutger Hauer and Donald Sutherland giving good performances, everything else is a bomb.
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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 4:41pm | IP Logged | 20 post reply


It's one of my all-time faves.  There's rich atmosphere, believable performances, smart dialogue, an eerie (and at times, melancholy) score, and most of all, genuine scares that can still make the hairs on my arms & neck stand up.

I think it's fantastic, and it gets my vote for the greatest horror TV movie ever made.  (And the cable remake with Rob Lowe was surprisingly awful!)



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Jason Scott
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Posted: 20 August 2018 at 8:28pm | IP Logged | 21 post reply

I do love the mini series version of Salem's lot. I loved the slow burn, as the pay off was certainly worth it. Not so fond of the cut down tv movie though. It did always annoy me how IIRC it didn't bother to wrap up Bonnie Bedelia's characters storyline.

It is also my favourite of King's books. I do like the novel of The Stand as well. The Stand mini series however started good, but never really got there with the second half of the story. Salem's Lot however has no such problems. I was very satisfied with it's conclusion.


Edited by Jason Scott on 20 August 2018 at 8:28pm
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Petter Myhr Ness
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Posted: 21 August 2018 at 1:56am | IP Logged | 22 post reply

I have, to this date, never seen SALEM'S LOT. Don't really know why, because the book is one my absolute favourite Stephen King books. It scared the living **** out of me when I was young! 
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Scott Wegrzyn
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Posted: 21 August 2018 at 5:01am | IP Logged | 23 post reply

My favorite King book is Salem’s Lot and I flip through it each September.  The original mini series was fine but the remakes after it have been dreadful.  My next favorite would be Creepshow, but that is mostly due to the format and collaborators on the project.  

If you enjoyed Salem's Lot, note that there are two short stories in King's book Night Shift that tie into the story.  One a Lovecradtian prequel, one a horrifying sequel that still gives me the shivers.  I believe they are named Jerusulem’s Lot and One for the Road.


And the Francavilla art for the album is wonderful.  The coloring really seals the deal for me.  I also do not have a record player but purchased the double album.
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Shaun Barry
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Posted: 21 August 2018 at 5:33pm | IP Logged | 24 post reply


"It all feels very credible, too. I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, but in a lot of horror films, people do seem a tad quick to accept the existence of vampires and the like once they see the evidence. They seem rather casual about it. Here it's different. Dr. Norton (Ed Flanders) sees a vampire with his own eyes, but during a car journey with Mears, he can't quite seem to accept it."

Agreed wholeheartedly, Robbie.  I'd say that one scene in the car, between Ben and Dr. Morton, is the single most important moment in the entire mini-series, in that it helps underscore the credibility and believability (and ultimate menace) of the whole affair; and Flanders completely sells it, when, near tears, he exclaims:  "It's... unbelievable!"





Edited by Shaun Barry on 21 August 2018 at 5:34pm
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Greg McPhee
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Posted: 22 August 2018 at 5:05am | IP Logged | 25 post reply

"One for the Road" which is a sequel to Salem's Lot really is quite a horrifying piece of work. Especially the warning Booth (the main character) gives to the reader about Jerusalem's Lot.
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