Two new arrivals in Salem’s Lot cause a flutter in the small town. One a returning prodigal son the other a mysterious stranger. But the mysterious stranger has an even more mysterious partner and the prodigal son a secret past. When two young boys are attacked and one goes missing suspicions are raised and a town looks for answers. When the other boy becomes the victim of a vicious anaemia few suspect to true and horrifying nature of the boy’s illness.
Ben Mears (David Soul) has returned to his childhood home to lay to rest the ghouls, shots and spectres of his traumatic early years. He takes time to re-establish old friendships and even manages to spark up a romantic attachment to Susan Norton (Bonnie Bedilia).
Richard Saker (James Mason) is a stranger in town who rents the old haunted house at the top of the hill (the source of Mears’ childhood fears) and opens an antiques shop in town as part of a retirement plan for himself and his partner, Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder).
These two are pitted against each other and many friends a going to be caught up in this epic struggle between good and evil.
Salem’s Lot is my favourite Stephen King novel. This is my favourite of the two TV mini series adaptations.
David Soul is surprisingly efficient and believable as the returning author looking for his next story (and get one personal comfort from the experience) and plays well against James Mason‘s vicious and cold vampire’s assistant.
As a TVM the special effects aren’t stunning but they work and the setting and atmosphere are suitably unsettling. It isn’t surprising that the talents of James Mason steal huge swathes of the movie but there is enough screen time to allow the rest of the cast to show what they are made of. All do well.
The choice of going for a Nosferatu style vampire is inspired and carried off enigmatically by Reggie Nalder. If ever an actor deserved a movie of his life it is probably Nalder – look him up.
One nice touch here is the time spent to set up each character.
Oh, and make sure you’re watching the longer version, the short 107 minute version is poorly edited.
Things to look out for: Ethereal performance by Ronnie Scribner as a ‘junior’ vampire preying on his best friend, James Mason steals the show, Fight faith and will, Ed Flanders as the local doctor (they’re always doomed, aren’t they?), self motivated cargo, mysterious attack on a grave digger, “Open the window, Mark!“, vampire in a rocking chair
Cast: David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, George Dzendza, Ed Flanders, Barbara Babcock, Brad Savage, Ronnie Scribner, Reggie Nalder
Rating: worthy adaptation of a long book, recommended