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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Salem's Lot (Blu-ray)
Salem's Lot (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // PG // September 27, 2017 // Region A
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted October 3, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Based on the novel of the same name written by Stephen King, director Tober Hooper's 1979 adaptation of Salem's Lot stars David Soul as a writer named Ben Mears. Early in the film we see him return to the titular town in Maine, the very same town that he was born and raised in, hoping to find there enough inspiration to be able to start writing his latest novel. The inspiration for the book is Marsten House, a huge, creepy, old mansion that sits atop a hill in Salem's Lot and looks over the town the way that huge, creepy, old mansions tend to do in horror movies. Ben gets in touch with Larry Crockett (Fred Willard), a local realtor, in hopes that he'll be able to rent the old place but soon learns that a British ex-pat/antiquities dealer named Richard Straker (James Mason) has taken up residence. He and his business partner, Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder), plan to open up a new antique store in town.

With that plan dashed, Ben shacks up in a room he lets from Eva Miller (Marie Windsor). Before long, he's met pretty Susan Norton (Bonnie Bedelia), the daughter of Doctor Bill Norton (Ed Flanders), and they hit it off. Soon enough, fast friendship blossoms into romance. Of course, this is all short lived. Everything changes in town once Straker takes delivery of a massive crate, delivered to him by a man named Mike Ryerson (Geoffrey Lewis). The crate is brought into the basement of the house for safe keeping and from there, a kid named Ralphie Glick (Ronnie Scribner) is abducted, Straker bound and determined to use the poor kid as blood offering to that which is hidden away inside the crate, the mysterious Kurt Barlow, a vampire lord! When he ‘turns' Ralphie, the kid goes home and takes on his older brother, Danny (Brad Savage) and from there, the vampiric curse starts to spread across the small town.

Eventually, Mears starts to figure out what's going on and, along with a few other townspeople, has to figure out what to do about it…

Salem's Lot was originally broadcast as a two part made for TV movie and it's quite well done. The movie does take a while to get going and it might put off those with a shorter attention span in its first half by spending a fair bit of time on the romance that develops between Ben and Susan. However, this winds up making the last half of the film mean more and if sometimes the character development does suffer from some pacing issues, it pays off nicely by the time it's all over and done with.

The performances in the film are, for the most part, pretty decent. James Mason is an interesting casting choice to play an emissary of Nalder's vampire lord, and he does quite well in the part. Ed Flanders and the lovely Bonnie Bonnie Bedelia are quite good here in their supporting roles as are both Ronnie Scribner and Brad Savage as the Glick brothers. David Soul has the most to do, and if this isn't the performance of a lifetime it is at least pretty decent. There are some scenes where you wish he had a bit more charisma and energy but for the most part he's good in the part, showing decent chemistry with Bedelia and handling the drama, action and horror inherent in the story well enough. Smaller parts for Lew Ayres, Elisha Cook Jr., and Julie Cobb are worth mentioning and Fred Willard is fun as the real estate agent.

The fact that it was made for TV means that the violence and carnage some might hope to find in a horror film from the director of Texas Chain Saw Massacre is fairly tame, but the movie makes up for that with some great atmosphere and genuinely eerie atmosphere. The makeup effects used to bring the vampiric characters to life is really well done and Reggie Nalder's character in particular really stands out. If Nalder, who is the most memorable part of the film, wasn't creepy looking enough on his own, his character's likeness in this movie is quite striking, having more in common (visually, at least) with Max Schreck's Count Orlok as seen in F.W. Murnau's 1922 filmNosferatu than with the more charming, humanized vampires played by the likes of Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee or Frank Langella (who starred as Dracula in the 1979 movie of the same name directed by John Badham only a year prior to Salem's Lot).

Note that this is the same cut of the movie that appeared on DVD and that it runs one hundred and eighty-three minutes in length.

The Blu-ray:


Salem's Lot arrives on Blu-ray from Warner Archive framed at 1.33.1 fullframe, in keeping with the film's made for TV origins. The transfer is quite strong on this 50GB disc. Colors are reproduced very naturally and look very good, while black levels stay nice and strong, avoiding crush and letting plenty of impressive shadow detail into some of the darker scenes. Skin tones look lifelike and accurate and the image is free of any obvious noise reduction or edge enhancement. Detail is nicely improved over the previous DVD release and there are no compression artifacts to note. There are a few white specks here and there but that's it as far as print damage goes, nothing major or distracting here to complain about. Grain appear naturally throughout the film, but it's never overpowering. Quite simply, this is a nice, film-like transfer and most should be quite pleased with it.


Audio options are provided in English language DTS-HD Mono, and German, French and Spanish (Castilian and Latin options!) language Dolby Digital Mono tracks, with removable subtitles available in Castilian Spanish, French, German, Italian, Latin Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, Czech, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish, and Thai. The English lossless track sounds fine. Levels are nicely balanced throughout and the score has good depth to it. There are no problems with any hiss or distortion and dialogue stays clean and clear from start to finish.


The main extra on the disc is a commentary track with director Tobe Hooper. When he's engaged in the movie he's got some interesting stories to tell about working with the different cast and crew members involved in the shoot, how the project came to be, the source material, the locations and dealing with the producers. There are, however, frequent and sometimes very long gaps where Hooper just sort of clams up and goes quiet. A moderator might have been a plus here, but as it stands the track, as useful as it is at times, is quite uneven.

Outside of that we get the film's international theatrical trailer, menus and chapter selection.

Final Thoughts:

Salem's Lot holds up well. It takes a bit of time to get going but once it does, it's a spooky and entertaining mix of gothic horror and small town weirdness. The cast are game, the direction is solid even if the pacing is a bit slow and even at three hours in length it holds your attention. The Blu-ray release from Warner Archive is a bit light on extras but it does look and sound quite good. Recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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