Review Date: October 22, 1999
Released by: Warner Brothers
Release date: 10/26/1999
Region 1, NTSC
Full frame 1.33:1
Stephen King's second book and second movie gets a standard DVD release from Warner Brothers. Lets take a look.
Writer Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to Salem's Lot, the town he grew up in as a child. Ben remembers the Marsten House from Salem's Lot from his childhood. When he was 11 years old he went into the abandoned Marsten House on a dare. He remembers seeing a man hung from the neck with a green face. He remembers the man opening his eyes and at that point he ran out of the house. He's come back to Salem's Lot to confront his fears and write a book based on the house. When trying to buy or rent the house Ben finds out that someone has beat him to it. Two new strangers besides Ben have also moved into town to open an antique store. These strangers consisted of Straker (James Mason) and Mr. Barlow (Reggie Nalder).
Ben meets and begins a relationship with Susan Nortan (Bonnie Bedelia). Susan is a local art teacher at the towns school and is a fan of some of Ben's previous books. Strange things begin to happen in town and eyes start to point to Ben as being the possible source. First a child is abducted, next a man is found dead in his car where Ben and Susan had been doing the nasty (aka making love), and many more people begin to disappear or die for no particular reason.
Ben teams up with his childhood English teacher Jason Burke (Lew Ayres) to track down the source of these events. They discover a local resident by the name of Mike Ryerson (Geoffrey Lewis) who stumbles into the bar Ben and Jason are in. Mike is dazed and confused and claims that he sick after falling asleep while covering a grave. Mike spends the night with Jason and during the night Jason discovers two small puncture wounds on Mike's neck.
Ben and Jason soon come to the conclusion that the town is becoming infested with vampires. They realize they are the only ones who can stop the vampires and team up with a boy named Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) whose parents were killed by the master vampire, Mr. Barlow. The three head out to destroy this master vampire before it's too late and all residents of Salem's Lot are vampires.
Great movie, better book. Isn't that always the case, however? Especially so with Stephen King books. I just finished reading this book a few months ago and it was absolutely wonderful. It rivals Dracula as being one of my all time favorite books. Even in a 3 hour movie you can't get the amount of detail you get from a novel consisting of hundreds and hundreds of pages. The movie, which was made for TV, does extremely well in following the book. I was, however, disappointed to see some of the longer more detailed scenes from the book get cut down to short scenes in the movie. Not only that but there were a few significant changes made to the movie that never happened in the book.
For those for don't like to read or haven't read this particular novel by Stephen King I'm sure you'll enjoy this movie. It's directed by Tobe Hopper (director of Texas Chainsaw Massacre). Tobe manages to make the movie creepy and suspenseful without resorting to cheap scares and extreme gore. While gore is great I find that most of the movies that do end up scaring me or creeping me out contain almost no gore. The character development is fair, though not nearly as good as the novel. Sorry to rave on about the novel again, but with a novel you have the advantage of knowing the characters thoughts and in Stephen King novels you usually find out a lot about their history as well. That's something that just can't be accomplished in a movie of this length.
For those who haven't seen this film give it a try. Despite being inferior to the novel it's still a great movie and certainly remains one of the better movies made from a Stephen King novel.
Salem's Lot is presented in its original ratio of 1.33:1. The colors were nicely saturated with solid blacks. No grain was seen throughout the entire film, including nighttime scenes. What disappointed me about the transfer was the excessive specks and scratches that appeared throughout the film. This transfer appears to be the same one used for both the laserdisc and VHS releases. It's upsetting that Warner Brothers wouldn't remaster the title and remove some of these specks and scratches. Minus these problems the transfer is acceptable - images are crisp and clear throughout the film. This is the best transfer of the film that exists today, but doubt not that it could've been leaps and bounds better than the VHS and laserdisc versions. As it stands this DVD is only a slight improvement.
The sound is presented in mono. Dialogue is very clear and I heard crisp, clear sound throughout the film.
Nothing special. Just the international theatrical trailer. Would've liked to have seen a commentary from Stephen King. That would've been cool and I certainly would've paid the extra five dollars for it.
The movie is good and it's worth owning. I'm sure all Stephen King fans would agree. While the transfer won't blow you out of the water it's still acceptable. Also remember that this is the first release of Salem's Lot that is on a single disc - both the VHS and LD releases were on multiple media. The best advice I can give is read the book and then rent or buy the movie.
Movie - B+
Image Quality - B-
Sound - B+
Supplements - C
- Running time - 3 hours 3 minutes
- 1 Disc
- Chapter stops
- Mono Sound
- International theatrical trailer