The amount of anniversary articles I’ve written in the last month or so is rather incredible – just a few days ago we had the 60th anniversary of The Twilight Zone as well as the 100th anniversary of the iconic Felix the Cat. Today however marks the 40th anniversary of Tobe Hooper’s television adaptation of Salem’s Lot – a TV mini-series that has been scaring us now for 40 years. And no slight meant to those who quite enjoy the 2004 mini-series but I feel the 1979 version is superior in almost every single way. Watching it… or attempting to watch it back in the day is a memory I have shared on the Salem’s Lot podcast – it bears repeating though. Being all of seven-years-old when the first part debuted on November 17th of 1979 – even though I was quite accustomed to horror films, I was sent off by my Grandparents along with my Cousins to bed. We had witnessed about half of Salem’s Lot and were a little upset about not getting to see it – worst of all – we weren’t tired so we listened to the movie – which was made even more frightening courtesy of our imaginations. In particular I remember getting scared as I listened to the events in the film where Danny Glick (Brad Savage) attempts to get his best friend, Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) to let him into his room – after being turned into a Vampire of course!
I was able to eventually see the entirety of Salem’s Lot when it was re-aired – which I believe was back in 1981. Tobe Hooper really delivered with this mini-series event – for one thing he an embarrassment of riches in regards to his cast. You had the likes of James Mason (Lolita, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), David Soul (Starsky and Hutch), Bonnie Bedelia (Die Hard), Geoffrey Lewis (Tom Horn, Night of the Comet), Lew Ayres (All Quiet on the Western Front), and George Dzundza (Crimson Tide) to name just a very few. Plus as CBS advertised it – it really was a special television event… and they just do not make commercials like this anymore.
Of course it didn’t hurt matters that the source material was Stephen King’s excellent 1975 novel ‘Salem’s Lot – it was Paul Monash however who delivered the teleplay. Monash is probably far better known as a Producer with such films as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Big Trouble in Little China. He also made quite a name for himself though as a writer – working as a script doctor on 1958’s Touch of Evil in addition to delivering the first episode script for 1984’s V television series among others. All of those elements as well as the haunting score by Henry Sukman managed to allow Salem’s Lot to scare us now for 40 years.
So if you’ve not made any plans for tonight, perhaps you could visit Salem’s Lot and pay a visit to Mr. Barlow… In fact I’m sure that… ‘You’ll enjoy Mr Barlow. And he’ll enjoy you.’ Before I wrap up this article I want to give a big shout out to Tom Pederson on the TV Terror facebook page for giving me the heads up on anniversary of Salem’s Lot.