Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Movie and DVD Reviews: The best and not-so-best movies available on DVD, and whatever else catches my eye.

Mimsy Review: Salem’s Lot

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, April 2, 2001

People ought to respect a book. Even if it isn’t especially well written.

Special features


When this movie came out in 1979 I missed seeing it, although I had enjoyed the book immensely. I was, honestly, just plain too scared to see it “live” on screen. The book was scary enough. Perhaps it would have been frightening then, I don’t remember myself well enough (I do remember sleeping with a cross after reading the book). It is not very frightening now.

RecommendationPossible Rental
DirectorTobe Hooper
WritersStephen King, Paul Monash
Movie Rating5
Transfer Quality7
Overall Rating5
  • Television Format
Salem’s Lot (population): Salem’s Lot scene (population)

Last night I reviewed Altered States, from 1980. Tonight I’ll do a television show from 1979. I picked both of these up at Target for $10, and they’re not much more expensive on Amazon.

Salem’s Lot” pits David Soul (Starsky & Hutch’s “Hutch”) against James Mason (Lolita’s “Humbert Humbert”). Here, David Soul (what a name for a seventies actor! Of course he wasn’t born with it) plays writer Ben Mears. Ben is returning home to write a psychological horror story about a house that scared him when he was a kid. Gee, do you think this sounds like Stephen King’s alter ego? It ought to, King wrote the book. Like most of his books, it takes place somewhere in the middle of nowhere, Maine. The book involved far more psyching you out than outright horror. The movie only touches on that aspect a tiny bit, such as when the camera pans across a yard and you see abandoned toys and unkempt grass. For the most part, the movie is a straightforward horror story.

Salem’s Lot (vehicles): Salem’s Lot scene (vehicles)

Why do the vampires always have better vehicles?

This was a made-for-TV miniseries, and as far as I can tell it is the whole thing. It is 183 minutes long, which would put it at about four nights of one-hour slots or two nights of two-hour slots. (Assuming 46 minutes per hour.) There are many versions available at shorter lengths, however, as it was later cut up to make a single-viewing movie. Set aside three hours to see this (commercials are not included) and don’t worry about flipping the disk over: it’s a dual layer DVD with no interruptions. Have lots of popcorn ready.

The horror in the movie does not really hold up twenty years later. I’m not even sure how well it would have held up at the time had I seen it, seeing as I really enjoyed Stephen King’s storytelling style. The special effects really show their age. There are some very scary moments, though, such as the tapping on the window scene (you’ll know it when you see it).

Salem’s Lot (sex): Salem’s Lot scene (sex)

Every good horror movie has to have sex. Really good horror movies have phone sex.

The acting, however, is extremely good. I joke about David Soul, but he did a very good job. Lance Kerwin had a hard time getting rid of an accent that doesn’t fit either Maine or the California where he was born. Geoffrey Lewis (“The Way of the Gun”) made a great gravedigger. I don’t understand the truck scene at all, though. Of course the damn box is moving around you idiots, you didn’t tie it down!

Yeah, the movie definitely has its horror-share of people acting like idiots. Movie-goers complain about how vampires and other monsters are always so predictable and stupid, but the reason is because they don’t have much to live up to. Their victims aren’t much better. In its favor, this was one of the first vampire movies to require something behind the cross (though this was from the book).

Salem’s Lot (lost): Salem’s Lot scene (lost)

Not a good night to get lost in the woods.

The DVD is extremely basic: the movie and some trailers. If you can find it really cheap, and you are a fan of either the movie, the book, or the actors, it is probably worth it. Otherwise, it probably is not. The book “Salem’s Lot” was fascinating, and full of Stephen King’s trademark character interactions. By necessity, the movie had to drop a lot of that in favor of action and adventure, but that isn’t really what “Salem’s Lot” is about. The movie adds nothing to the book.

Recommendation: Possible Rental

DirectorTobe Hooper
WritersStephen King, Paul Monash
Based onSalem’s Lot (book)
ActorsDavid Soul, James Mason
Spoken languageEnglish
SubtitlesEnglish, French
Special FeatureTrailer
More links

If you enjoyed Salem’s Lot…

For more about James Mason, you might also be interested in A Star is Born.

For more about Stephen King, you might also be interested in The Shawshank Redemption.

For more about vampires, you might also be interested in Blade, Fevre Dream, World of Darkness, and Vampires of York.