Salem’s Lot (1979) – movie review

***Top Television Horror Movies of the 1970’s***

salems lot - pic 6

Salem’s Lot (1979)

Based on a short story by Stephen Kingtop 1970's TV horror - small
Directed by Tobe Hooper

David Soul
James Mason
Lance Kerwin
Bonnie Bedelia
Lew Ayres

By 1979, a TV movie written by Stephen King was big news. Add to that the film was directed by Tobe Hooper, the guy that made Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you have piqued interest in the film. Even us High School kids were abuzz with talk of the coming night’s horror flick about vampires in a small town in Maine. The young boy vampire, floating at his friend’s window chilled a generation of TV watching young horror fans. Salem’s Lot took a familiar horror staple and made it seem new. It told the story in a new way and entertained multiple generations. Some kids watched it with their parents,salems-lot-movie-poster-1979-1020420152 some despite of their parents, but almost everyone from 15 to 25 stayed home those two nights to tune in. It also made a few of us (like me) think that writing books for a living could be interesting and exciting.

Author Ben Mears returns to his childhood town to write about an old rumored haunted house called the Marsten House. He finds it is occupied by new owners, mysterious in nature. Of course we all know Barlow is a vampire and his sidekick Straker is his cohort, protecting him in the daylight hours. As the town turns into vampire central, Ben, his love interest, Susan, and the boy, Mark, battle the vampire at the Martsen House. This film brings back the Nosferatu style vampire in Barlow with great success. The glowing eyes of Barlow and all that are turned to vampires are something that really stands out in this film.

I love the stunning main theme by Harry Sukman. Long loud horn blasts break between quieter notes in a push and pull sequence, then the theme jumps into a frantic eighth note pace reminiscent of the theme from Psycho with multiple key changes. Paul Monash wrote the screenplay after several writers attempted to with little success. King liked Paul’s script and was familiar with his work as he had adapted King’s novel, Carrie for film. The film is a little slow and quiet by today’s standards, but that makes the horrific parts all the more creepy.

salems lot - pic 17

Fun Facts:

The house was made to look like the description in the book by building a façade over the front of an existing home in Ferndale, CA.

Make up man, Jack Young invented the glowing eye contact lenses for the film. They could only be worn for 15 minutes at a time.

Unlike the novel, the Vampire Barlow does not speak a word in the Salem’s Lot movie/miniseries.

A shorter, edited version was released to theaters in Europe. This version, called Salem’s Lot, The Movie, was also released with Return to Salem’s Lot as a double feature home video. WB eventually released the original uncut version that was aired as the miniseries in 1979.

The Night Stalker (1972) – movie review

the night stalker - pic 9

Top Television Horror Movies of the 1970’s

In the 1970’s the major networks began producing their own horror movies brought on by the success of the Dan Curtis’ TV film, Dark Shadows, and it‘s subsequent series. At this time period more than any other, horror flicks flourished on prime-time network television. I am going to review a bunch of these flicks. Each will be posted with my “TV Horror flick logo”

The Night Stalker (1972)top 1970's TV horror - small

kolchak--the-night-stalkerDirected by John Llewllyn Moxey
Darren McGavin
Simon Oakland
Carol Lynley
Barry Atwater


Dan Curtis and Richard Matheson teamed up to produce and adapt the Jeff Rice unpublished novel, The Kolchak Papers. Renamed The Night Stalker. It held the record in ratings for the most watched TV movie up to that time boasting a 54% Market share. Filmed for ABC, it was an entertaining vampire film with an outstanding protagonist in Carl Kolchak played deftly by Darren McGavin. I remember the vampire being highly active and having tremendous strength, different than vampires in films up to the time. It was a huge event to have a horror film on prime time TV and it made for active water cooler and school hall chatter for weeks. The finale where Kolchak enters the vampires lair to drive a stake through the vampire’s heart offers rich suspense and atmosphere as powerful as any major film. This film was followed by another made for TV film, The Night Strangler, and a TV series. Unfortunately, Curtis and Matheson were not part of the series which struggled for two years before being cancelled, but there are some fun episodes in the series nevertheless. The Night Stalker is a great movie and holds up well even to this day.

the night stalker - pic 2


related links:

The Night Stalker TV episode review
The Night Strangler review – coming soon


The Night Flier (1997) – Movie Review

Night flyer

“Don’t believe what you publish, don’t publish what you believe.”

The Night Flier (1997)

Directed by Mark Pavia

Miguel Ferrer
Julie Entwisle
Dan Monahan
Michael H. Moss

Richard Dees is top reporter for the Inside View, a sensationalist rag, comparable to Weekly World News, (you know the type of stories; the bat boy, I gave birth to five pound turnip, Bigfoot stole my girlfriend, etc). Dees is a bitter senior reporter that hasn’t had a good story in some time. His boss offers a new item for him to investigate but he turns it down thinking it’s a flop, that is, until a new young reporter, Katherine, digs up some additional info. Dees disregards the young reporter and steels back the assignment knowing it will get front page coverage. He’s on the hunt for a killer that drains his victims The Night Flyer - Cover artof blood to make it look like a vampire is on the loose. Dees is a total asshole but likable for his hardboiled style.

The killer is visiting small civil (non-commercial) airports in a black Cesna Skymaster 337 and dispatching the few workers on the field. He signs the airport manifests as Dwight Renfield. Maryland, Maine, Vermont; he sky hops to rural airports that don’t ask many questions because, quite often, they know they’re catering to drug runners. The story intensifies as Dees closes in on the killer and strange events take place in the killers wake. Katherine is also hot on the trail and Dees rushes to get the scoop. The story climaxes at an airport in DC, somewhat larger than the others, where Dees finds a mass carnage and the truth about his killer.

This near faithful and exciting adaptation to Stephen King’s novelette of the same name brings back some of the dark creepiness of King’s earlier film adaptations such as Salem’ s Lot. Miguel Ferrer plays an exceptional part in the film making it all believable by his dismissal of the events. Despite negative reviews from critics, I enjoy this film tremendously. It might not be for everyone. but it‘s entertaining to me. It’s a smaller film, not a huge blockbuster but worth a look for King fans. I think it’s an overlooked King classic.

The Night Flyer - pic 1

A fantastic King adaptation that quietly trumps many of his bigger budgeted films.
I give it 4.0 bloody bodies on the flying fanged fiends scale of wretched creature killers.


Fun Facts:
If you are familiar with The Dead Zone, you may remember character Richard Dees attempting to interview psychic, (main character) Johnny Smith for an Inside View article. He was played by Miguel Ferrer in that film also.

One of the headlines shown on the cover of the Inside View reads, ‘Kiddie Cultists in Kansas Worship Creepy Voodoo God!‘ which refers to ‘Children of the Corn’ a story (and film) also written by King.

Damsels in Distress – part 4 – here’s some more!

More Damsels in Distress – Movie Posters!

This post also takes a look at Damsels in distress as depicted on movie posters through the years for horror and sci-fi.

I also included the ‘banned’ inside cover art for Guns & Roses first album Appetite for Destruction, just because it fit so well in the theme.

Damsels in distress – Part III – magazine and comics

This post takes a look at Damsels in Distress as depicted on Sci-fi & Horror pulp magazines, horror comics and a few Book Covers (and a few loose illustrations, too!)



Comics and misc:



Damsels in distress – part II – horror and sci-fi movie posters

Damsels in distress – part II – horror and sci-fi movie posters

This post takes a look at Damsels in distress as depicted on movie posters for horror and sci-fi. There’s no truth in advertising here as many of these depictions never actually happen in the films.

Movie Posters:

Gallery 2:


And don’t forget to take a look at Part One of our Damsels in Distress pictorials: Damsels in Distress – in movies

The House That Dripped Blood (1970) – Movie review

house that dripped blood - house pic 2
The House That Dripped Blood (1970)

the house that dripped blood posterThis is the third anthology by Amicus Films and features both Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee in separate segments. The stories and screenplay were once again written by Robert Bloch. The film was directed by Peter Duffel and features an interesting and unconventional soundtrack by Michael Dress. It opens with scenes of the house itself, a sufficiently creepy but real dwelling. The camera passes through black iron gates to see the brick façade with Ivy crawling up its surface, cathedral windows and jutting turrets. Inside the home is furnished with antiquities from bygone eras and dated design. We cut to Inspector Holloway (John Bennett) from Scotland Yard questioning a local officer, Sergeant Martin about the disappearance a of film star. Paul Henderson was last  seen in the home he had rented in the countryside. Martin pulls out a case file on the house and its strange history. He goes into stories about the inhabitants and how they all came to untimely demise. So we enter each segment:

Method for Murder
A writer, Charles Hillyer (Denholm Elliott), looking to finish his latest murder/horror novel moves into the home with his wife, hoping the isolated country surroundings will give him the peace he needs to create. Once moved in, he immediately conjures his main protagonist, a brute psychotic named Dominic, who likes to strangle his victims with his bare hands. However, soonHouse-That-Dripped-Blood-6 Charles is seeing the strangler in the house; in the dark corners of the hallway and outside in the garden. Will reality prevail of will the writer be strangled to death by his own character?

Next up, Phillip Grayson (Peter Cushing) is a retired theater actor, looking for a quiet place to call home. We soon see that he is distraught over a long lost love named Salome. Wandering aimlessly through the local town he comes across Jacquelin’s Museum of Horror where he finds a beautiful figure that looks exactly like, Salome. The proprietor explains she was cast from real life and relays the story of how she was murdered. Mr. Grayson leaves in a flustered state and is soon having strange dreams surrounding this figure in the museum and her alluring beauty. The dream sequence is a fantastic piece of shock horror visuals. He is awakened by a visiting friend, Neville, who had also courted the beautiful Salome. the house that dripped blood pic 2While in town, Neville also discovers the wax image in the museum. Quite strangely the competition between the two old friends is reignited. Only one can be with her and the winner gets his wish!

Sweets to the Sweet
In the third story, John Reid, (Christopher Lee) is a single father raising his daughter Jane. Jane is about 6 or 7 years old with long blonde locks and innocent blue eyes. He moves into the country home to be away from the town and populous. He hires a teacher for Jane, unwilling to let her go to public schools. The teacher, a widowed Mrs. Norton, soon learns the strange parameters of the father and daughter relationship. Jane is strangely fearful of fire, is withdrawn and angry. Mr. Reid will not let his daughter play with other children and will not permit toys in the house. Mrs. Norton soon realizes that Mr. Reid is terrified of his daughter. The reasons become clear one night when a black out leads Mr. Reid to discover missing candles and Mrs. Norton discovers that Jane has been reading books on witchcraft.

The Cloak
The final story concerns the missing actor, Paul Henderson (John Pertwee). In town for a low budget film production of Dracula, he searches out his own wardrobe to replace the unauthentic clothes the film production has given him. He finds a cape in a small costume shop. When he puts it on, he is empowered with the powers of a real vampire. This tale has comedic elements as Mr. Henderson is dumbfounded by not seeing his reflection in the mirror and accidentally bites his co-star, Carla, played by the lovely, Ingrid Pitt. There is even a scene that mirrors The Lost Boys as Henderson begins to float at the strike of midnight and is stunned by the incident. Henderson states that he wants to play his role like Bela Lugosi, not that new guy, in an obvious referencethe-house-that-dripped-blood-08 to Hammer films. This is my least favorite of the stories but not bad for campy entertainment.

The film wraps up with Inspector Holloway finally visiting the House and discovering Henderson and Carla in the basement. They are now full-fledged vampires and asleep in their coffins, that is, until they are disturbed by the investigator. This is another good Amicus anthology with well-written stories and convincingly acted parts. It is not scary like more modern films (none of the Amicus films or films from that age are) but the stories are interesting tales of the macabre.



This review is part of a series I am doing to review all the Amicus Anthologies and horror films.

Related articles:

Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors

Torture Garden

Amicus Films Overview – the Studio That Dripped Blood

Ingrid Pitt career overview by Robbinsrealm

Dracula the Un-Dead – book review

Dracula The Un-dead
Dacre Stoker & Ian Holt
New American Library/Penguin (2009)

Dracula the Un-dead is a direct sequel to Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula. The novel reconnects us with the surviving original characters some twenty-five years later, and introduces a few new ones, most notably, Quincy Harker, son of Mina and Jonathan Harker. The familiar ‘band of heroes’ that fought off the ultimate evil are once again summoned to face the dark entity that they had assumed was gone forever. The tale begins with Dr. John Seward trying to warn his old comrades about an evil conspiring to unleash a reign of blood upon England. He is hot on the trail of the accursed creature and ready to do battle. We quickly learn that it is not Dracula that he is hunting. It is a vampire who is just as wicked and cunning, Elizabeth Bathory.

Arthur Holmwood, Jonathan and Mina Harker, and Van Helsing, ignore Seward’s warning, knowing full well that he had become a morphine addict and a recluse, that is, until death comes to their very door. Meanwhile, Quincy Harker, an aspiring actor who is failing out of law school has a chance meeting with a legendary and eccentric stage actor from Eastern Europe, who befriends the young man and becomes his mentor. The tale escalates into a race to save the young Quincy from the clutches of a known evil and an unknown entity, while trying to tear down the veils of deceit and lies the young man has been subjected to since his birth.

Although the novel starts with a letter, it is written in modern, third person narrative. ‘The Un-dead’ frequently revisit’s the original novel, not just to remind us of past events but to give detail (sometimes contradictions) on character’s feelings and thoughts not expressed in the original novel. In order to enjoy this book you have to first accept that it is not written in Bram’s style, nor the style of 19th and early 20th Century writers. Secondly, you have to accept quite a bit of dancing around the (fictional) facts of the original, in order to enable Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt to tell the story they wanted to tell. Thirdly, you have to accept that this story is just as much about Elizabeth Bathory (more so in the first half of the book) as it is Dracula. And, at times it seems to be more of a sequel to Francis Ford Copalla’s Dracula film rather than Bram Stoker’s novel as it expands the Dracula character into a more sensitive being.

In this novel, Dracula is not portrayed as the ultimate evil we have read about. He is portrayed as a romantic stately figure, honorable and noble, that has been afflicted with the curse of the undead. Bathory is transformed in the book from our vision of a countess bathing in the blood of young maidens, to a many centuries old, powerful and evil vampire. Bram Stoker is actually a character in the book, struggling to get his story, “Dracula” launched as a play at the Lyceum Theatre in London. In the story, Dracula confronts Stoker and condemns his version of the events as a one-sided view told by his enemies. This helps to explain the difference in the portrayal of Dracula’s nature from the last novel to this one. The tale is intertwined with true historical events that help to firmly set it in the 1912 time frame.

Dracula the Un-dead successfully ramps up the tension and action of multiple plot lines and, I indeed, found it difficult to put down the book for the last 150 pages. It is a fast paced and exciting tale with many twists and turns, a crossover from an older style to modern novel writing.

The Afterward and endnotes make for some interesting reading; further explaining that some of the ideas and characters present in this sequel were originally Bram Stoker’s ideas, found in handwritten notes and touched upon in Bram’s short story, Dracula’s Guest. (Most notably the character of Inspector Cotford of Scotland Yard, originally conceived for Bram‘s Dracula tale but left out of the book‘s final versions.) It also briefly explains the loss of the copyright for the name Dracula in a lawsuit with Universal Pictures and the dual purpose of this book to get the name Dracula somewhat realigned under the Stoker family name.

I find Dracula the Un-dead to be a successful novel, revisiting and expanding upon the legendary character and book, engaging for fans of the original or for casual fans that have not read the original but are familiar with the story. This is an easier read, told in modern fashion, that touches upon all the main plot points of the original while unfolding a new story and plotlines. Purists will scream blasphemy but with all the changes and evolutions in the legend of vampires that have taken place since the groundbreaking original Dracula novel, this one at least returns to traditional vampire lore. Would fans be happy with a carbon copy sequel in style, story and plot-points? Would a novel like that even be accepted by a publisher in this day and age? The answer is, no. So while this may never become a classic like the original (most sequels aren’t) readers should stop squawking and just enjoy the ride. It’s not perfect but it’s still the best vampire novel I’ve read in a long time.