Salem's Lot (1979) (NTSC)

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Released 22-Oct-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Horror Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1979
Running Time 184:20 (Case: 183)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tobe Hooper

Warner Home Video
Starring David Soul
James Mason
Lance Kerwin
Bonnie Bedelia
Lew Ayres
Reggie Nalder
Elisha Cook
Ed Cook
George Dzundza
Geoffrey Lewis
Marie Windsor
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music None Given

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Based on the novel by Stephen King, directed by Tobe Hooper, and produced in the late 1970s, Salem's Lot is a very dated, made-for-television production, which still manages to pack a few punches. Having not seen this full-length uncut mini-series for some time, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the creepy moments and the very decent acting performances.

    As I wrote in a previous review: "Stephen King's work was first published in a magazine in 1965, while he was a high school student, aged 18. The short story published was entitled "I Was a Teenage Grave Robber", but he was hardly an 'overnight success'. After finishing university, King married and spent the following years drifting through a variety of jobs that ranged from working at a petrol station to being a school teacher. King also managed to sell some of his short stories to magazines. According to King, he quit writing a few times, but his wife motivated him to persist. He even discarded the first chapter of Carrie, but his wife uncrumpled the pages and convinced him to finish writing the novel. He did so, and in 1973 King submitted Carrie to Doubleday Publishers. Doubleday bought the book, and promptly sold the paperback rights. King turned to writing full-time, and since then, King has written numerous best-sellers. King's books have been translated into 33 different languages, published in over 35 different countries, and there are over 300 million copies of his novels in publication. It also seems that most of his short stories and novels have been turned into television programmes or movies.

    Stephen King is referred to as the "Master of Horror", and while he is fondly remembered for Carrie (1976), Salem's Lot (1979), The Shining (1980), Creepshow (1982), Cujo (1983), Christine (1983), and Pet Sematery (1989), some of his non-horror works have also made it to the silver screen, such as Stand By Me (1986), The Running Man (1987), Misery (1990), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), Apt Pupil (1998), The Green Mile (1999), and Hearts In Atlantis (2001). I find it interesting that it is the latter that I prefer, and I personally love Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, and Misery."

    Salem's Lot deals with unresolved pain and fatal curiosity. Now a successful writer, Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his childhood town of Salem's Lot in Maine. Mears wants to rent a house for six months to investigate the strange and disturbing happenings at a creepy house in the town. Mears himself carries the haunting childhood memories of this Marsten House - a "monument to evil" - a house where young kidnapped. boys where taken.

    Mears believes that evil places attract evil men, and a mysterious and smug Mr Straker (played with delicious enthusiasm by James Mason), has recently purchased the house for an elusive antiques dealer, Mr Barlow. With the help of his former English school teacher, his new girlfriend Susan (Bonnie Bedelia) and her father, the local doctor, Mears sets about investigating the house and the bizarre events that unfold.

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Transfer Quality


    The transfer quality is dated, and limited by the 1970s television source material. At best, the transfer resembles a well-rented video tape from the local video store.

    The NTSC transfer is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1, Full-Screen.

    The sharpness is variable, and there are plenty of soft or hazy segments. The shadow detail is especially poor, which really adversely affects the production, as many of the original scenes are dark. For example, consider the lack of detail in the scenes at 14:09 or 37:55. The colour is also poor, and often appears washed out. The skin tones are slightly orange.

    The image was pixelated at times, such as at 15:50. In regards to film-to-video artefacts, many straight lines featured a mild shimmer. Film artefacts appear throughout, and some of them are large and intrusive, as the original source material appears damaged in places. Telecine wobble also makes an unwelcome appearance occasionally - most noticeable during the opening credits.

    There are English and French subtitles present on this single sided, dual layered disc. The English subtitles are accurate. I did not spot the layer change.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There is only one audio option on this DVD; the original mono audio track, encoded as English Dolby Digital 1.0 (192Kb/s).

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are fine.

    The very creepy musical score is credited to Harry Sukman, and it really helps set the mood.

    As a mono track, there is no surround or LFE activity.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    The extras are very slim.

    One comment on the packaging: (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) The back cover of the DVD features a picture of the villain unmasked (the true villain remains a mystery for most of the story), and a picture of the climactic scene, when Mears kills him. How these images were boldly printed on the external packaging is beyond me. It completely ruins the great surprise of seeing who and what Mears is really dealing with.


    A very simple menu.


    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital mono audio, this is the trailer for the mini-series.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Both the R1 and R4 DVD of Salem's Lot are identical, right down to the NTSC transfer and FBI copyright warning.


   Despite being very dated, and featuring some really cheesy special effects, Salem's Lot still has the power to make you jump out of your seat. Quite tame by today's standards, Salem's Lot remains a creepy entry into the Stephen King DVD canon.

    The video quality is poor, but still very watchable.

    The audio quality is very limited.

    The extras are really not worth mentioning.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Thursday, December 18, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
love it - Johnny Wadd (i am bionic)
Audio on DVD - Luke C