Film Review: Salem’s Lot (1979)

Also known as: Salem’s Lot: The Movie (cable TV title), Blood Thirst (video title), Phantasma 2 (Spain), Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (Netherlands), Salem’s Lot: The Miniseries (Germany)
Release Dates: November 17th, 1979, November 24th, 1979
Directed by: Tobe Hooper
Written by: Paul Monash
Based on: Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Music by: Harry Sukman
Cast: David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Ed Flanders, Fred Willard, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor

Warner Bros. Television, CBS, 184 Minutes (uncut), 183 Minutes (DVD), 200 Minutes (TV), 112 Minutes (theatrical version)

Review:

“You’ll enjoy Mr. Barlow. And he’ll enjoy you.” – Straker

The last time I watched this wonderful film/TV miniseries was just before the 2004 remake came out. So it’s been a really long time and because of that, I guess I forgot how incredibly fantastic this was.

While I’ve never read the book, I know about what changes they made in this adaptation and frankly, I’m fine with all the major tweaks.

For one, the vampire is not some Eastern European dandy of the Bela Lugosi variety. Instead, Tobe Hooper gave us a vampire that is more reminiscent of Count Orlok from the 1922 film Nosferatu. And the late ’70s were a great time for vampire movies, especially lovers of F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu between this picture and the Nosferatu remake by Werner Herzog.

Another change that was made is that the final confrontation with the heroes and the vampire took place in the creepy basement of the vampire’s house, as opposed to one of the heroes’ homes. The vampire house was truly a character all its own in this film and it made this movie a mixture of classic vampire fiction and a traditional haunted house story.

What’s really great about the finale, is that the house that was created for the film is absolutely terrifying and enchanting all at the same time. The set designers created an incredibly creepy mansion for the final showdown and it truly brought the dread onscreen to a whole other level. A level that this film couldn’t have reached had they kept the story true to Stephen King’s novel.

The vampire mansion is just one part of this movie’s mesmerizing atmosphere, though.

All the scenes that feature some sort of supernatural element take on a strange life of their own. The scenes where the vampire children come to the windows and float into the rooms at night with fog billowing in are f’n incredible!

Honestly, for its time and maybe all-time, Salem’s Lot takes the cake for creating a perfect ambiance for a horror picture on the small screen. Honestly, I’d love to see this on the big screen, if it is ever showing somewhere near me.

The vampire kids at the window was so well done that it became a bit of a trope following this film. It was used in other movies like The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Plus, this film has a moment where a character is impaled by deer antlers mounted on the wall. This would go on to be seen in other movies as well.

Additionally, this would inspire vampire movies in other regards. Fright Night borrows from Salem’s Lot in different ways. That film even has a big finale in the vampire’s home and while it isn’t as incredible as the finale of Salem’s Lot, it is still a great sequence that is a nice homage to it. Fright Night is a classic in its own right, which also spawned a sequel, a remake and sequel to the remake. I even heard a rumor that it may be turned into a television show in the future.

But while this film would go on to inspire countless others, Tobe Hooper, the director, also had his own homages to other films in this, primarily the work of Alfred Hitchcock and his masterpiece Psycho. The vampire mansion has a very similar appearance to the house on the hill above Bates Motel. Hooper also employed similar shots.

For a TV movie, this also has some pretty good acting but no one else quite kills it like James Mason. He absolutely owns every frame of celluloid in which he appears. I’ve always loved Mason but seeing him truly get to ham it up while being terrifying was so damn cool. And honestly, Mason looked like he was loving this film, as he was so committed to the role that he breathed life into it that no other actor probably could have.

Salem’s Lot is a bonafide classic and pretty close to perfect. My only complaint about it is the running time. The film does feel a bit slow in parts but it was a two-part miniseries and had a lot of characters and subplots. In fact, those were all greatly trimmed down from the original novel and some characters were combined to simplify the story. But honestly, I’m still okay with the final result and I wouldn’t trim much, as almost every scene featuring the main characters feels necessary.

In the end, I love this movie; more so than I remembered. I’m glad that I revisited it after all these years and I feel like it’s a film that I will go back to fairly often now that I’ve been reminded as to just how damn good it is.

Rating: 9.25/10
Pairs well with: Werner Herzog’s Nosferatu remake, as well as other vampire films of the ’70s and 2000s Shadow of the Vampire.

Documentary Review: Moebius Redux: A Life In Pictures (2007)

Release Date: 2007 (Germany, France)
Directed by: Hasko Baumann
Written by: Hasko Baumann
Music by: Aaa
Cast: Jean Giraud (Moebius), H.R. Giger, Stan Lee, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Dan O’Bannon, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal

Arte France, Avanti Media, Morag Loves Company, 68 Minutes

Review:

I’ve admired Moebius’ artwork for years. However, I sadly didn’t know much about the man until this documentary.

Sure, I knew that he was an artist’s artist and that he has been praised longer than I’ve been alive but I never delved beyond just his art. But I guess that’s my crime and I missed out on not knowing more about Jean Giraud, the man behind the pseudonym.

This short film interviews a lot of iconic people from Alejandro Jodorowsky to Stan Lee to H.R. Giger to Jim Lee to Mike Mignola and they all give their two cents on Moebius and the impact of his work on the comic book and film mediums, as well as his influence on their own work.

Most importantly though, this spends a lot of time with Giraud, as he gives his story, in his own words. He talks about his influences and how Moebius evolved over time, working in the western genre and then sci-fi, fantasy and other styles that come with their own sets of tropes.

This was just a cool documentary about a guy that’s cooler than most people.

Moebius is an extremely talented artist and on top of that, his life is compelling and fascinating.

I’d say that this is definitely a must see for those who love the comic book medium and intriguing creatives with a hell of a lot of passion and imagination.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other comic artist documentaries. I’ve reviewed a ton of them here, already.

TV Review: Ultraman Mebius: Side Story (2008-2009)

Original Run: 2008 – 2009
Created by: Tsuburaya Productions
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Cast: Keiichi Nanba, Motomu Kiyokawa, Shunji Igarashi, Makoto Miyoshi, Masaki Nishina, Ai Saikawa, Daisuke Watanabe, Kenta Uchino, Misato Hirata, Minoru Tanaka, Takeshi Kusao, Hiroya Ishimaru, Seizō Katō, Hisao Egawa, Daisuke Gōri, Ryōichi Tanaka, Hideyuki Hori, Hideyuki Tanaka, Jirō Dan, Kohji Moritsugu, Susumu Kurobe

Tsuburaya Productions, 5 Episodes, 13-26 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

While these five episodes were originally released as three separate stories, for their American streaming release, they were bundled together as five 13 to 26 minute episodes under the name Ultraman Mebius: Side Stories.

The first episode was originally released as a 13 minute short called Ultraman Mebius: Hikari Saga, episodes two and three were a two-parter titled Ultraman Mebius: Armored Darkness, while the final two episodes were another two-parter, Ultraman Mebius: Ghost Reverse.

All three stories take place after the Ultraman Mebius television show and serve as the official conclusion to Mebius’ story, even though he’s appeared in other Ultraman films and shows since these were released. But in any event it’s the finale for the normal human characters that fans came to love in the Mebius show.

Overall, this was pretty cool to see, as it’s been a while since I watched Ultraman Mebius and this made me properly nostalgic for it. So I guess it really did its job in that regard. And frankly, I would have watched this just after I saw Mebius but it wasn’t available in the US until just recently.

This, like many Ultraman events, was full of multiple Ultramen and multiple villains, many of whom played a major part in the Mebius mythos over the show’s 50 episodes.

The special effects and tone are exactly what one should expect from an Ultraman special event of the time. It truly looked like an extension of the show and could honestly just be five episodes tacked on at the end and most people wouldn’t know the difference.

I thought that the effects were a wee bit better than the norm but this probably had a bigger budget per episode than the television show that had to be more frugal due to the scale of the production.

If you like Ultraman Mebius, I don’t see any reason why you wouldn’t enjoy this, especially the Armored Darkness story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the Ultraman Mebius show and other Ultraman movies and specials.

 

TV Review: Space Pirate Captain Harlock (1978-1979)

Original Run: March 14th, 1978 – February 13th, 1979
Created by: Leiji Matsumoto
Directed by: Rintaro
Written by: Haruya Yamazaki, Shozo Uehara
Based on: Space Pirate Captain Harlock by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Seiji Yokoyama

Toei Animation, 42 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This is probably where I should have started with Space Pirate Captain Harlock but I actually started with the prequel film Arcadia of My Youth. So I guess it’s okay that I watched them in chronological order instead of release order but I do often times find it is best to experience things in the order that they came out in like the Star Wars films or The Chronicles of Narnia books.

Regardless, I loved Arcadia of My Youth and it made me want to delve right into the Harlock show, which I was able to, as it is available to stream for free on Tubi.

Now the animation in the show isn’t as fantastic as the prequel film but it is still fantastic for the late ’70s and it reminds me a lot of another Leiji Matsumoto creation, Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

However, unlike Yamato, this takes the space opera genre and adds in a little swashbuckling. In a lot of ways it is similar to Star Wars or at least the early films. It has space exploration, interesting worlds, an epic quest and the type of action you can only associate with proper sword fighting duels.

What I love most about the Harlock stuff I’ve now seen is the tone of it. It’s often times dark and bleak, giving the universe these characters live in the proper setting: the coldness and emptiness of space. Still, it is lighthearted and hopeful and it doesn’t dwell in darkness, in fact, it brings light to it.

In the end, this is just a damn cool anime television show with cool characters, a sweet spaceship and great character and vehicle design. I love Matsumoto’s ability to world build, especially in a visual and tonal sense.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Captain Harlock films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Galaxy Express 999 and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

TV Review: The Anti-Gravity Room (1995-1997)

Original Run: 1995 – 1997
Created by: Chris Greaves, Ian Murray
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Music by: Angelo Oddi, Ben Johannesen
Cast: Nick Amadeus, Phil Guerrero, Shashi Bhatia, Jaimy Mahlon

YTV, 54 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Man, I dug the hell out of this show back in the day.

The main reason is because there was nothing like it and once upon a time, the Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy) was pretty cool.

This was the only show, as far as I knew in the mid-’90s, that focused specifically on comic books and video games. It really was the best of both of those worlds, as the presenters interviewed a slew of highly important people in both of those creative mediums.

Also, the show would delve into movies and TV and often times had guest hosts like Kevin Smith and Janeane Garofalo when I still thought they were cool.

The show has almost a public access, no budget feel to it but that’s pretty much what it was. It was actually a Canadian television show that Sci-Fi just decided to air in the United States.

In the end, it kind of came and went pretty quickly but I had fond memories of taping episodes and then binging them late nights on weekends with friends.

Luckily, for those interested, there are several episodes on YouTube thanks to the great people who didn’t throw their VHS tapes away and were then able to upload them for modern audiences to check out.

Rating: 7.5/10

Documentary Review: Funhouse (1997)

Release Date: 1997

Discovery Channel, 44 Minutes

Review:

I remember seeing this on the Discovery Channel when it was new. It always stuck with me and after becoming a fan of the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld, I wanted to try and track this down to revisit.

Sadly, there is no information about it online. There isn’t even an IMDb page. As I like to list the credits for everything I review, it sucks that I can’t give the proper people the credit they deserve for this cool little documentary that has stuck with me for 22 years.

Seeing it now, it was still a lot of fun and the real high point is where it showcases local, lesser known theme parks throughout the country. The two main ones that we get a peek at here are Bushkill Park and Kennywood, both from Pennsylvania.

What’s extra special about seeing this now, is that since this documentary, Bushkill Park has fallen into disrepair and doesn’t function as a full park anymore. There have been attempts at fixing it but the iconic rides of the past no longer function and have been wrecked by flooding and vandalism. But at the time of this documentary’s production, we got to see a lot of the old attractions in their mostly full glory.

This also goes into the technological advances that Universal Studios and Disney World were bringing into the theme park industry at the time. Some of the “new” rides featured here no longer exist or have evolved but this was a cool time capsule that looks into what was cutting edge in the ’90s.

If you like theme parks and their history, this is a fun watch. I put the whole documentary below and it even has the commercials left in, so its like a real ’90s TV time capsule.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: the YouTube channels Defunctland and Yesterworld.

TV Review: 11.22.63 (2016)

Original Run: February 15th, 2016 – April 4th, 2016
Created by: Bridget Carpenter
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: 11/22/63 by Stephen King
Music by: J. J. Abrams, Alex Heffes
Cast: James Franco, Sarah Gadon, Cherry Jones, Lucy Fry, George MacKay, Daniel Webber, T. R. Knight, Kevin J. O’Connor, Josh Duhamel, Chris Cooper, Annette O’Toole

Carpenter B., Bad Robot Productions, Warner Bros. Television, Hulu, 8 Episodes, 44-81 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I was actually pretty hyped to watch this when it was coming out, three years ago. However, my work life took a turn for the worse and I spent most of 2016 working about 70 hours per week and not having much time for anything else. I actually started this site later in that year when things started to stabilize again but by that point, this slipped down the memory hole.

However, I’ve been wanting to watch Stephen King’s Castle Rock on Hulu. So before getting into that, I wanted to go back and check this out, as it was King’s first Hulu collaboration.

The premise follows a man (James Franco), as he goes back in time to try and stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. It’s an interesting premise but it does also seem that the protagonist does it really haphazardly, as messing with the timeline can have some unforeseen consequences and it does. In fact, it has grave consequences, which I think are supposed to surprise you but for fans of time travel stories, it really doesn’t. I kind of sighed and went, “Well, it’s not like this wasn’t an obvious result of his meddling.”

What’s interesting about this though, is that King explores the idea of time itself fighting back during the hero’s journey. It almost feels like horror at times but at the same time, the effect that time has in fighting back against changes seems inconsistent throughout the story. It is really only used where it is convenient to the plot in some way or just to remind you that time is its own master.

I had a problem with that aspect of the story and I felt like it was a wasted opportunity in a lot of ways. Cool concept, half assed execution.

But still, this was damn compelling television. You get drawn into this world, this character’s mission and you do fall in love with some of the characters.

The acting is superb and this is some of Franco’s best dramatic work. But the rest of the cast is also exceptional, especially the love interest, played by Sarah Gadon, the and the best friend/partner, played by George MacKay. But two real standouts were Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald and the evil son of a bitch that was brought to life by Josh Duhamel.

Overall, this was a solid political thriller with a time travel twist. While the time travel stuff was handled pretty willy-nilly, you get so caught up in the proceedings that it feels secondary.

Rating: 8.5/10