Salem’s Lot (1979) – Episode 69 – Decades of Horror 1970s

“Open the window, Mark. Please! Let me in! It’s OK, Mark, I’m your friend. He commands it!” If a floating Glick boy ever says this to you, no matter what, don’t open the window!  Doc Rotten is off on assignment for this episode, but regular hosts Jeff Mohr, Bill Mulligan, and Chad Hunt are joined by Joey Fittos, the Thug with a Mug, as they travel to the not-so-quaint and disturbing New England village of Salem’s Lot to discuss the equally disturbing 1979 miniseries, Salem’s Lot.

Decades of Horror 1970s
Episode 69 – Salem’s Lot (1979)

The literary juggernaut known as Stephen King had already made the book-to-movie transition with Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) when Warner Brothers Television decided to adapt ‘Salem’s Lot, King’s second novel, to the TV miniseries format. Horror icon Tobe Hooper was enlisted to direct as was Paul Monash to provide the screenplay adaptation of King’s novel for an all star cast that includes James Mason, David Soul, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Reggie Nalder, Geoffrey Lewis, George Dzundza, Julie Cobb, Elisha Cook Jr., Marie Windsor, Fred Willard, Ed Flanders, Kenneth McMillan, and more. The result was Salem’s Lot, a now legendary, 2-part miniseries first broadcast November 1979 on CBS.

Each of this episode’s Grue Crew viewed Salem’s Lot during its premiere broadcast. Joey proclaims Salem’s Lot as one of his all time favorite horror films. Bill also loved it, but was a little put out by specific scenes present in King’s novel that are not included in the miniseries. David Soul (Starsky and Hutch, 1975-79) as the star gave Jeff some misgivings prior to seeing the film and he was annoyed at first by the changes made in the transformation of his beloved ‘Salem’s Lot (the book) into Salem’s Lot (the movie). It didn’t take long, however, for him to be won over by what was, in truth, an excellent horror film. Chad, along with Joey and Bill, in hindsight, saw definite similarities between Salem’s Lot and Fright Night (1985).

The film’s over 3-hour runtime is surprisingly even-paced and despite the length, the viewer is never caught wondering how much time is left. Scenes that have been frozen in your grue Crew’s nightmares are discussed, including, but not limited to, the floating Glick boys and Geoffrey Lewis in a rocking chair. The story is so well told, there are several unscary scenes that are memorable for their dialogue or visual impact alone. Salem’s Lot gets an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the whole Crew.

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Poltergeist (1982) – Episode 106 – Decades of Horror 1980s

“They’re Here.” Carol Anne Freeling (Heather O’Rourke) becomes an iconic character in the history of horror. Poltergeist sent shockwaves through audiences when it premiered 35 years ago. Taking the traditional suburban landscape and sending ghosts through it. Giving a whole generation fears of trees, TV sets and clowns. The nightmare fuel is palpable to this day, as Poltergeist still has the type of imagery that resonates. Now, Poltergeist is getting the Decades of Horror treatment, as the show celebrates its one-year anniversary with another Tobe Hooper film. Well… whether or not it’s that is up for debate.

Decades of Horror 1980s
Episode 106 – Poltergeist (1982)

Poltergeist has a pretty solid pedigree. Written and produced by Steven Spielberg, the 1982 ghost story was made concurrently with Spielberg’s directorial effort E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. To the point where Drew Barrymore got her role in the latter by auditioning for the former. Then again, who could possibly see Poltergeist without Heather O’Rourke as the adorable Carol Anne? Or Craig T. Nelson and Jobeth Williams as the endearing heads of The Freeling family? The entire cast makes for an incredibly convincing family unit, one whose struggles with the paranormal are made all the more terrifying by finding them investing. Even the paranormal investigative crew manages to have emotional resonance. Beatrice Straight grounds the investigation with a quiet sense of wonder and Zelda Rubinstein gives an authentic sense of authority that proves “size matters not.”

This Poltergeist episode also means the first year anniversary for Decades of Horror 1980s! A year ago, Doc Rotten, Christopher G. Moore and Thomas Mariani covered Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre II. Now, they’re debating if Mr. Hooper even had anything to do with this one! There’s definitely plenty of Spielbergian touches, but Hooper occasionally peeks his head in for the more technical aspects of the haunts. Yet, Hooper doesn’t seem as capable of capturing the afterlife’s sense of wonder as Spielberg. Or the tight nit grounded family dynamic. Or the suburban solidarity that gets torn apart by the titular spectres. Whoever did end up directing, the results can’t be denied. Poltergeist is still one of the most popular films of the decade and no amount of sequels, TV shows or remakes can recapture the unique blend of the original.

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