A Spooky Stephen King Adaptation and a Meta Look at a Foundational Film

As I was planning the rest of the countdown and doing some math, I realized that I was still one film behind, so I’ll be presenting two tonight as the Countdown of My Favorite Vampire Movies continues. I have been a Stephen King fan for more than three decades and I find it interesting that he hasn’t written very many vampire stories. When it comes to the second film in this post, well, Nosferatu was one of the first, if not the first vampire film, and this is an interesting take on what might have or could have happened while filming it.

19. Salem’s Lot – 1979

Stephen King has written stories about all kinds of oogedy-boogedies, from ghosts and zombies to werewolves and demonic clowns, but he has penned very few vampire tales and ‘Salem’s Lot would be the one full-length vampire novel, published in 1975. Two of his most famous film adaptations were made for TV productions – 1990’s IT and 1979’s Salem’s Lot. The prequel Jerusalem’s Lot appeared in the 1978 short story collection Night Shift and is now the basis for the EPIX limited series Chapelwaite starring Adrien Brody. Another related short story, One for the Road, also appears in Night Shift and serves as a bit of a sequel to ‘Salem’s Lot.

As the story goes, author Ben Mears (David Soul) returns to his hometown of ‘Salem’s Lot to write a book about the infamous Marsten House. Meanwhile, Richard Straker (James Mason) has opened an antique shop in town and is anxiously awaiting the arrival of his boss/business partner, Kurt Barlow. Mears strikes up a romance with Susan Norton (Bonnie Bedelia) while Barlow, a vampire as it turns out, starts taking out the local populace. Mears teams up with young Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin), who is a horror and monster buff, to fight Barlow and his ever growing vampire horde.

One of the best scenes in the entire two-part series is the image of Ralphie Glick floating outside of Mark Petrie’s bedroom window. It is truly the stuff of nightmares. Geoffrey Lewis also does a great, creepy job as Mike Ryerson as Ryerson becomes a vampire.

There are a lot of great moments in this production and it stays fairly true to the novel. I have a few issues with it, however. I’ve always thought David Soul was too old to play Ben Mears, and I never liked Barlow’s Max Schreck Nosferatu look. It made no sense and bore no resemblance to the character in the book. However, for a 1979 made-for-TV mini-series, ‘Salem’s Lot holds up pretty well. As for the book, one particular character death hits harder than the rest.

There was a badly reviewed sequel that I haven’t seen in years and a remake starring Rob Lowe in 1994 that I barely remember. A full-blown theatrical release remake is set for next year with William Sadler, Alfre Woodard, Lewis Pullman, and Makenzie Leigh set to star.

18. Shadow of the Vampire – 2000

So, let’s say you are making a horror movie and the actor you cast to play the vampire actually turns out to be a, you know, vampire. That’s the premise behind Shadow of the Vampire starring Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Cary Elwes, Udo Kier, Eddie Izzard, and Catherine McCormack. Malkovich plays F.W. Murnau, the German expressionist filmmaker who made Nosferatu in 1922. Dafoe plays Max Schreck who is to star as Count Orlock, the film’s vampire. The only problem is, Schreck is really a vampire who enjoys snacking on the film crew. Murnau knows what Schreck is and has reached a macabre arrangement with his star.

Murnau famously, or infamously depending on your perspective, made Nosferatu without Bram Stoker’s widow’s permission, as it was considered an adaptation of Dracula. Stoker’s widow sued and won and all copies of Nosferatu were to be destroyed. Obviously, at least one print survived. The film, much like the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, was an example of German expressionism and the set pieces were as much part of the story as the characters. Nosferatu is considered a seminal film in the horror genre.

Written by Steven Katz and directed by E. Elias Merhige, Shadow of the Vampire is raucous at times and downright creepy at others. Malkovich is a treat as Murnau as he demonstrates that he’ll do anything, and I mean anything, to get his film made.

Merriam-Webster defines “meta” as “showing or suggesting an explicit awareness of itself or oneself as a member of its category cleverly self-referential.” Shadow of the Vampire fits that definition to a “T.”

31a./31b. Blacula/Scream Blacula Scream
30. The Lair of the White Worm
29. Son of Dracula
28. Vampire Circus
27. Innocent Blood

26. The Hunger
25. Countess Dracula
24. Dracula
23. Count Dracula
22. The Vampire Lovers

21. Dracula’s Daughter
20. Kolchak: The Night Stalker

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