Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Salem's Lot' / Lance Kerwin

While on my Europe trip I had a craving to read some trashy fiction. I picked up Stephen King's 'Carrie' (read it in one sitting in the Amsterdam airport) and the small town vampire tale, ''Salem's Lot.' For Christmas my mom got me the 3 hour, Tobe Hooper directed, 1979 mini series based on the book which I had seen as a young child. I rewatched it the other night and only remembered fragments of the story and a few strong images that I still consider scary:

A young boy vampire coming to suck his older brother's blood

A female vampire getting burned by a makeshift crucifix

Barlow, the master vampire, scarier and uglier than Orlock in 'Nosferatu' (1922). I found the grotesque portrayal of vampires refreshing compared to the vampires we see today (Robert Pattinson).

While rewatching the film, I found myself clearly recalling the character Mark Petrie, a teenage boy who ends up banding together with the hero to fight the vampires and save the small town of 'Salem's Lot. Of the entire film, he made the strongest impression on me as a child. Maybe I identified with him because his is Mark and like me, he is obsessed with horror books, comics and memorabilia. But I think there was more to it than that. I was simply attracted to the actor Lance Kerwin who played Mark and wanted him to take his shirt off. In 'Salem's Lot' he possesses a strange mix of strength and vulnerability, at times both boyish and manly- the hero's partner and also the damsel in distress. In the book, the Mark Petrie character is much younger, but King uses words like effeminate, beautiful and fey to describe him. These qualities are all found in Kerwin who was 19 at the time Salem's Lot' was made. Not only is he attractive, but Kerwin gives the best and stand out performance in the film, a nuanced performance I'd call good by any standards. Too bad he only went on to do more TV work before becoming a pastor and creating the 'U-Turn for Christ' ranch on the island of Kauai (!). How absurd is that?

Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) in his room (note the horror stuff behind him)

Mark Petrie (Lance Kerwin) in Barlow's clutches after Barlow has killed his parents

Here are two promotional shots of Kerwin- where I got my wish (he took his shirt off)

Check out the trailer and Lance Kerwin in action:

The End

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