Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Review of Tony Earnshaw's "Studies in the Horror Film: Tobe Hooper's Salem's Lot"

It's been a busy year so far for books about the various works of Stephen King, and of the group, I'd say the one I was most looking forward to was the one we're covering today:

And of the 2014 books about King that I've read so far, this one is easily the best.  It is a beautifully-made book in the physical sense, and the text is (while not exactly what I was expecting) very much worth reading.

Let's break it down a bit and examine the contents.

First of all, the photos.  Ah, the photos.  You will perhaps have noticed that the cover price is $50.  Even for a lovely book like this one, composed of 300+ pages of slick photo-quality paper, $50 is a bit much.  That said, the photos are so good that I am strongly considering buying a second copy.  Why?  So I can take the book apart and scan the photos in to my digital collection.  The book is scanner-resistant, and if I tried to scan the pages, the spine would be utterly devastated.  But yes, the photos are good enough that I'm considering buying another copy that I can tear up just so as to have these photos available to put in the folder from which my laptop plays its screensaver slideshow.

Does that tell you anything?

As for the text, here are the contents:
  • "Life in a Small Town: The Making of Salem's Lot" by Tony Earnshaw -- thirteen pages examining how the project came to be
  • "An Interview with Stephen King" by Paul Gagne -- a fifteen-page interview with King that first appeared spread across two 1980 issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland.  The interview also appeared in the book Feast of Fear in 1989.  It's good stuff no matter where you read it.
  • "On the Set of Salem's Lot" by Bill Kelly -- a seventeen-page piece that originally appeared in a 1980 issue of Cinefantastique (the same one I covered as part of this post)
  • "The Overture of the Grave: An Interview with Tobe Hooper" by Bill Kelly -- also from the above-mentioned issue of Cinefanstique
  • "Primal Fear: An Interview with Tobe Hooper" by Tony Earnshaw -- a 2012 interview conducted for this book.  Running some forty pages, this is unquestionably one of the book's highlights.
  • "The Essence of Evil: An Interview with Richard Kobritz" -- this interview with producer Richard Kobritz is also from the 1980 issue of Cinefantastique.  That issue is terrific, and it's nice to have its King-related contents in book form.
  • "The Twilight of Mr Barlow: An Interview with Reggie Nalder" by David Del Valle -- Nalder played Barlow; not sure where this interview came from, but it's good to read a bit about the man whose image was so crucial to the marketing of the movie (and continues to be so to this day)
  • "Naturalistic Low-Key Horror: An Interview with Jules Brenner" by Jerad Walters -- Walters is the man behind Centipede Press, so I tend to assume that this interview was conducted exclusively for this book.  Either way, it's nice to see the director of photography get some recognition for his work.
  • "Revolutionizing the Genre: An Interview with Richard Kobritz" by Tony Earnshaw -- extracts from this interview originally appeared in a 2006 issue of Cinema Retro.  It's another lengthy piece, which is fine by me.
  • "The Gentleman As Actor: An Interview with James Mason" by Miles Beller -- the provenance of this piece is unknown to me (and, seemingly, to editor Earnshaw), but it is clearly from around the time of the film's production.  It is less an interview than an article, and it is fairly brief, but it is still good.
  • "The Purity of Terror: An Interview with David Soul" by Tony Earnshaw -- extracts from this one appeared in a 2002 issue of Cinema Retro.  Soul sounds like an interesting fellow.  I know essentially nothing of his work apart from Salem's Lot, which probably makes me a bit of an oddity for my age-group.
  • " 'Look at Me, Teacher!': An Interview with Geoffrey Lewis" by Tony Earnshaw -- this is an expanded version of an interview that ran in Cinema Retro in 2007.  Always been a fan of Lewis, myself, mostly from Which Way movies he did with Clint Eastwood and the orangutan.  But any time he shows up in a movie, new or old, I'm thrilled to see him.  Earnshaw clearly is in the same camp as me in that regard.
  • "High Budget Horror: An Interview with Lance Kerwin" by Randy Waage -- a very short piece that originally appeared on RetroCrush.com
  • "Black Drapes and Porno Dolls: An Interview with Joshua Bryant" by Tony Earnshaw -- Bryant played Mark Petrie's father in the film, which was a fairly small role.  Nice to hear from him, though.
  • "Dramatic. Mysterioso. Classical: An Interview with Susan Sukman McCray" by Tony Earnshaw -- another Cinema Retro piece, this one focuses on the score by Harry Sukman, by way of a talk with his daughter, who knows more about his work than you might expect

That's it for the text, after which there is an extensive photo gallery, plus forty pages or so from the screenplay.

I have practically nothing to say about the book that would be considered negative.  I suppose I could carp about the title (Studies in Horror) implying that there would be more criticism in the book; what's here is journalism, not criticism.  But I suppose "studies" does not imply criticism, so that's probably a me thing moreso than a this-book thing.

The book is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and who knows where else, but you can also order it directly from the publisher here.  And if you wish to buy one, they will be happy to sell you a $250 cloth hardback edition in its own slipcase.  It's not signed, but it's numbered, so you don't feel as if your book is less valuable than it ought to seem.  That edition is also larger and has an additional section consisting of a 176-page scene-by-scene recap.  If you want that edition, buy two and send the second one to me, as that is the only way I'll ever get it.

Here are a few images borrowed from Centipede's page for the book:

So, final thoughts: if you are a fan of the movie, this book is highly recommended.  The price tag is perhaps a bit much (especially for the hardcover), but I consider it to have been money very well spent.

Go getcha one!


  1. You could probably email Jared at CPress and see if he could sell you non-binded sheets for a couple bucks.
    I would ask him before spending another $50 he usually sells things like that later on down the road.

  2. Sounds and looks fantastic. Definitely added to the queue.

  3. My copy should arrive any day now - I ordered it from Cemetery Dance - I can't wait to have it in my mitts !

    1. Hope you enjoy it! I'd be surprised if you didn't.

  4. Holy crap! Found this blog, bought the book, and now 2 days later having it in hand I want a second copy to take apart too! There's some really awesome photos and art - it's such a shame it had to be stuck in such a small paperback...

    I don't consider the HC version feasible either. $250 is a ridiculous amount for a book. (Even a cool one.)

    Thanks for blogging!

    1. I haven't pulled the trigger on buying that second copy yet, but it's going to happen eventually. Glad to know I'm not the only person with that urge!