James Mason jumped at the chance of playing a servant of evil, loving the script. This was fortunate as he was producer Richard Kobritz's first choice for the role of Mr Straker.
The exterior for the Marsten House was actually a full-scale facade built upon a smaller pre-existing hill-top house. In total, the facade cost the production an estimated $100,000 dollars to build.
Director George A. Romero was originally approached to direct a feature film version, but after the announcements of John Badham's Dracula (1979) and Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre (1979), Warner Bros. decided to turn Salem's Lot into a TV mini-series. Romero dropped out, feeling he wouldn't be able to make the film the way he wanted to with the restrictions of network television.
Stephen King was inspired to write the book when he had his English class read 'Dracula', and became curious about what would happen if vampires came to America, specifically in a small town.
Clarissa Kaye-Mason who played Marjorie Glick was the real-life wife of James Mason who played Richard Straker.
This was the first television mini-series (and the second film) to be based on the writings of author Stephen King.
After viewing The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), producer Richard Kobritz knew he had found the right director in Tobe Hooper.
The original novel established many motifs that Stephen King would use in his subsequent novels. It takes place in a small town in Maine, and many later stories took place in the small towns of Derry or Castle Rock. It features a much larger cast of characters than Carrie (1976) did, and most of his later books had a large cast. The main character, Ben Mears, is a professional writer, and another major character, Matt Burke, is a schoolteacher. Many of his subsequent characters were either or both. King himself also held both jobs.
The scenes of the child vampires floating outside of their victims' windows was partly filmed in reverse to give it a more eerie effect. Additionally, the actors performed on a boom crane rather than being suspended on wires.
Although this adaptation differs dramatically in a lot of different areas from the novel - notably in the depiction of chief vampire Mr Barlow - Stephen King approved of it.
In an interview with director Tobe Hooper, Hooper said that the makeup work on Reggie Nalder had to be constantly touched up as it would crack or fall off while the actor was performing for the camera. Hooper said that the film's finale with Barlow in his coffin required numerous takes to keep the makeup work intact during shooting.
After the mini-series aired on CBS with excellent ratings there was talk of continuing it as a regular television series for a while. The idea of making Salem's Lot a TV show never materialized though.
In an interview with Fangoria magazine Reggie Nalder (Barlow) said he was somewhat disappointed by the film because some additional scenes that included his vampire were cut.
The line where Mike Ryerson says to Jason Burke "you'll sleep like the dead, teacher..." is a reference to the poetry of George Seferis.
The original intent was for Warner Brothers to turn Stephen King's 400 page bestseller into a feature film. Stirling Silliphant, Robert Getchell and Larry Cohen all had a go at distilling the material down to two hours' length but none of these were deemed to capture the essence of the novel. Eventually the project was handed over to Warner Brothers Television where producer Richard Kobritz felt it would work better as a TV mini-series.
The miniseries was filmed with several alternative scenes, done with the intention of producing a shorter cut that would play in European cinemas.
The theatrical version was released in Spain with the title "Phantasma II", a supposed sequel to Phantasm (1979), even though the two movies have nothing in common.
Larry Cohen wrote the first draft of the movies script but producer Richard Kobritz said Cohen's script was "really lousy" and chose Paul Monash to write the screenplay. Cohen attempted an appeal to get some writing credit on the film, but he was rejected screen credit.
In an interview with Reggie Nalder, the actor said that the contact lenses and heavy makeup work he had to wear for the role of Kurt Barlow was quite painful and took some time to get adjusted to.
Writer Paul Monash had previously penned the first adaptation of a Stephen King novel when he wrote the screenplay for 'Brian de Palma''s Carrie (1976).
The title of the novel 'Salem's Lot includes an apostrophe in front of the word Salem because the title is suppose to be short for "Jerusalem's Lot"; the actual name of the town where the story is set. To avoid confusion for the mini-series adaptation though the town is mostly referred to as "Salem's Lot" and the first apostrophe was dropped from the film's title.
The miniseries ends at the small town of Ximico, Guatemala. The town actually doesn't exist.
The last production that composer Harry Sukman worked on before his death in 1984. The score was nominated for an Emmy.
The album cover of Swedish band Ghost's first album Opus Eponymous was inspired by the movie poster.
Stephen King had Ben Gazzara in mind when he wrote Ben Mears.
Though 'Salem's Lot' was only Stephen King's second published novel, like many of his subsequent novels, it has connections to his 'Dark Tower' series. In this case, the character of Father Donald Callaghan appears in the later books of the series.
" Psycho " writer Robert Bloch was originally supposed to perform scripting duties.
Nancy McKeon appears in an uncredited role as one of the students in the school play rehearsal scene.
In October, 2013, Intrada Records released a 2CD set of the complete film score, with alternate cues for the edited version of the film which were re-recorded for said edit, in stereo, marking the world premiere release of the score.
The studio interiors for the Marsten House cost the production $70,000 to construct.
Some of the foreign titles chosen for the film's theatrical release overseas included 'Blood Thirst', 'Phantasma II', and 'Le Notti di Salem' (Italian for "The Nights of Salem").
Producer Richard Kobritz decided to select Tobe Hooper for the director's chair after catching a screening of Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
Having been re-edited for a theatrical release after many requests for the mini-series to be re-ran, the running time ended up being 3 hours and 4 minutes; making this the longest running horror film, and longest running vampire film at the time of release.
The Jeep that Ben drives in the film is a Jeep Wrangler CJ-5 model.
The town sign featured in the film indicates that the population of Salem's Lot is 2,013.
For the theatrical release, a few scenes from the mini series were re-shot to make the film version more gory.
This was the second vampire themed TV production for David Soul. The first was a season 2 episode of "Starsky & Hutch" entitled "The Vampire". It dealt with a psychopath who drained the blood of his victims blood in an attempt to resurrect his dead wife.
The real name of the town in the book is Jerusalem's Lot. Both it and Sidewinder (from The Shining) are name checked in another Stephen King novel Doctor Sleep.
Julie Cobb, who was cast as duplicitous housewife Bonnie Sawyer in this adaptation of King's novel, was married from 1986 to 2005 to actor James Cromwell, who was cast as Father Callahan in the 2004 miniseries.
The map of Salem's Lot in Crockett's real estate office resembles the city of New Orleans.
In Mexico, Salem's Lot was theatrically released in 1980.
Jonathan Davis lead singer of the band Korn has mentoined this as one of his favorite horror movies
Producer John Calley had wanted Peter Weir to direct this.
David Soul had been experiencing immense success with "Starsky and Hutch" before being cast as Benjamin Mears.
In the 1979 movie Ben Mears drives a yellow Jeep. In the 2004 movie Susan Norton drives a yellow Jeep.
In the novel, the final confrontation with the vampire count took place in the basement of the local boarding house, rather than at the Marsten house.
Lew Ayres and Bonnie Bedelia starred in the 1974 movie Heatwave!
The 112-minute "movie" version of the miniseries has been mostly disparaged in recent years, though it was preferred by some people including Stephen King himself.
Some fans have expressed their disappointment that the mini series didn't have a longer running time and that one day, a version totaling several hours will be made.
Before filming began, it had eventually been decided to focus more on character and drama rather than violence and foul language.
The biggest issue that divides fans of the novel and miniseries is the fact that Barlow is depicted as a hissing Nosferatu-like monster in the adaptation, as opposed to the speaking Dracula-like character of the novel. In an interview with Richard Kobritz he said the decision to go with the terrifying monster figure came out of concerns that a speaking, romanticized villain just wouldn't be frightening enough, especially as John Badham's remake of Dracula (1979) starring Frank Langella was released in 1979. Stephen King was against the change at first, but after he saw the footage, he thought it may help the audience focus more on the main characters.