Entertainment

Cult Movies: Starsky & Hutch star David Soul had more cult cred than most - including his role in the terrifying Salem’s Lot

David Soul as a terrified Ben Mears brandishing a home-made cross in the 1979 TV mini-series Salem's Lot
Salem's Lot David Soul as the intrepid Ben Mears in Tobe Hooper's classic TV mini-series

David Soul had more cult credits to his name than most.

The Chicago-born actor and singer, who left us last week aged 80, will forever be enshrined in the hearts of millions of TV addicts of a certain age as Kenneth ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson, the blonde haired, leather jacketed, crime busting partner of Paul Michael Glaser’s David Starsky in the hit 70s cop drama Starsky & Hutch - but there are also many other memorable performances worthy of recall on his varied CV.

As a young actor signed to Columbia Pictures in the late 60s, Soul appeared in Star Trek (he can be seen in the series two episode The Apple) and other notable cult offerings such as I Dream Of Jeanie, Gunsmoke and Here Come The Brides, a kind of light hearted spoof of Seven Brides For Seven Brothers that ran on ABC from 1968 to 1970, with Soul in the key role of Joshua Bolt.

Stage and screen

On our cinema screens, he made a mark in Magnum Force, the finest of the Dirty Harry sequels, playing Officer John Harris, and on stage - mostly in the UK where he resided for the final few decades of his life - he graced productions as diverse as Jerry Springer: The Opera and Mack and Mabel in the West End.

Of course, there’s also the small matter of his very successful career as a late-1970s middle-of-the-road crooner to consider as well. Those multi-million selling soft rock ballads like Don’t Give Up On Us and Silver Lady only tell half the story, though.

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All about the music

Anyone eager to experience the most surreal side of Soul’s musical life must be directed towards his time as The Covered Man on the Merv Griffin TV show. Between 1966 and 67, the good looking young singer would dress all in black with a balaclava pulled firmly over his head as he sang his songs for an audience of millions. Apparently, he just wanted it to be “all about the music”. Weird barely begins to cover it.

A young, balaclava-clad David Soul poses with his guitar as The Covered Man
The Covered Man David Soul as the original 'masked singer'

Perhaps his finest and most memorable of small screen appearances, though, would come in 1979. With Starsky & Hutch drawing to a close, Soul took on the role of writer Bill Mears in director Tobe Hooper’s adaptation of Steven King’s novel Salem’s Lot.

It’s a book that has spawned sequels and cinema re-makes, including another due later this year, but Hooper’s stab at capturing the small town menace of King’s writing remains something very special.

An evil house attracts evil men

Soul plays a successful novelist who returns to his hometown of Jerusalem’s Lot to face the fears of his youth embodied by “the old Marsten house”, which looms over its skyline in much the same way as the Bates residence in Psycho.

He is splendid in this three hour mini-series as the true-hearted good guy in a town swimming in evil.

It’s a production recalled by many, myself included, for some truly unforgettable images - well, unforgettable for 1979 at any rate - of vampiric children scraping at bedroom windows and Nosferatu style visions rising from packing crates, but Soul is right there at the centre of it all keeping things real as the madness unfolds.

It’s a believable, carefully honed turn in a career loaded with many such memorable performances.

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