October 12th, 2013: Night of the Demon aka Curse of the Demon (1957)

Night of the Demon

Cast and Crew: Jacques Tourneur (Director)

What It’s About: A frantic Professor (Maurice Denham) pleads with a Mr. Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) to save him, offering to call off his investigation. Karswell says he will do what he can and sends the man home. The clock rings-and the Professor, at his garage, sees a cloud of boiling smoke in the trees, which then materializes into a flaming demon-he backs up and runs into a telephone pole, knocking it over-he gets out, and something unseen kills him….

The Professor’s American compatriot, Dr. Holden (Dana Andrews), arrives on the scene and takes up the investigation, starting with this Dr. Karswell. The two begin to play a game of cat and mouse, with Karswell’s powers becoming increasingly obvious……

Why Watch it Today?:  Alistair Crowley, a clear inspiration for Karswell, was born on this date in 1875.  Night of the Demon is one of best horror films of the 1950s, leaving the eras usual science derived horror for an atmospheric questioning of the nature of Karswell’s apparent powers-is Karswell just a very skilled manipulator, hypnotist, fakir, and magician? Or is there really a supernatural entity at work?

11 comments on “October 12th, 2013: Night of the Demon aka Curse of the Demon (1957)

  1. geelw says:

    I love this film – I know Tourneur hated adding those demon shock shots into the mix (I believe it was either supposed to only pop up at the end), but as a kid, that made me sit and watch the whole thing. I didn’t appreciate the plot until I was older (of course). A few years later, I recall seeing this, Burn, Witch Burn and The Haunting back to back one time and not sleeping much that night…

  2. T.A. Gerolami says:

    I found the demon shots, for the most part, to be pretty effective. I was actually lucky enough to see this as a double feature at a theater (it was connected to a museum of horror movie memorabilia, once a month two movies for just two dollars) with Burn Witch, Burn and that was quite an evening of spooky cinema. The Haunting being thrown into the mix would have been QUITE an evening.

  3. Peppery says:

    Just watched this for the first time recently! Within a tiny youtube screen, sadly. I think the creepiest bit for me was Karswell’s magician-clown makeup. I heard it’s being remade.

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      Isn’t everything?

      Sarcasm aside, it’s based off a short story, and I’ve heard one or two old radio show versions of it that long predate the film, so it’s less of a remake and more of a new adaptation. Not that that makes me any more hopeful that it’ll be a good remake…one of the delights for me in this story, in any format, is the trickery involved with the slips of paper. I get the feeling that a modern version would be full of CG demon and trickery and the simple trickery of the paper slips would be left out.

      Speaking of remakes, I always felt Drag Me to Hell played wonderfully with some of the ideas presented here.

      • geelw says:

        I’m glad to see someone else liked Drag Me to Hell! I thought it was brilliant in its execution, funny and a nice return to horror for Raimi.

        As for CotD, back in the early 90’s I did see a fan-edited version of the 96-minute cut with the demon stuff excised and it still works because your imagination gets a workout wondering how terrifying the demon is. For some reason, that mask and puppet reminds me of a very angry dog/lizard hybrid…

      • T.A. Gerolami says:

        I didn’t love it, but I liked…definitely a fun return to horror comedy.

        I enjoy the demon puppet, for some reason…the low tech of it somehow appeals to me and adds to the film-but I can see how it would be as good without it, possibly better.

      • geelw says:

        I recall reading somewhere that Columbia wanted Ray Harryhausen to design and animate the demon (!), which would have been REALLY interesting. But I could see Jacques Tourneur in some EC Comics murder panel pose ranting about the distraction from his work as he plotted revenge. Or something like that.

        Ha. I just peeked at the Wikipedia page now and if it’s to be believed, the screenwriter was even more ticked off than the director about the decision (well, when you’re quoted as saying “If [Chester] walked up my driveway right now, I’d shoot him dead.”… yeah, that’s kind of ticked off, I guess).

        But yeah, it works either way at the end of the day, and in fact, it’s the only way I got some people I know to watch the movie once. They wanted a good old monster flick they’d never seen before and none had seen this, soooo… new fans less than 100 minutes later!.

        And yup, a remake/retelling would probably emphasize CG work galore and lose the suspense (and I’d bet that paper would be replaced by a phone or tablet trick of some sort if they’re foolish enough to update the story to modern technology and times). Eeek, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed that they make it a low-tech flick set maybe in the 70’s or earlier. I mean Joe Dante was a big practical effects director back in the 80’s and Pegg is always fun to watch…

      • Peppery says:

        Oh, definitely — the button pass! Which I think most horror fans saw coming a mile away, but my enjoyment was undiminished.

        Remake exhaustion aside, I was more interested when I saw the names involved. But I suppose that could change as time progresses: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/05/07/simon-pegg-and-joe-dante-teaming-up-for-mr-james-ghost-story/

        I’d be happy with an adaptation of any James story, really. Of course, I’m also perfectly happy listening to Christopher Lee read/act them out.

    • T.A. Gerolami says:

      Here’s a link to the radio version from Escape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diAi5dU6WE8&noredirect=1

  4. T.A. Gerolami says:

    Peppery, I’m willing to give that star/director combo the benefit of the doubt!

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