Night of the Demon (1957)

UK,
82m (USA), 95m (UK), 7350 feet/2240 metres
35mm film, black and white
mono, English

A British film directed by Jacques Tourneur.

Plot Summary

American psychologist Dr John Holden arrives in London to attend a symposium on paranormal psychology. A renowned sceptic, Holden intends to expose satanic cult leader Julian Karswell as a fraud. He teams up with Joanna Harrington, whose uncle has recently been killed in bizarre circumstances while investigating Karswell's cult. Eventually, Karswell passes an ancient runic curse to Holden who, after being witness to a number of inexplicable occurrences, is now a believer in Karswell's powers. Holden must race against time to pass the rune back to Karswell before he too meets an untimely death…

Credits

Crew
Directed by: Jacques Tourneur
© MCMLVII [1957] by Sabre Film Productions Ltd.
Columbia Pictures Corporation presents a Sabre Film production
Executive Producer: Hal E. Chester
Produced by: Frank Bevis
Screen Play by: Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester
Based on the story by Montague R. James
Director of Photography: Ted Scaife
Film Editor: Michael Gordon
Music Composed by: Clifton Parker
Sound Recordist: Arthur Bradburn
Hair Stylist: Betty Lee
Special Effects: George Blackwell, Wally Veevers
Special Effects Photography: S.D. Onions
Production Designer: Ken Adam
Locations: Bricket Wood (St Albans-Watford railway line), England, UK

Cast
Dana Andrews (Dr John Holden)
Peggy Cummins (Joanna Harrington)
Niall Macginnis (Dr Julian Karswell)
Maurice Denham (Professor Harrington)
Athene Seyler (Mrs Karswell)
Liam Redmond (Professor Mark O'Brien)
Richard Leech (Inspector Mottram)
Reginald Beckwith (Mr Meek)
Ewan Roberts (Lloyd Williamson)
Peter Elliott (Kumar)
Rosamund Greenwood (Mrs Meek)
Brian Wilde (Rand Hobart)
Lloyd Lamble (Detective Simmons)
Peter Hobbes (Superintendent)
Charles Lloyd-Pack (chemist)
John Salew (librarian)
Janet Barrow (Mrs Hobart) [doesn't appear in the U.S. version]
Percy Herbert (farmer) [doesn't appear in the U.S. version]
Lynn Tracy (air hostess) [doesn't appear in the U.S. version]

Alternative Titles

Curse of the Demon – USA
Der Fluch des Demonen – West Germany
The Haunted – early title
La notte del demonio – Italy

Extracts included in
I Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998)

See also
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The dialogue “It's in the trees! It's coming!” was sampled at the start of the Kate Bush song Hounds of Love (1986).

Press

1957
Reynold's News 24 November 1957
A really worthwhile Black Magic horror thriller, imaginative, original, convincing, with blood-curdling finale in which a monstrous Fire Demon makes an unscheduled appearance on the Southern Region of British Railways. Commuters – beware! – from an uncredited review

Variety 25 December 1957
Technically it is a reasonably competent job, but the story and the dialog have an old fashioned ring which wavers uneasily between the melodramatic and the ludicrous. […] Andrews wanders through this trivial piece with a stiff upper lip. Niall MacGinnis is suitably oily as the spook-raising doctor while Peggy Cummins fills out decorative department charmingly. Liam Redmond, Maurice Denham, Athene Seyler and Ewan Roberts also give a hand in support. A major weakness is that the horror is seen from the sky instead of its presence merely being implied. Despite all the efforts of the special effects, art and musical departments this, and the other atmospheric horrors, fail to make an adequate impact. Jacques Tourneur has directed with heavy hand. Only Ted Scaife's use of heavy shadows in his lensing does anything to make this the horrific piece which the authors and producer clearly intended. – from a review by Rich

1958
Monthly Film Bulletin vol.25 no.288 (January 1958)
This essay in the occult is handled with much of the assurance the same director brought to Cat People, and is well above average. Inevitably the sequences where the demon takes on a visible form are the weakest – especially in the ending – and seem rather the product of a child's nightmare than an adult's imagination. But the summoning of the storm, the experiences of Holden in Karswell's library and the woods and the rousing of one of Karswell's victims (brilliantly played by Brian Wilde) from a hypnotic trance are effective. – from an uncredited review

Variety 26 February 1958
The only mechanical thing about “Curse of the Demon” is the fiery monster itself, the rest of the fine Hal E. Chester production flowing with eerie suspense, marking fine possibilities for b.o. exploitation. In a day when most horror pix are grasping creatures from outer space, this Columbia release, made in England, has the unique bonus of conjuring a mythical chimera-like creature from the past. Additionally, toplined Dana Andrews may perk business, with the majority of current scaries being cast with no established stars. Scripted by Charles Bennett and producer Chester from a story by Montague R. James, “Curse” is an interesting tale, completely irrational but somehow deserving of a peculiar kind of belief. Directed with a supernatural touch by Jacques Tourneur, it abounds in magic, hypnotism, , strange aberations [sic] and profuse delving into the occult. […] Keeping up with the frightening effects by George Blackwell and Wally Veevers, Ted Scaife's camera work is tops. Effective in its heightening of fear is the Clifton Parker score, with sound effects by Charles Crafford an added plus. – from a review by Ron

1989
American Cinematographer vol.70 no.7 (July 1989)
Ted Scaife's deep focus black and white photography is in perfect harmony with Tourneur's suspenseful direction. This journey from skepticism to the supernatural has many memorable atmospheric moments, a storm invoked by MacGinnis is one of the best. – from a video review (VideoGram) by Mike Maginot

1998
Time Out 11-18 February 1998
Classic horror movies are rarely scary. Amusing, maybe surreal and even profound, but not scary. Jacques Tourneur's Night of the Demon (made in 1957) is different. As well as being a brilliant study of superstition and paranoia, it really gets the armpit juices flowing. […] It's the combination of Tourneur's direction and Charles Bennett's script that lifts the film above the ordinary. […] The film's atmosphere is dreamily nightmarish but also hyperreal, Tourneur sewing the macabre into the everyday with an invisible thread. Even throwaway scenes brand the memory: take Holden's visit to the dirt-poor peasants who belong to Karswell's cult, for example. It's as if Tourneur – always ahead of his time – was filming a druggy documentary: the shots inside the family's dank hovel are part-Picture Post expose, part The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. […] Just for the record […] the monster does break the mood: he looks like King Kong with a washing-up glove on his head, and tears at Karswell's form with the distracted air of a chicken-plucker. Hair-splitting aside, Night of the Demon remains a film with two faces: one classic, one cult. Horror novelist Stephen King was also quick to spot this. Preparing two lists – his top ten favourite horror movies and top ten favourite horror-movie posters – King notes with amusement that Night of the Demon is the only film to make both. Respectable and trashy, this is the perfect film for Friday 13. And thank God (or Satan) for the demon himself: after all, a film can be too scary. – from an illustrated review (Something of the night) by Charlotte O'Sullivan

2011
Sight & Sound vol.21 no.1 (January 2011)
One of the most viscerally effective of all occult horror . It says much for Jacques Tourneur's control of his material that the film survives such initial drawbacks as an opening scene featuring a distinctly rubbery monster (notoriously imposed by producer Hal Chester against Tourneur's advice) and Niall MacGinnis visually designating himself a likely agent of Satan thanks to the kind of facial adornment about which Groucho Marx once quipped, “Don't point that beard at me, it might go off!” But once it gets going, Night of the Demon grips like the hold a surreptitiously transferred runic parchment has over its intended victims, as Dana Andrews's sceptical rationalist finds that science has its limits when demonic forces genuinely seem to be at large. The film constantly catches the viewer off guard, not least when two participants in a séance burst into a bizarre duet of ‘Cherry Ripe‘ to make visiting spirits feel welcome. – from a DVD review by Michael Brooke

References

Periodicals

  • American Cinematographer vol.70 no.7 (July 1989) pp.107-108 – video review (VideoGram by Mike Maginot)
  • Cahiers du Cinema no.190 (May 1967) p.64 – review
  • Castle of Frankenstein no.8 p.42
  • Castle of Frankenstein no.20 p.42
  • Cinema no.2 (2015) pp.76-78 (Norway) – illustrated article (Nattens demoner by Dag Sødtholt)
  • Cinema Retro vol.1 no.3 (Autumn 2005) pp.46-47 – illustrated article (Denouncing the Devil by Tony Earnshaw)
  • CinémAction no.120 (2006) pp.56-66 – article (Parcours dans les ténèbres : quelques ‘walks' Tourneuriens by Gilles Menegaldo)
  • Daily Film Renter no.7256 (15 November 1956) p.6 – note
  • Daily Film Renter no.7490 (18 October 1957) p.5 – review
  • Fangoria vol.7 no.66 (August 1987) p.32 – video review (The Video Eye of Dr. Cyclops)
  • Film Daily vol.113 no.40 (27 February 1958) p.6 – review
  • The Hollywood Reporter vol.148 no.40 (21 February 1958) pp.3, 6 – credits, review (by Jack Moffitt)
  • Kine Weekly no.2619 (24 October 1957) p.21 – review
  • Monthly Film Bulletin vol.25 no.288 (January 1958) p.7 – credits, synopsis, review
  • Motion Picture Herald vol.210 no.8 (22 February 1958) pp.724-725 – review (by William R. Weaver)
  • Photon no.26 (1975) pp.31-41 – illustrated article (Curse of the Demon – an analysis of Jaques Tourneur's supernatural masterpiece by Ronald V. Borst and Scott MacQueen)
  • Positif no.83 (April 1967) p.46 – review
  • Scary Monsters 1996 Yearbook pp.17-19 – review
  • Shivers no.24 (December 1995) pp.34-37 – illustrated article (by James Abery)
  • Sight & Sound vol.21 no.1 (January 2011) p.97 – DVD review (by Michael Brooke)
  • Time Out 11-18 February 1998 p.173 – illustrated review (Something of the night by Charlotte O'Sullivan)
  • Today's Cinema vol.89 (18 October 1957) p.5 – review
  • Variety 25 December 1957 p.6 – credits, review (by Rich)
  • Variety Daily 26 February 1958 – review (by Ron)

Newspapers

  • Reynold's News 24 November 1957 – review

Books

  • 500 Essential Cult Movies: The Ultimate Guide by Jennifer Eiss with J.P. Rutter and Steve White p.221 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • The Armchair Odeon: The Collector's Guide to the Movies by Denis Gifford p.26
  • The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror by Phil Hardy (ed.) p.110
  • British Sound Films: The Studio Years 1928-1959 by David Quinlan p.352 – credits, synopsis
  • Classic and the Literature That Inspired Them by Ron Backer pp.230-233
  • The Columbia Checklist: The Feature Films, Cartoons, Serials and Short Subjects of Columbia Pictures, 1922-1988 by Len D. Martin p.70
  • Columbia Pictures Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films, 1928-1982 by Michael R. Pitts pp.51-53
  • Hoffman's Guide to SF, Horror and Fantasy Movies 1991-1992 p.261 – credits, review
  • Horror! 333 Films to Scare You to Death by James Marriott & Kim Newman pp.79, 83
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films II by Donald C. Willis p.76
  • Horror and Science Fiction Films IV by Donald C. Willis p.103
  • Horrorshows: The A-Z of Horror in Film, TV, Radio and Theatre by Gene Wright p.140-141  – illustrated credits, review
  • Introduction to Japanese Horror Film by Colette Balmain p.170
  • by Walt Lee p.83 – credits
  • Top 100 Horror Movies by Gary Gerani pp.125-127 – illustrated credits, synopsis, review
  • Uneasy Dreams: The Golden Age of British Horror Films, 1956-1976 by Gary A. Smith pp.165-166

Other Sources

  • BFI Southbank Guide August 2013 p.8 – illustrated listing