Night of the Demon (1957)

The cover to the Australia Cinema Cult release of Night of the Demon

Film: To say that the ghost stories of Montague R. James are well respected is possibly an understatement. The very fact that a type of horror story is referred to as Jamesian should underline that fact. The Jamesian story type is a path well trod not just by writers, but by filmmakers as well. The Jamesian method has three main features: the story takes place in a small, generally English, community or perhaps a University or other place of learning, it has a sceptical scholar as it’s protagonist and some sort of cursed tome that effects either ghosts of demons.

It’s appropriate for a film to use the Jamesian method too. To have a protagonist in the film who has to have a lot of the environments or traditions of a location or society explained to them makes for an easy way for the viewer to comprehend as well, and it also works for the big reveal if the society has a hidden secret. This method also works well in science fiction to explain more high concept stuff, like in The Last Starfighter or even Star Wars, as Luke need the ways of the grater world explained to him.

This movie, Night of the Demon, is based on one of James’ works, ‘Casting the Runes’, and was adored by Charles Bennett, who also wrote The Lost World and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who directed The Comedy of Errors and I Walked With a Zombie. It had a difficult release as the producer Hal E. Chester wanted a visual representation of the demon onscreen, where as Tourneur and Bennett wanted to avoid that. The film had two releases, one which was cut by a full 10 minutes and titles “Curse of the Demon’, but here was have the full, 95 minute version on Bluray from Cinema Cult.

Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) and Holden (Dana Andrews) regard each other

After Professor Henry Harrington (Maurice Denham) died mysteriously during investigating the occult doings of a certain Dr. Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), psychologist John Holden (Dana Andrew’s) travels to England to continue the investigation.

Karswell obviously objects to Holden’s interference, and slips a curse onto his person, one which will cause him to be visited by a demon and murdered at a particular time and date.

Of course, Holden thinks this is a pile of hoo-ha, and even at the insistence of Harrjngton’s niece, Joanna (Peggy Cummins) who is investigating her uncles death, he still remains an unbeliever… even as the evidence for the curse gets more and more apparent! Will he survive the curse? Does it even exist?

The curse!!

Obviously a film of this generation has several elements that a modern film fan may not like. The acting is very ‘on stage’ and ‘performancey’ (you know what I mean, it’s very vaudevillian), the effects are very low-key, but for their time they look fantastic, well, until you get to the silly looking demon, but the silliness of his look adds to the charm of the whole thing.

The story, with its aforementioned ‘Jamesian’ influences, is great. The slow reveals are paced so well, and every introduction of a new character adds to the fun. Even better, the bad guy is announced from the very start so there is no deception, and his intentions are always clear, but how will he get away with his shenanigans, and how far he’ll go are where the expanding story sits.

Trigger warning: there is an Indian character who may not sit well with some as the part is played by Caucasian actor, Peter Elliot. It’s not a dealbreaker, but some may find it offensive.

This is a great film, and a worthy addition to any horror fans collection. Best thing about this edition is that the Cinema Cult edition cover has ‘85 minutes runtime’ on it, meaning it’s the cut ‘Curse of the Demon’ version, but it actually is the uncut ‘Night…’ version.

Score: ****

The menu screen from the Night of the Demon Bluray

Extras: Not a sausage.

Score: 0

WISIA: It a great film, so definitely.

Joanna (Peggy Cummins) looks concerned, and fair enough.

This review was done with the Australian Cinema Cult Bluray release of the film