Curse of the Demon (1957) Poster

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7/10
It's In The Trees! It's Coming!
gftbiloxi10 June 2007
Filmed in England, this 1958 film was originally released with a running time of 95 minutes under the title NIGHT OF THE DEMON; when it reached the United States it had a running time of 83 minutes and the title CURSE OF THE DEMON. Both versions are contained on this DVD, with the English version the better for those twelve minutes, but in truth there is little significant difference between the two, and if you are a connoisseur of 1950s horror films you will find both equally fascinating.

Based on the short story "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James, DEMON offers the tale of American psychologist John Holden (Dana Andrews) who travels to a conference in England, planning to debunk a devil worshiping cult led by Karswell (Niall MacGinnis.) Unfortunately for the professionally skeptical Holden, Karswell's powers are genuine: he has successfully translated an ancient text and, through runes written on parchment, casts a curse first against Holden's colleague and then against Holden himself.

DEMON was directed by Jacques Tourneur, who worked with producer Val Lewton to create a series of memorable and distinctly noir-ish horror films at RKO in the 1940s: CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE, and THE LEOPARD MAN. All three films created a sense of unease and scream-aloud fear by implication and suggestion, and although DEMON is much more explicit in its effects, Tourneur brings the same sensibility to bear on DEMON, endowing it with remarkable authority and power in spite of several distinct flaws.

Chief among these flaws is the script, which can best be described as somewhat abrupt in terms of dialog, and leading man Dana Andrews, whose performance is remarkably unsubtle even in a decade noted for a lack of cinematic restraint. Film lore also has it that Tourneur lobbied against showing the demon on screen, and given the fact that the visual is hardly inspired this clearly would have been the better choice. None the less, DEMON has jolts and jars aplenty, not the least of which is Karswell: Niall MacGinnis' performance, with its mixture of the commonplace and the flatly evil, is remarkably fine. The film also sports a host of memorable set pieces: the storm, the flying parchment, Dr. Holden's exploration of Karswell's mansion, Dr. Holden's run through the night forest, and the final train sequence, to name but a few.

Although it is not well known today, like Tourneur's films with Lewton, DEMON has cast a very long shadow in terms of influence, and it is very difficult to imagine such films as ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE CHANGELING without both this film and those that proceeded it. Recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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Ever wonder where the RHPS line "Dana Andrews said prunes, gave him the runes" came from? This is the movie!
Gafke30 November 2003
"Curse of the Demon" (aka "Night of the Demon") is one of those weird little lost films that everyone agrees is wonderful and yet very few people seem to have actually seen. This is one of those rare British movies that is set, not in the city, but rather in the chilly, fog-choked countryside where little seems to have changed since Stonehenge was built. Niall McGinnis holds sway here as the impish leader of a Satanic cult, who swiftly dispatches of his critics by summoning a huge, horrific demon to rip them to shreds.

Into this isolated world walks psychologist John Holden, played by yet another seriously underrated actor, Dana Andrews. Andrews, who made a name for himself playing tough guys in films like "Laura" and "The Best Years of Our Lives" is wonderful here as the skeptical, even slightly smarmy, American who absolutely refuses to believe in demons, even when strange, unexplainable things begin to happen to him. Peggy Cummins is his love interest, the open minded schoolteacher whose uncle may have been a victim of the Demon. Niall McGinnis is disturbingly likable as the head of the Demon Cult, chucking aside a chance to play Aleister Crowley and opting for Benny Hill instead. He is very disarming as the films central villain, and Andrews confusion mirrors our own as the movie stalks relentlessly through a seance, a stormy Halloween party and a frightening hypnosis session to its surprisingly violent conclusion.

This movie is, by turns, sarcastically funny, suffocatingly tense and shockingly scary. The demon looks a little corny nowadays, and was revealed much too quickly with no suspenseful build-up, but the movie is so smart, so moody, so creepy and well done with an excellent cast to boot, that one can easily forgive the demon, which looks a lot like a slightly deformed bear with a pig nose and goat horns.

This is an excellent adaption of the short story "Casting the Runes" by M. R. James and still has the power to scare even 50 years later. Highly recommended!
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10/10
It's In The Trees
guygorilla6 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone who sees this film for the first time really needs to remember when it was made and what there was to compare it with at the time. In 1957 this film was a pioneering work. The subject matter hasn't been effectively dealt with since - despite the mammoth budgets available to today's film makers.

The film's success is in it's simplicity. Scientists try to expose a Devil Cult for being fraudsters. They profess their innocence and are told to do their worse - which is exactly what they do.

Director Jacques Tourner makes up for an obviously tiny budget by weaving an extremely disturbing atmosphere throughout the film's pivotal moments. Those dissenters who carp on endlessly about whether or not the demon should have been included are arguing about the wrong issue, which is whether or not Tourner managed to effectively scare his target audience with an essentially psychological beast from the depths of Hell. He easily achieved this without showing the actual demon, but it should however be noted that the very last shot of the demon where it is shown for the only time in profile tearing poor Karswell to bits, is the only representation of a devil that I have ever seen that sticks rigidly to the earliest known wood cuts of demons. All you oculists out there - check out your old books, this film might be more of the real deal than you give it credit for. Remember that in 1957, the British public were still reeling from the witchcraft murders of Lower Quinton and Hagley Wood (do your homework on these murders!)

I honestly believe that this film addresses the subject of Black Magic in a far more sinister fashion than I have seen since. It is the 'Thinking Man's' Exorcist ... Watch it with an open mind !!!
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10/10
Tourneur strikes again
KuRt-3314 August 2001
This film comes with two quality labels: it stars Peggy Cummins (best known for 'Deadly Is The Female' a.k.a. 'Gun Crazy') and is directed by Jacques Tourneur who had already shown his talent for suspenseful films with the RKO classics Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie. So you know what to expect: suspense and quality.

By now of course, technology changed a lot of how films look and it is the "show less - scare a lot" attitude of Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie that made them into the classics that they are. 'Night of the Demon' (a far better title than the American 'Curse of the Demon' - and if you see the film, you'll know why) has one nasty side effect: you see the demon and it's a film demon from the 50s. No matter how scary the film makes the demon, he looks like the thing you see on the cover of the movie box. It could be scarier. But now comes the best part... it doesn't matter! Because the suspense comes from something else in the movie and that is what makes this film so great. Dana Andrews is coming to England to prove that a so-called satanic cult is nothing more than a bunch of fakers and illusionists. The cult leader, however, puts a spell on him and warns Andrews that he will die in a few days. Other 50s film that depend more on the monsters and demons do have that problem: e.g. Roger Corman made some movies that could've been a lot better and scarier if the monster had either been more convincing or given less screen time.

Like in the other two films by Tourneur I mentioned, you always sense something scary could happen. That is what makes films work. In 'Night of the Demon Tourneur' succeeds in scarying you on some occasions when you least expect it. Combine that with cleverly built-up suspense and you know why you should watch this classic. Even if you don't like horror films in general.
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9/10
It's not what you see, it's what you imagine.
senortuffy3 August 2003
"Curse of the Demon" might just be the best horror film I've ever seen. When I saw it for the first time as a teenager in the mid-sixties on television one night, it really frightened me. And even now, at my age, it still gives me goosebumps.

Dana Andrews plays the skeptical American psychologist investigating a devil worship cult in England led by Dr. Karswell, played by Niall MacGinnis. The acting is pretty weak once you get past the two main characters, but it's the craftsmanship of the director that really matters.

Jacques Tourneur manipulates light and shadow to create fear of the unknown in this tale of modern science colliding with ancient sorcery. The monster is pretty tame as far as it goes, but that's not the point. It's not what you see, it's what you imagine that gets to you.

Long, dark corridors ..... dancing shadows ..... strange sounds contrasted with eerie silences ..... the impending sense of doom and apprehension. This film touches our primal fears, like a child waking up during a thunder storm. Is nature an ordered world or can it be manipulated by evil forces?
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10/10
Superbly and thought-provokingly sinister.
G.Spider19 December 1999
A skeptical American psychologist comes to England to investigate and disprove the concept of the supernatural. But before long he finds himself cursed by the leader of a witch cult and disbelief becomes terrifying reality.

Some superbly brooding shots of Stonehenge accompanied by a haunting speech about runic powers start what is without doubt one of the darkest and most solemnly atmospheric films ever made. The cult leader Dr Karswell is brilliantly portrayed and the film is filled with memorable dialogue, well-realized characters and powerful horrific/psychological imagery, all accompanied by a grippingly sinister soundtrack. Whether you're a horror fan or not, this is unmissable.
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10/10
One of the greatest horror/suspense movies ever made
robertblanton24 September 2006
Listen. Get yourself the biggest screen possible (preferably with a good front projection TV), turn out the lights, sit back with your popcorn and soda, and get ready for an evening of unrelenting suspense. Directed by Jacques Tournear, whose other classics include "The Leopard Man," Robert Mitchum's "Out of the Past," and "Cat People," one viewing of this film will readily illustrate to you why Hollywood's audiences are dwindling. This movie is what good movie making is all about; this movie knows what it's intention is and executes it beautifully. When you see this film, you will think to yourself, "Why can't they make them like this anymore?" If you thought "The Others" was a good movie (which I did) then you will like this one. "The Others," by the way, is one of the few exceptions to my negative criticism above.

I'm not going to reveal any of the plot. Watch it without knowing anything about the plot; let the story unfold on you as it does to Dana Andrews. You'll be glad you did.

The film is available on DVD in the USA and longer English versions. The only difference I saw in the two versions is that the USA version cuts out a few unnecessary words that add nothing to the story.

Anyway, give this movie a viewing. You'll be glad you did.
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9/10
One of the best horror films ever made.
armstror14 January 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Several books claim that the footage of the demon was inserted into "Night of the Demon" at the producer's insistence. Whether true or not, it's a good thing--because the demon is one of the most visually terrifying creatures in the history of cinema. And except for an awkward shot at the film's conclusion, the demon looks quite convincing. Still, he gets second billing to Niall MacGinnis' great performance as Karswell. My favorite scene: When Karswell explains to two non-believers the difference between white and black magic at a Halloween party he's thrown for the local kids. To make a point, he conjures up a stylish wind storm--which crashes the party and still fails to convince his intended audience. (Be sure to note the similarity between the kids' party here and the one in "The Birds"). All in all, "Night of the Demon" is a great chiller, marred only by Dana Andrews' routine turn as a skeptic who would put Dana Scully to shame.
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10/10
A horror-night to remember!
Coventry3 October 2006
"Night of the Demon" is, hands down, one of the most superb horror/occult thriller films ever made, and that's particularly remarkable because the original concept got pampered with a lot of additional ideas and effects the director didn't agree on. Jacques Tourneur ("Cat People", "the Leopard Man") initially wanted to put the emphasis purely on the psychological aspects, but the money-suppliers didn't like this and insisted on bringing an actual demonic monster into the movie. It would be enormously interesting to see the non-existing version like Tourneur imagined it, as then you'd constantly be wondering whether the occurring events are real…or all just going on inside the characters' heads. This creative and innovating (for 1957, at least) impact is naturally ruined by explicitly showing the hideous demon early in the film, so it's extra praiseworthy that the whole finished product is still extremely suspenseful. The plot revolves on a headstrong and overly rational scientist who travels from the States to England, exclusively to prove that the supposed blackly magical powers of a certain Dr. Julian Karswell are all just a swindle. Even the mysterious circumstances surrounding his overseas partner's death as well as multiple warnings from close friends and colleagues can't convince Dr. John Holden to abort his mission to expose Karswell as a fraud. The latter eagerly accepts this challenge and places a curse on Dr. Holden that gradually becomes eerier and pretty much inescapable… the curse of the demon! This is a marvelously atmospheric and genuinely unsettling horror masterpiece! The dialogues and acting performances of the entire cast are downright impeccable and the script (adapted from a story by M.R. James) is so intense & persuasive that you almost begin to believe in the supernatural yourself! Ever encountered a film that has such an impact on you? "Night of the Demon" is very likely to become the first. Several sequences showing our good Dr. Holden pursued by evil forces are truly haunting, while the stylish black & white photography and the beautiful set pieces only increase this effect. You can honestly trust the high IMDb-rating and the praising reviews on this one; "Night of the Demon" is one of those rare films that every self-respecting horror fan simply HAS TO see for him/herself.
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10/10
"I didn't know you had cyclones in England Karswell" ............ "We don't"
sboyce-124 May 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Rarely has the UK produced a film of such enduring quality as Night of the Demon - Its a post war classic.

People have often tried to connect the character of Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), with English Occultist Aleister Crowley, the self proclaimed 'Great Beast'(1875-1947). Crowley was around at the same time as M R James' (1862-1936) who wrote the short story 'Casting the Runes' - upon which the film is based - so there's a chance that there may have been a link. However the character of Karswell in the movie is far less of an arrogant glamour seeker than was Crowley. All Karswell wanted was for he and his followers to be left in peace.

Dana Andrews was a good choice to play the character of John Holden - a sceptical American scientist who personified what some would consider to be 'the new establishment' (as it was in 1957). Confident, unbending and opinionated. Typical of a generation that had just gone through huge advances in science and technology during WW2.

Jacques Tourneur directed this film on a shoestring, yet he created an uneasy atmosphere of disjointed anxiety throughout. The lighting, the music, the photography and dialogue all add up to a piece of cinematic grace and mastery. Allow yourself to be completely absorbed in the plot and at the end you'll realise that you're exhausted, and your heart is pounding like a steam hammer.

I guess this is the bit that might be construed as a spoiler, but when you look at the characters objectively, you'll perhaps come to realise that Karswell wasn't a deranged madman after all. In fact he was a very likable man - reasonable from start to finish. He tried to talk rationally with both Harrington and Holden, but neither man was prepared to listen to his point of view. In the British Library, he tried to appeal to Holden's objective scientific mind by inviting him to Lufford Hall to look at a very rare manuscript, in an attempt to convince him not to go ahead with his expose of Karswell's group. It was only when Holden showed no sign of movement that the runic parchment was passed, thus unleashing the demon. Perhaps Holden deserved it......? The closing sequence of the film sees Karswell being dismembered by a truly traditional demon (check out the earliest medieval woodcuts of demons if you disagree). A little unfortunate for those of us that had grown fond of Karswell's character (a bit like one grows fond of the character of Hannibal Lecter in 'Silence of the Lambs' or Colonel Kurtz in 'Apocolypse Now'.

For some this is quite a disturbing film - perhaps not in the way my 16 year old son would see it, but on a psychological plane. Although it reaches a definite conclusion, the story isn't over, nor could it ever be. Karswell died, but the demon from hell could still be called forth by anyone with the wherewithal to do it.
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underappreciated gem
march9hare16 April 2004
"Curse of the Demon" aka "Night of the Demon" is a wonderful set-piece study of the macabre, skillfully acted by Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, and the delightfully malevolent Niall MacGinnis, and masterfully directed by Jacques Tournier, a director who can turn even the warmest smile into something sinister. Andrews plays a psychiatrist determined to debunk the world of the occult, but instead nearly falls victim to a monstrous demon summoned by MacGinnis. At one point in the film MacGinnis, dressed in a clown suit, takes on an aura of pure demonic power under Tournier's direction, and it's a joy to watch. The effects, including the demon itself, are simple but surprisingly effective, and serve to highlight, rather than overpower, the actors and the storyline. Based on the story "Casting the Runes", this mostly-forgotten film is a masterpiece of scripting, editing, acting, and direction, and shouldn't be missed. We thoroughly recommend it for anyone who likes a nice, quiet little horror story played with an almost Hitchcockian subtlety that's rare nowadays.
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A Classic!
thunderer28 July 2004
Dana Andrews plays the New World skeptic to the point of irritation - but not beyond, but the honours go to Nial MacGinnis whose warlock oozes malevolence, yet you still wouldn't mind enjoying afternoon tea with him. The scene where he waits in the car, opens the door and orders 'come along mother', after the tension of the seance is the icing on the cake. The black and white cinematography only adds to the 'darkness' of the tale. The opening sequence of the story with Denholm Elliot franticly driving through the lonely English countryside builds the tension wonderfully (you peer with a growing sense of foreboding as the headlamps try to beat a path home). I wonder if Hollywood could ever remake this. I doubt it. Throw millions of dollars at it, an A-list leading man and shed-loads of computer wizardry and you wouldn't even come close to the original.
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10/10
Fantastic, in a class of its own
scurrie-26 October 2006
Only the most boorish could not enjoy a film like Night of the Demon, its an absolute classic. It scared the hell out of me as a kid and it still does now.

Much has been said about the appearance of the Demon at the beginning of the film, I can't help but think that it does lend a certain charm and sets the tone of the film quite nicely though. Few films are so atmospheric, brooding and dark. There is something eminently disturbing about a devil worshipper in clowns make up conjuring the forces of darkness at a kiddies Halloween party. The final scene at the railway station with the screeching, thundering locomotives and the whooshing steam combined with the dramatic music are amazing, and the whole film seems to have the low-key black-and-white style typical of film noir.

If I had to nominate one outstanding performance in this film it would have to be NiallMacGinnis as Julian Karswell, who gives a stunning performance as the leader of the cult. With his pointy beard and charmingly English manner he manages to act rings around Dana Andrews, who somewhat woodenly plays the disbelieving sceptic. In fact I actually found myself siding with the bad guy at some points!

Full points for this one, I only wish that most of todays films could live up to its mark.
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8/10
One of the classics
azgolfguy8 February 2007
This piece has stuck with me since I saw it as a child in about 1960. Our family enjoyed horror films, and we always thought that this one was memorable. Seeing it again recently, I haven't changed my mind. Given the effects available at the time and the creepiness factor, I've always though this was one of the better of the older horror movies around.

It is quaint, British, and builds slowly after the initial shock. Some comments say it was boring, shouldn't have shown the creature, Dana Andrews was drunk and sucked, etc. It isn't perfect, but like "The Haunting" and a few others made around that time, it succeeds well in creating an unsettling and generally engaging mood, including some humor, on a very small budget. I still think that the creature F/X was excellent for its time. I can imagine the film without seeing the creature, and maybe that would have been even more effective, again like "The Haunting".

I give it "A-" for effort and execution, and for avid horror buffs, it's definitely worth a watch or two. I've tested this one out with some younger folks, and they seem to really like it. Even a jaded younger horror fan used to blatant gore and in your face monsters said, "That creeped me out." FYI, the "Night" vs. "Curse" versions are different by several minutes of extra footage, which I recall was the séance scene and some connective dialog.
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8/10
A-grade shocker on a B-grade budget!
Libretio28 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
NIGHT OF THE DEMON

Aspect ratio: 1.66:1

Sound format: Mono

(Black and white)

A skeptical American psychologist (Dana Andrews) travels to London to expose a sorcerer (Niall MacGinnis) who curses him to die at the hands of a fantastic demon...

Directed by Val Lewton's protegé Jacques Tourneur (CAT PEOPLE, I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE), and written by frequent Hitchcock dramatist Charles Bennett (YOUNG AND INNOCENT, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT), NIGHT OF THE DEMON - based on the story 'Casting the Runes' by M.R. James - is an A-grade shocker (on a B-grade budget) which challenges unreasoning attitudes towards the supernatural by believers and skeptics alike. Andrews plays the blinkered American cynic - cast adrift in a foreign country - who refuses to believe the demonic threat made against his life, despite all evidence to the contrary, though Bennett's script makes it clear that the movie's central 'villain' (a powerful and charismatic performance by scene-stealer MacGinnis) is motivated by fear of the powers at his command.

Tourneur and Bennett were contemptuous of the alterations imposed during post-production by producer Hal E. Chester, who re-edited the picture for its 1958 US release (pointlessly retitled CURSE OF THE DEMON) and added a monstrous demon to all existing prints on both sides of the Atlantic. Despite the reservations of fans and filmmakers alike, this fearsome-looking creature - which makes a brief appearance at the beginning and end of the movie - generates an authentic jolt of cinematic horror in a film which otherwise prides itself on visual ambiguity. Bennett's script foregrounds the human drama, and Tourneur's first-rate cast - including Athene Seyler (THE QUEEN OF SPADES) as MacGinnis' frightened mother, and Reginald Beckwith (NIGHT OF THE EAGLE) as a dotty psychic - plays it completely straight throughout. There's at least half a dozen powerful set-pieces, including Maurice Denham's terrifying encounter with the eponymous beast in the opening scenes, Andrews' confrontation with MacGinnis during a children's birthday party, and an episode in which Andrews is followed through the deep, dark woods by an unearthly, invisible... THING (I'll say no more). Ted Scaife's atmospheric black and white cinematography makes a virtue of the bleak English landscape, and veteran technicians George Blackwell and Wally Veevers contribute some brief but memorable special effects. The final sequence - set within the claustrophobic confines of a late night train, as the hour of Andrews' death approaches - is a small masterpiece of nail-biting suspense.
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8/10
Watch the long version
oldmovieman16 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Previous posters have rightly commented that this is a fine, A-level thriller on a B-level budget with generally good acting, tight direction, great cinematography, and a good script taken from a good story. Just a few comments about the two versions of this movie. "Night of the Demon" is the original version released in U.K. and is 135 minutes long. Re-edited and retitled for the American market as "Curse of the Demon," this version is about 14 minutes shorter. A number of scenes were cut from the original but as far as I can tell, no other scenes were added or changed. Luckily for me, the DVD had both versions. Thinking that "Curse" was the original and "Night" was a sequel, I watched Curse and found it greatly entertaining but a bit disconnected and confusing at points. Reading Maltin's review later, I learned that I had one movie in two different edits. WATCH THE LONG VERSION IF YOU CAN! The missing scenes go a long way in explaining Karswell's motivation (it's not just that he's opened Pandora's box and can't close it -- he's motivated as well by the money he makes as a cult leader), as well as the peculiar actions of Karswell's mother which don't make much sense without the missing two scenes that explain her motives. Also, the missing scenes make Karswell slightly less appealing than in the edited version. All in all, a really good movie. P.S. I think the monster was OK.
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To demon or not to demon
mcdamsten29 October 2004
I thought I had heard awhile back that Jacques Tourneur didn't want to show the demon. Does anybody know if this is so? Having worked with Val Lewton, this would seem possible. If so, it's a shame Tourneur isn't around to put a director's cut on the DVD instead of Curse Of The Demon which is a little redundant being on the same DVD as Night Of The Demon. I found the demon scary when I was 12 years old and would not have enjoyed the film as much without it. Now, of course, the film would seem better without it. The atmosphere of Tourneur's work that I've seen; this,I Walked With A Zombie, Out Of The Past, and that Twighlight Zone episode (one of the best) of the elderly lady getting calls from her deceased husband consistently has that great nocturnal, shadowy and mysterious quality to it. This body of work alone is enough to make him one of my favorite directors. Even if this isn't one of Dana Andrews best performances, his stubborn skepticism is convincing enough to contrast nicely with Carswell's over politeness. As old horror movies go; this ranks up there with The (original) Haunting, Eyes Without A Face, Black Sunday and early Universals as the best among the old black and whites for me. Strangely enough, I happened to have watched it earlier this (yesterday now) evening October 28th which IS the night of the demon. Coincidence? **** out of *****
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10/10
Hair-raising supernatural film a classic tale of terror
mlraymond26 October 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is an absolute must-see for fans of supernatural horror. It was directed by the great Jacques Tourneur, who uses many of the same stylistic touches as in his earlier films Cat People and I Walked With a Zombie for Val Lewton in the Forties.Everything in this movie works brilliantly, from the doom-laden narration at the beginning, accompanied by the ominous music of Clifton Parker, to the black and white cinematography that shows the everyday existing side by side with the occult. In a uniformly fine cast, a number of actors stand out . Joanna Harrington , as played by Peggy Cummins ,is an intelligent and determined woman,as well as an attractive one, unlike the insipid heroines of many Fifties science fiction and horror films.The villain, Professor Karswell, is smoothly played with a kind of genial menace by the great Niall MacGinnis. He is a man who lives a comfortable life by the black magic powers he exerts over his followers and uses to destroy his enemies, but he is clearly shown to also be a victim of that same power. He is oddly likable, even sympathetic, when he gives Holden ( Dana Andrews) several chances to call off the investigation. Many critics have described him as being very much like the kind of suave, intellectual villains found in the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Dana Andrews does a good job of portraying the skeptical Professor Holden, who keeps looking for logical explanations in the face of mounting evidence that supernatural forces are actually threatening him.The normality of the modern Fifties England we see stands in contrast with the ancient, medieval superstitions the scientists are investigating. Another fine performance is by Liam Redmond as Professor O'Brien, who cautions Holden against an excess of skepticism. He has a great line in which he says something like, " I know that light must be shown upon things to reveal them. But I also know the deep shadows that light can cast, which blind men to the truth." The buildup of eerie events is so well done, and there are so many moments of suspense and sheer terror, that we can't deal with them all here. But a few scenes should be pointed out: SPOILERS AHEAD: Holden's walk through the dark woods on Karswell's estate, pursued by some invisible creature that leaves flaming footprints in the ground... or was it only a harmless smoke ball that Holden says was a trick Karswell had rigged to frighten him off? One of the most dramatic scenes shows Holden's visit to some English farmers who live in a house that must date back to the 1600's, and Holden asks the forbidding matriarch Mrs. Hobart for permission to hypnotize her son for a meeting of psychologists, to unlock the secrets his mind has turned away from. The old woman agrees, to the bafflement of her family, all staring at Holden in an unfriendly row behind her. They ask why she's willing to agree. Janet Barrow, in just a few lines, gives one of the most powerful performances I've ever seen. "Let them all know what he saw", she says with a chilling matter of fact tone. When the slip of parchment with the magic runic symbols suddenly falls out of Holden's coat, she rises and points a finger, as the others stare. " He has been chosen! Let no arm be raised to defend him!" she declares, as Holden looks confused and asks, " Chosen for what?" The rest of the movie will give him the answer. Anyone interested in serious films about witchcraft and the supernatural owe it to themselves to seek out this movie.It is an unforgettable masterpiece of terror.
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The perfect tonic to quell the craving for a good horror movie
Bynovekka129 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
We all have our vices. For some its smoking. Others it's gambling. Some are drawn to the drink. While still other unfortunates find themselves caught in the vile grip of drugs.

With me its hokey horror movies. My passion for such things began in my youth during those weekly popcorn eating sessions glued to the late night creature features. My interest in such things did not wane with the coming of adulthood. Rather, it intensified into a full blown addiction!

Unlike most junkies my addiction is harmless. The only negative side effect being the occasional let down caused by the worst of these cinematic efforts. Regardless, I still need my fix. So once a month or so I invariably find myself scanning the horror film section at the local movie rental store attempting to locate a flick capable of satisfying my need.

One evening when the 'fever' was upon me, I happened upon a film sitting on the bottom shelf of a lonely section of the rental store titled: 'Curse of the Demon'. I looked it over carefully. It seemed to have all the necessary requirements. Lurid title. Made in the 50's during the height of hokey horror and best of all its cover bore the image of a laughable demonic creature. Perfect! Just the tonic needed to quell my current bout of addiction. Greedily, I snatched up my prize and raced to the checkout line membership card in hand.

Back home, armed with a bag of BBQ chips and a coke I popped the movie into the VCR and awaited the coming onrush of cinematic nonsense.

As the credits rolled I noticed the film was based on the classic 19th century story 'casting the Ruins' by M.R. James. I recalled the tale as one read during my college days. It told of a demonologist whose studies had supposedly granted him certain forbidden knowledge and powers. Chief among these abilities is the power to mark his foes for death though the use of a 'caller'; a slip of paper upon which are written certain ancient runic symbols. The 'caller' has the ability to summon a vicious demon who will slay whomever is in possession of the 'caller.

My interest peaked I awaited the films start. 'Curse of the Demon' stayed true to James's basic concept while expanding upon it with quality filler.

The plot details skeptical psychologist Dr. John Holden's attempt to disprove the existence of the occult. The debunkers main target is Julian Karswell the wealthy leader of a so-called devil cult. Not wishing any negative press concerning his groups activities Karswell demands Holden drop his investigation. Holden refuses and Karwell responses by slipping him a 'caller'. Holden scoffs at the implications but soon has second thoughts when strange things begin to occur.

Holden begins to suffer strange bouts of dizziness and blurred vision. He hears unearthly sounds. He feels overcome by an odd sense of mortal dread. During a visit to Karwell's home he is attacked by Karswell's house cat seemingly transformed into a deadly jungle cat. On a nocturnal stroll through a wooded area he is apparently pursued by a monsterous unseen force. Is it the hex? Or is Holden the victim of a clever hoax performed by a master of manipulation?

The film has slow but steady pace, gradually building to a predictable but satisfying conclusion.

As the film ended my expression became one of utter contentment. For cinematically speaking I had enjoyed the best of both worlds. Not only had I satisfied my 'B' movie craving, but at the same time I witness a film that bordered on genius.
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8/10
Crafty, stylish thriller with one hell of a demon...
moonspinner557 July 2007
Dana Andrews as an American psychologist, newly-arrived in England to attend a convention, who ends up investigating the death of a colleague which may stem from witchcraft. Delectably sinister and crafty UK occult entry from director Jacques Tourneur, who creates a shimmering and eerie mood from Hal Chester and Charles Bennett's screenplay. The two writers, adapting Montague R. James' book "Casting the Runes", reportedly quarreled over the occult elements in the script--with Bennett's attempts at a more subtle approach going unrealized (arguably, we get too many close-ups of the titular demon, but he's a scene-stealer nevertheless!). Tourneur weaves this Hitchcockian tale with a great deal of hypnotic style, and gets fine performances from Peggy Cummins as the daughter of the deceased as well as the always-reliable Andrews (one might say the actor seems a bit stolid here but, since his character is a born skeptic, he should look tense and uncomfortable). Niall MacGinnis is nothing short of amazing as Dr. Julian Karswell, sort of a mama's boy/devil cult leader and one of the very best villains in 1950s cinema. Supporting performances are all first-rate, the picture looks fantastic in chilly black-and-white as photographed by Ted Scaife, and the satisfying finale leaves one both smiling and hungry for more. Initially released in the US as "Curse of the Demon", missing 15 minutes from its original running time of 95 minutes. ***1/2 from ****
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10/10
"It's in the trees! It's coming!"
bensonmum223 August 2006
Being a fan of classic horror, I'm almost embarrassed to admit that this was my first viewing of Night of the Demon as it is very nearly the perfect horror film. It's got everything I could ask for. Instead of going into detail on everything that works, I'll give the laundry list of highlights: an interesting premise, an intelligently written script, good acting, atmosphere you can cut with a knife, nail-biting suspense, beautiful cinematography, and touches of humor that add to rather than take away from the film. There is nothing that I would change about the movie. And that includes director Jacques Tourneur being forced to show the demon. I think the demon scenes are nicely done and do not take anything away from Night of the Demon. Contrary to a couple of reviews I've read, they're not "cheesy" in the least. In fact, the demon is downright frightening. While I admit that the film might have been even better had the demon's image been left to the imagination, it's there. Just enjoy it for what it is.
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10/10
The finest horror film ever made, period.
ElegantGuy7 July 2002
This is the standard which the art of the horror film must be judged. Jacques Tourneur (the leading director for Val Lewton, and the director of the original "Cat People", "I Walked with a Zombie" and "Leopard Man") in 1957 made his quintessential tribute to Val Lewton with "Curse of the Demon" (originally entitled, "Night of the Demon") based on the classic ghost story by M.R. James, "Casting the Runes"). Dana Andrews is the definitive sceptic here, and, along with the incredible photography and directing, provides the main impetus for the film's incredible suspension of disbelief. Scary, atmospheric, poetic and very believable, this is the genre at its finest.
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9/10
You know, the devil has something here. Very pleasant.
hitchcockthelegend19 October 2009
Dr. John Holden arrives in England to attend a paranormal convention where the recently deceased Professor Harrington had intended to expose Dr. Julian Karswell as being the leader of satanic cult. Upon learning of Harrington's death, Holden finds that the only link to the mysterious death and Karswell's alleged cult is an accused murderer called Rand Hobart, who is currently in a catatonic state. While Harrington's niece Joanna is convinced her uncle was felled by supernatural forces, Holden sets about debunking it all as pure hogwash. Something that may yet prove to be fatal to his well being?

Prior to 1957, director Jacques Tourneur could boast on his résumé psychological horror classics I Walked With A Zombie & Cat People, the simmering pot boiling Western Canyon Passage and the rightly heralded film-noir piece that is Out Of The Past. He was in short the perfect choice to direct this loose adaptation of M.R. James' story "Casting the Runes". Why then? That producer Hal E. Chester chose to interfere and not let Tourneur have full rein to deliver a supernatural picture that is more about what you don't see is actually what scares you? Is open for scornful debate.

The problem, and the source of much discussion over the years, concerns the demon of the title. Goofy looking and at once taking away the quizzical factor for the audience, Chester had the demon appear both at the beginning and the end of the piece. It was also featured heavily in the film's advertising material (it's on the poster for instance), which quite frankly killed off the minuscule chance the less than scary vision had of shocking the audience. It's now all the years later considered across the board that it would have been better to not have seen the demon at all, certainly at the least to not see it at the beginning of the film.

Thankfully though, and with much credit to Tourneur, his team and the cast, Night Of The Demon is still a nerve pulling piece of work that shines bright today as a true classic horror picture. After the demon has shown its unremarkable face, we follow Holden (a knowingly effective and stoic turn from Dana Andrews) as he delves deeper into murky waters that he's convinced do not exist. Only to realise he's in a devilish trap laid by the creepy Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), a trap from which he must escape or face the dire consequence.

The tension has been built up beautifully by Tourneur, tension given an added dimension by Ken Adam's spookily adroit set designs. So come the glorious train station finale, nobody can be quite sure what will happen, and this in spite of us knowing the existence of the said demon thanks to the appearance of "it" at the beginning. The film was cut by 12 minutes and retitled Curse Of the Demon for the American market, but both versions have readily been available in disc form in the US. Odd then that in the country where the film is proudly called one of its own better horror entries, it had to wait till 2010 for a home disc release! That is almost as criminal as Chester's insistence on the demon appearing at the start of the film. Only almost mind you. 9/10
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10/10
A Superlative Achievement From the 1950's
dalefried15 November 2005
It is interesting to note when a film throws back successfully on expectations. For the most part, horror films have a built in advantage here. No one expects them to do anything approaching artistic. These assumptions were so obvious in the drive in mania of the 1950s where one cheap, guilty pleasure bad film after another came out of the depths. Occasionally a film from the genre surprised like the Quatermass trilogy and cold war allegories like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' and 'Them'. No monster/scifi film from the 1950's was more distinctive and superior to Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon.

This film in any form is certainly a top three horror film for the 1950s and comparable in quality to anything in genre history. The quality comes from its mystical atmosphere, evidenced in director Jacques Tournour's Val Lewton collaborations ('Cat People', 'I Walk With a Zombie'), combined with an extraordinary script that has the unexpected turns and disarming out of context humor of Hitchcock (the screenwriter contributed to Alfred's arsenal). But the distinction here comes from the threat of terror that is imbued throughout. Much has been made of the director's desire to leave out the final vision of the demon. Truthfully, it is better with it. I remember seeing this film first on the late night monster movie circuit of the 1960s and was terrified. As a film aficionado now I appreciate it in other ways, however, I am always drawn to the monster. It was truly the most horrifying image I can recall from the low tech era, standing on its own even today.

There is little doubt that this film belongs on any top 10 horror/suspense/monster film list. Since it works so well on all three it certainly fits the framework for being an overall top rated film, particularly for the 1950s.
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10/10
A Film that Haunted my Childhood
mike4812824 April 2018
I saw this on the silver screen as either The Night or the Curse of the Demon. It's a shame that the monster is shown on the illustration of the DVD, as I had no idea what I was in for in 1958. In those days, the screen was so large that even a black and white scary movie was, well, scary. I was 8 at-the-time. It's a British "B" movie with a pedigree. Written by the accomplished man who wrote 6 classics for Hitchcock. Directed by the French Director of "The Cat People". The dragon-like demon appears only twice in the film and holds it's victim in it's claw while belching fire. No one else ever sees it. Many other "spooky" things in the film to keep it interesting. A sudden windstorm, a seance, a cat that momentarily transforms into a panther, moving footprints in the woods with a fiery cloud. Shortened, no doubt, for excessive dialog by American standards but worth seeing (somewhat) restored. Probably too slow and tame for modern viewers today but otherwise a lot of fun and truly scary without being gory.
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