Spanish film poster.
[Correction: Italian film poster.]
[Correction: Italian film poster.]
Night of the Demon aka Curse of the Demon
Director: Jacques Tourneur
United Kingdom 1957
Starring: Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis, Athene Seyler and Liam Redmond, among others.
"Dana Andrews said prunes
gave him the runes"
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Up until yesterday night I had never heard about this film. The reason why I checked it up was that I read through some message board discussions on IMDb about Rosemary's Baby (1968), and some people swore that they had seen a black and white version of the film where you actually get too see the title baby. Someone suggested that they might have confused the film with a similar one from 1957, Night of the Demon. When I noticed that the coolest of the film noir anti-heroes (well, at least one of them) Dana Andrews starred in this British horror film, I simply had to investigate!
Well, after having seen this surprisingly frightening and well-made horror film I can state that there is no Devilish baby to be seen. The confusion is however understandable: there are some obvious similarities between the two films. They both revolve around mysteries about satanic cults, all characters except the main character behave remarkably strange and suspicious, and the Devil we see is very reminiscent of the one we briefly see during the hallucination/rape scene in Rosemary's Baby (although that Devil looks slightly more ape-like).
Now to the film itself. I can't believe that I never heard about this horror gem before. Probably because it doesn't seem to have been such a big production. The company making the film is called Sabre Film Production, and under the authority of Columbia Pictures they only seem to have made three films in total.
Anyways, I absolutely loved the film. The camera work is amazing, taking full advantage of shadows, contrasts and different camera angles. The cinematographer is a fellow named Edward Scaife, who apparently had something to do with the camera work on both The Third Man (1949) and The African Queen (1951) before Night of the Demon. Does not surprise me at all.
What amazed me most was the unusual mix of both directly showing the scary elements and build up a suspenseful atmosphere with twisted camera angles and music. I also read that director Tourneur never wanted to show the actual "monster" in the film, but was forced to by the studio who wanted the movie to bring in more money. The usual tale, in other words. But for me, it works.
So Dana Andrews plays the paranormal psychologist Dr. Holden who is flown to London from the USA to investigate some rumors of a satanic cult and its leader. Andrews interprets his role in a well-known film noir manner: he is cynical, charming and pretty unsurprised by any events. How I like him.
Without giving away too much of the plot, I can safely say that there of course is a pretty lady in distress, Joanna (Cummins) who seeks Dr. Holden's guidance. However, Dr. Holden seems to trouble the presumed cult leader Dr. Julian Karswell (MacGinnis), who puts a curse on him and informs poor Holden that the day and time of his death is determined - and it's within two days. Of course, Dr. Holden is convinced that all this satanism is pure humbug, but Joanna is not so sure.
A glass of brandy, a beautiful woman... Mr. Holden thinks it's a perfect opportunity for romance, but Joanna much rather talks about her uncle's mysterious death. Typical women.
I feel that I have trouble doing the film justice (even including all the screenshots), so I will simply cut out a scene for you to create an opinion for yourselves. This scene of a seance is one that makes me smirk at Dr. Holden's obvious inconvenience, and at the same time make my stomach hurt of fright. That's pretty impressive, I must say!
Funny trivia: "It's in the trees! It's coming!" is the first lines in Kate Bush's song "Hounds of Love" from the album by the same name (1985). The line is from this film, and is heard in this scene.