Night of the Demon aka Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)
This British cult film named by Martin Scorsese as the 11th most frightening film of all time is a superb black and white example of the mastery of Jacques Tourneur filming Horror films with his porper aesthetics and polyvalence. Having touch almost every genre in Films, Tourneur has been recognized mostly for his Horror films made with producer Val Lewton like Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, and The Leopard Man. However, this film critic’s favorite Tourneur is the Film Noir Out of the Past, a masterpiece of the genre starring Robert Mitchum.
In the case of Night of the Demon, Dana Andrews portrays an American psychologist who studies and reveals the explanation behind every supernatural observation. Called to investigate on a recent murder linked to a sect of Satan worshippers in England, he meets the niece (Peggy Cummins) of a scientific named Harrington ( ) who was himself studying this sect leaded by Karshel ( ) who seems to have transcripted an old book full of Runes writings about the black arts.
While being obviously a B-Movie, Night of the Demon suffered from the fact that the writer and his producer disagreed on the actual showing of the demon. When it was release in America some scenes were trimmed down and the movie was release under the title Curse of the Demon with seven minutes less than the original, 83 minutes. This review is about the 90 minutes cut or what is known as the original cut. The actual showing of the demon is particularly effective with the cloud of smoke forming in the woods and getting to the poor Dr. In the beginning of the film. However, with the ending of the film the special effects lost its punch and it would have been more frightening to have kept only the last sequence of the demon and letting a mystery around the first death even if its filmed in a very effective way.
It is a very intriguying film because it treats of black magic and satanism and I wonder what was the reception at the time because those were not the kind of themes that one would see in the common films of the 1950’s. Like many of Tourneur’s Horror films made with few means it is a very beautifully lit and shot film and it has a charm that Horror films of today don’t have. The tune of enchantement reminded me of a tune of Ghostbusters another film that I cherished for its naive charm. It is probably a charm that like most of Alfred Hitchcock’s films we know that what happens is impossible but just like the sceptical Dana Andrews we kind of get to the point and finally believe that something like this can occur.
As a conclusion of what so ever, I would recommend this Jacques Tourneur picture. Since it was on the list that I am rambling from the birth of this blog (1000 Greatest Films of All Time by They shoot Pictures Don’t They?) it is the last of the films by Jacques Tourneur that I needed to watch. I’ve decided to include a little top of his films present on the list.
1. Out of the Past
2. Cat People
3. Night of the Demon
4. I Walked With A Zombie