Curse of the Demon (AKA Night of the Demon)
Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Written by Charles Bennett and Charles E. Chester from the story “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James
Columbia Pictures Corporation/Sabre Film Productions
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant
This scary movie would have been even scarier without the demon. Nonetheless, it is pretty darn scary.
As the movie opens, Professor Harrington pays a call on Julian Karswell (Niall MacGuiness) to tell him he was absolutely right. But it is too late. As he leaves, he sees a flash of light, followed by the apparation of a huge demon which slays him. His death is chalked up to electrocution by a falling power pole.
Segue to the arrival of Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews) in London. Holden is a famous skeptic about paranormal activities and was invited to present a paper at a conference hosted by Harrington. He goes to the British Museum to do some research in a rare book on witchcraft. He is informed that the book is missing and was the only one of its kind. But Karswell appears in the reading room to tell Holden that he has a copy and, by the way, he will die on Oct. 28. Holden remains a skeptic. He meets Harrington’s niece Joanna (Peggy Cummins) at the funeral. Joanna is a believer and they team up to visit Karswell.
On arrival at Karswell’s country estate, the couple finds him performing magic tricks for children as the world’s creepiest clown. The rest of the movie follows the many horrifying events that eventually persuade Holden of the error of his ways.
Tourneur didn’t want to show the demon but he was vetoed by the studio. The studio was wrong. The demon isn’t half bad but is obviously mechanical. Tourneur could have done much more with his lights and shadows. Nonetheless, Curse of the Demon delivers several genuine thrills. It is my second favorite of the director’s films after Cat People. Highly recommended.