“Where does imagination end and reality begin?”
Henry Harrington (Maurce Denham) is a professor investigating a devil-worshipping cult, and the investigation has gotten him into a world of trouble. Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), the leader of the cult, has put a curse on the professor.
Though he begs for the curse to be reversed, Henry soon turns up dead. His aide approaches visiting American paranormal psychology expert John Holden (Dana Andrews) for help figuring out exactly what happened. Harrington’s daughter Joanna (Peggy Cummins) is also eager to discover the truth. Was Henry simply killed because of his investigation, or are darker forces — such as demons — at work?
Curse of the Demon (also known as Night of the Demon) was directed by Jacques Tourneur. It was written by Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester from a Montague R. James story, “Casting the Runes.”
TCM’s introduction to this film noted that director Jacques Tourneur didn’t want the audience to see anything of the demon, leaving room for a more metaphorical reading of the film. He was overruled by the studio and producers, who wanted the movie to have a tangible monster.
It’s a shame we’ll never seen Tourneur’s original vision for the film, but as much as I would love to see that, I also love the demon’s design and destructive behavior! Demonic cults and hallucinations also bring some dark fun to Curse of the Demon.
Andrews’ cynical character serves as a good foil for the film’s paranormal elements. Holden is a skeptic through and through, attempting to dispel each and every odd happening with logic.
Joanna is more open-minded than Holden, but still seeks a logical explanation for what’s happening… or, rather, wants to believe there’s a logical explanation.
The film doesn’t bring many big scares, but there’s plenty of tension, and some great scenes of suspense (like Holden being chased through the woods by a demonic fireball). The lighting and photography are on point, adding to the film’s atmosphere.
Curse of the Demon is an interesting little film, with a solid cast and a pretty cool monster. While the director’s vision wasn’t precisely realized, there’s still something to be said for the film’s exploration of fear and psychology. It’s not too frightful, but a great watch for anyone who enjoys paranormal/occult twists with their mysteries.
It’s an old favorite of mine. I get Tourneur’s vision, but asking audiences of the 1950s to go to a monster movie with no monster was a bit much. For me, it’s MacGinnis’s disarming performance that makes the film. In Andrews’s first major confrontation with him, he’s in clown makeup and a dingy suit, yet the menace is there…
Saw both versions a few years ago (Curse and Night), but I can’t remember which I liked better! Yes, that ‘fireball in the forest’ scene was sufficiently creepy, but seeing the creature on the train tracks towards the end was equally as frightening. Did you get a chance to see both versions?
Only the American re-release, unfortunately! It aired on TCM a while back.