From the video case: When psychologist John (Dana Andrews) Holden’s colleague, Professor Harrington, is mysteriously and brutally murdered, Holden denies that it’s the work of the devil until he becomes the next target of The Curse of the Demon! The supernatural skeptic is plunged into a macabre world of seances and devil worship as he attempts to expose a satanic cult. Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins), convinced that her uncle was slain by demonic means, begs Holden to stop the investigation for his own good. But he ignores her warning until the bizarre cult leader places a death curse on him and suddenly he’s confronted with a demon intent on destroying him! A chilling tale of the occult, Curse of the Demon will take you on an eerie expedition into darkness and danger! (1957, b&w)
Mark says: I really did not expect much from this movie. Something about the title (aka Night of the Demon) sounded so hokey that I expected it to be, at the best, cheesy, and at the worst, a total bore. I’m happy to report that I was very pleasantly surprised.
Much has been made about the “demon monster” in the movie. Admittedly, it is not the most convincing special effect. In some of the scenes it appears to be an obvious puppet, and it is, perhaps, revealed too fully and too early in the story. Fortunately for the viewer, though, this movie is not so much about the monster itself, but about the anticipation of evil. And, just to throw in my two cents, I don’t think seeing the demon monster detracts that much from the overall quality of the film.
Dana Andrews (Crack in the World, The Frozen Dead) does an excellent job portraying skeptical scientist, John Holden, who refuses to believe in the supernatural, even after experiencing bizarre events in his life. Even better, Niall MacGinnis (Island of Terror, Jason and the Argonauts) does superb work as the leader of the devil cult, Julian Karswell. They are supported by a strong cast of characters, including Liam Redmond, who you may recall as Kelsey from the Don Knotts vehicle, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy) plays the concerned, and ultimately wise, love interest, Joanna Harrington.
I watch this film whenever I am in the mood for a “good good” (as opposed to a “good bad”) horror film from the 50s. In fact, I would list this among my favorites of the genre.
Directed by Jacques Tourneur (1942’s Cat People).
Scene to watch for: The kid in the mask who screams and jumps from behind the tree. It scares me every time.
Line to listen for: “I’m a scientist also, Mr. Holden. I know the value of the cold light of reason. But I also know the deep shadows that light can cast. The shadows that can blind men to truth.”
Trivia: Fans of the cult movie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, may remember these lyrics: Dana Andrews said Prunes / Gave him the runes / And passing them used lots of skills. This is in reference to this film.
FYI: This film is also known as Night of the Demon.
Mark’s Rating: ! ! ! ! ½ out of 5.