Author Topic: Night Of The Demon (1957)  (Read 1775 times)

Chedney Honks

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Night Of The Demon (1957)
« on: March 17, 2021, 07:49:15 PM »


Not to be confused with Night Of The Hunter or, indeed, Night Of The Demons, this is a supernatural horror/mystery in which Dana Andrews (above) plays an American psychologist who travels to England to investigate a satanic cult. Again, without spoiling for those who haven't seen it, the stakes build in a very satisfying and chilling way that reminded me strangely of Ringu. It really got under my skin, even though it's relatively quaint.

Far more frightening are the things you don't see, and the growing latent threat of the sanguine Dr. Karswell, played by Niall MacGinnis (below). If Robert Mitchum is one of the greatest villains ever in Hunter, I do think that MacGinnis isn't that far behind. The banality and transparency of evil. There's no disguising his interests and practices (and that's not a spoiler at all) and so you feel more scared of his capabilities.



The ongoing debate seems to be whether or not we should ever see the demon, and apparently director Jacques Tourneur was dead against it, but I actually really like the effects in the movie. Even if there's little visceral horror to it - and there probably wasn't back then, either - I'm a sucker for physical effects. There's also some incredibly atmospheric stuff around the appearance of the demon and some beautifully nightmarish cinematography. It wouldn't be the same film without the demon and I'm not sure whether it would actually be better.

This was one of the first films my mum ever saw at the cinema (somehow!) and it scared the shit out of her. She was raving about it the other night when I mentioned it so I picked up another copy of the tremendous Indicator Blu-ray for a late Mother's Day prezzie. She will be buzzing.

Any thoughts? I really loved this one, not quite as much as Hunter, but it's a film I'll rewatch many times before I'm gone.

BlodwynPig

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #1 on: March 17, 2021, 09:21:24 PM »

zomgmouse

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #2 on: March 18, 2021, 03:56:25 AM »
Based on a pretty chilling M.R. James short story - I thought I had a link to it but alas I do not. Worth seeking out.

Decent film, great use of location and creates a nice threatening occulty atmosphere.

Povidone

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #3 on: March 18, 2021, 06:20:06 AM »
Adore this film, I remember it being a highlight of one of the many marathon horror nights I went to in Leeds. Karswell is a wonderfully unsettling antagonist, as you say Ched it's all about the atmosphere and there is a palpable sense of dread throughout leading to an incredibly tense finale.

I liked the Demon, it's used in the best possible way for the time. Barely moving, enveloped in mist and light. You could almost take it as an avatar for some demonic dimension rather than a creature in its own right.

timebug

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #4 on: March 18, 2021, 09:44:16 AM »
Wot Chedney Honks said! A Brilliant little film, based on M.R.James 'Casting The Runes'. I will view it whenever it comes on the TV and have seen it loads of times. In fact, I probably have it recorded on one of my out of date/past use VHS video tapes!

Blumf

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #5 on: March 18, 2021, 10:00:05 AM »
Chalk me up as another fan of seeing the demon. Just hits the right uncanny valley note with it's awkward movement and works well within the scenes. Povidone's got a point I think,. we're not seeing the demon itself, but it's reach into our world.

Chedney Honks

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #6 on: March 18, 2021, 02:11:07 PM »
Glad to see a few folks here enjoy this one. It's not as big a deal as Night Of The Hunter (I only make that comparison because it's another 50s noirish thriller/chiller, and the name) but I would seriously recommend it. Some really interesting thoughts on the demon, as well, Povidone! I like that.

Glebe

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #7 on: March 18, 2021, 03:17:37 PM »
I know the demon looks a bit silly, but there's something weird about it I like.

Hank_Kingsley

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #8 on: March 18, 2021, 04:31:11 PM »
This film slaps hard. Karswell is meant to be a Crowley stand-in right? I recommend the anthology horror film 'Dead of Night' if you liked this. It's something of an oddity as it's Ealing, and there's a couple of more funny, slightly surreal stories which lead you into a false sense of security as it gets...dark, and weird, and a little bit trippy towards the end.

Povidone

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #9 on: March 18, 2021, 06:47:58 PM »
Glad to see a few folks here enjoy this one. It's not as big a deal as Night Of The Hunter (I only make that comparison because it's another 50s noirish thriller/chiller, and the name) but I would seriously recommend it. Some really interesting thoughts on the demon, as well, Povidone! I like that.

Cheers :) been following the Night of the Hunter thread as well, managed to get hold of it so looking forward to watching that tonight!

The M R James link got me looking up other adaptations, found that the BBC's Whistle and I'll Come to You (another recommendation I picked up from these here boards) from 1968 was preceeded by a 1956 short silent film, available to watch here:

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-whistle-and-ill-come-to-you-1956-online

Both versions are great examples of economical use of the horror elements, showing something but keeping it brief and allowing your imagination to fill in the gaps.

Chedney Honks

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #10 on: March 18, 2021, 06:56:04 PM »
I know the demon looks a bit silly, but there's something weird about it I like.

I like the way he glides across the ground, very weird with his lovely legs pedalling.

Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2021, 06:49:26 AM »
Cheers :) been following the Night of the Hunter thread as well, managed to get hold of it so looking forward to watching that tonight!

The M R James link got me looking up other adaptations, found that the BBC's Whistle and I'll Come to You (another recommendation I picked up from these here boards) from 1968 was preceeded by a 1956 short silent film, available to watch here:

https://player.bfi.org.uk/free/film/watch-whistle-and-ill-come-to-you-1956-online

Both versions are great examples of economical use of the horror elements, showing something but keeping it brief and allowing your imagination to fill in the gaps.

Derailing the thread a bit (although it is MR James), but I'd heartily recommend folk buy the BBC Ghost Stories for Christmas boxset. For life, not just for Christmas, and watching these sequentially and in short order was completely transportive. It won't have the blu ray sheen of Demon (although I've only seen this on another older dvd) but even the weaker, later ones have their moments. Insert in the recent Woman in Black blu ray, The Stone Tape, Schalkan the Painter and Casting the Runes (ITV) accordingly. Lights off and a warming single malt in hand.

Thanks for the older version link. Did anyone keep up with the more recent Christmas ghost stories? Mostly Mark Gatiss I think.

Back on topic, I think it would have worked better without the demon, but I'd need to rewatch. I was going through a wider MR James binge at the time (see above) and felt his tales hinged on this point of suggestive horror (I love the beach chase in Oh Whistle...). But I appreciate this film is a different beast, so to speak. Fuck it, I'll order the blu ray now.

zomgmouse

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2021, 12:35:29 AM »
Had another look and it appears the story is actually quite widely available; I was searching for "Casting of the Runes" rather than "Casting the Runes". Anyway, here it is if you would like to read it: https://www.steve-calvert.co.uk/public-domain-text-casting-the-runes/

Chedney Honks

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2021, 06:27:03 AM »
Cheers, both. My mum recommended that BBC Ghost Stories and the M.R. James story but I've not got round to them yet. That link is very helpful, saves me buying a book (which I'm trying to cut down on.)

Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2021, 12:49:52 PM »
There's this ( the ITV playhouse version) too, in case you think the story would be improved by the addition of Jan Francis.


Brundle-Fly

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #15 on: March 23, 2021, 02:41:30 PM »
The gathering smoke in the forest still chills me. I thought I first watched it as part of the legendary weekly BBC2 Saturday night horror double bills*, but judging by this RT cover I would have been fourteen years old in June 1980. Definitely saw it as a much younger lad. Shame there isn't an ITV Genome project to check the date.



*always drifted off during the second movie (usually a more recent release in tantilising blood-red colour) ."I'm not sleeping, Mum, I'm resting my eyes."

Paaaaul

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #16 on: March 23, 2021, 02:53:56 PM »
If you want another, newer version of Night Of The Demon - Drag Me To Hell.

Petey Pate

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #17 on: March 23, 2021, 03:47:34 PM »
I'm pro seeing the demon but they should have left the reveal until the end, rather than it appearing at the start of the film.

Rev+

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #18 on: March 23, 2021, 10:25:25 PM »
Had another look and it appears the story is actually quite widely available; I was searching for "Casting of the Runes" rather than "Casting the Runes". Anyway, here it is if you would like to read it: https://www.steve-calvert.co.uk/public-domain-text-casting-the-runes/

Thanks for linking the story - I've not ready any MR James in donkey's, and had never read this one.  It's great because the ideas drive it, but fuck me he was a bit of a lazy cheating sod at times as a writer.  You could make a drinking game out of every time he does something along the lines of 'there seems to be little reason in detailing what leads to the next plot point, because I'm not particularly arsed and just want to write that bit before supper'.

notjosh

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #19 on: March 24, 2021, 02:00:42 PM »
I hope everyone in this thread is familiar with Jacques Tourneur's other masterpiece, Cat People. If not get it remedied, stat:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0078ns6/cat-people

non capisco

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #20 on: March 24, 2021, 04:27:33 PM »
My highlight is when that seance scene turns from farcical to chilling when the medium starts talking in an actual child's voice. That and the smoke in the woods scene. Some really effective scares for the time, as you'd expect from Tourneur. Closing after the danger has passed with a screaming engine hurtling past the screen is one of the touches he was typical of for his horrors. He had a great sense for the atmospheric. I know 'I Walked With A Zombie' can probably be written off as a load of dodgy old toot (them lot and their bloody voodoo!) but that thing is dripping in atmosphere, as is the less problematic 'Cat People'.

I'm pro seeing the demon but they should have left the reveal until the end, rather than it appearing at the start of the film.

Possibly, but seeing old laughing boy at the start does give the audience a concrete idea of why Karswell is proper brown-trousering it at the end. I think for the purposes of the story we need to know the extent of the threat from the start. Although that could have been portrayed with just seeing Harrington's terror in the face of the unseen demon, and you'd have still got that cool eerie noise that heralds his appearance. At least the demon at the end can't be a disappointment if we already know what it looks like.

TrenterPercenter

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #21 on: March 24, 2021, 10:41:43 PM »
I know the demon looks a bit silly, but there's something weird about it I like.

It's the Chewits monster non?

Glebe

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #22 on: March 25, 2021, 03:00:45 AM »

zomgmouse

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #23 on: March 25, 2021, 03:22:08 AM »
Thanks for linking the story - I've not ready any MR James in donkey's, and had never read this one.  It's great because the ideas drive it, but fuck me he was a bit of a lazy cheating sod at times as a writer.  You could make a drinking game out of every time he does something along the lines of 'there seems to be little reason in detailing what leads to the next plot point, because I'm not particularly arsed and just want to write that bit before supper'.

"We had not heard from him for ages but then suddenly there he was"
But yes I agree lots of unnerving mystique about this short story.

I hope everyone in this thread is familiar with Jacques Tourneur's other masterpiece, Cat People. If not get it remedied, stat:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0078ns6/cat-people

I watched this last October and was sorely underwhelmed. Out of the Past, however, sensational.

Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #24 on: March 27, 2021, 04:56:47 PM »
Just watched the Indicator version Honks, very effective I'd agree, perhaps showing a bit of the limits of the era/genre when it comes to the male/female leads acting but that does play into the charm of it. In terms of building up atmosphere though a lot of it is very well shot indeed and Niall MacGinnis is excellent as a kind of proto Bond villain mixing courtesy and threat. The demon itself I actually though looked quite good for the time, especially the smoke effects as it appeared.

You could argue their is just enough their that it isn't automatically shown to be "real", both men killed by it could have been killed by other means resulting from their panic.

Chedney Honks

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #25 on: March 27, 2021, 08:13:59 PM »
Not thought about that, but you're absolutely right. And it also ties into the fact that both men were ultimately overcome by fear before their end. Glad you enjoyed it, I was going to hold off on a thread til you'd seen it but couldn't resist. I really like this film a lot.

kalowski

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #26 on: March 27, 2021, 10:20:04 PM »
Can I be the first to mention Kate Bush!

Blumf

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #27 on: March 27, 2021, 10:47:45 PM »
Can I be the first to mention Kate Bush!

No, she was mentioned in magazine articles at least as early as 1980. So you're at least 41 years too late.

kalowski

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Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #28 on: March 27, 2021, 10:52:32 PM »
That's a fair point.

Re: Night Of The Demon (1957)
« Reply #29 on: March 27, 2021, 11:20:11 PM »
The gathering smoke in the forest still chills me. I thought I first watched it as part of the legendary weekly BBC2 Saturday night horror double bills*, but judging by this RT cover I would have been fourteen years old in June 1980. Definitely saw it as a much younger lad. Shame there isn't an ITV Genome project to check the date.



*always drifted off during the second movie (usually a more recent release in tantilising blood-red colour) ."I'm not sleeping, Mum, I'm resting my eyes."

I had that issue!  I was 11 and very excited about the double bills, though I wasn't allowed to watch many of them (same went for Hammer House of Horror around the same time).  I thought Night of the Demon was terrific, and although my more hardened schoolmates dismissed my admiration saying, "Well, that's because you haven't seen many proper horror films," I knew it was a good piece of work.

I'm currently working at the BBC and there are bound copies of every single Radio Times ever published (though three of the volumes from the war years are missing for some reason), so I'll look this one up next chance I get.

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