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Saturday, September 10, 2016

Night Of The Demon (1957)

An American psychologist (Dana Andrews) specializing in the paranormal arrives in England only to find the colleague (Maurice Denham) who was to meet him has died under mysterious circumstances. The dead man's niece (Peggy Cummins) believes he was killed because of witchcraft. The psychologist will have none of it but his skepticism will soon be tested. Based on the story CASTING THE RUNES by M.R. James and directed by Jacques Tourneur. Tourneur had directed two of the greatest horror films of all time, CAT PEOPLE and I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE which were rich in atmosphere and suggestion rather than graphic realism. He brings the same approach to DEMON although the film's executive producer Hal E. Chester inserted footage of an actual demon in the film's opening and closing against Tourneur's and the screenwriter Charles Bennett's wishes. Tourneur and Bennett were right, of course. The rather clumsy looking monster can never match the unseen horror of our imagination and the literal apparition compromises the film. But it is still one of the great horror films of the 1950s, a forthright intelligence that is rare for the genre and Andrews' performance as the cynical unbeliever makes for a strong anchor. Cut by 13 minutes and retitled CURSE OF THE DEMON for its U.S. release. With Niall MacGinnis, Athene Seyler and Percy Herbert.

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