"The distributor advertising this DVD as a "Double Feature" stretches the truth a bit. "Curse of the Demon" is merely the shortened American version of the British film "Night of the Demon." The American version runs thirteen minutes shorter and is by far the weaker cut of the film, if still a fine piece of work. It's a nice feature to have the complete American cut on this disk for the sake of comparison with the original, but this is hardly a "double feature." And there's no reason to watch the edited, shorter version when you have the superior British original of one of the seminal horror movies of all time on the same DVD.
"Night of the Demon" hit theaters in 1957 and marked a turning point in macabre cinema. Director Jacques Tourneur had made some important 1940s horror films ("Cat People," "Leopard Man," and "I Walked with a Zombie," as well as the film noir classic "Out of the Past") that moved against the grain of the gothic fantasies that Universal produced during the 1930s. With "Night of the Demon," Tourneur cemented the idea of the modern horror film, where the terrors of the gothic, demonic, and supernatural appear within the realm of the modern, everyday world -- the essentially rational setting of the contemporary times. The success of this film would eventually lead to such movies in the following decades as "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Exorcist," which took place in the recognizable contemporary world, where the invasion of supernatural forces seemed all the more ghastly.The screenplay comes from the short story "Casting the Runes" by master Victorian ghost story writer M. R. James. (You can find this story in an excellent and currently in-print volume of the same name.) In the story, a professor and practitioner of the black arts, Karswell, has found a way to send demonic forces against his academic foes by passing them a slip of paper covered with magical runes. The movie expands the premise: Karswell (Niall MacGinnis, who played Zeus in "Jason and the Argonauts") leads a witchcraft circle and uses his rune-tracker to send a demon after his opponent, professor Harrington. After Harrington's death, his American friend, psychologist Holden (Dana Andrews), comes to America to learn more, but scoffs at the idea that anything supernatural could lurk behind Harrington's death. Unfortunately for Holden, Karswell feels threatened enough to decide to send his murdering monster after the American.Tourneur brilliantly films the movie in a split style, dividing between realistic, bland daytime scenes, meant to have an almost documentary feel, and increasingly warped and bizarre nighttime scenes as the curse of the demon moves closer and closer to Holden and it becomes harder for him to deny the truth of what is occurring. The demon itself is a point of controversy among film students. Tourneur was famous for keeping his horrors hidden, and some people believe that he never planned to show the demon at all, but the producer forced him to shove it up front. The appearance early in the film of the full demon might have been an error (it would have worked better to save it for the finale), but its materialization at the end is pretty incredible and it's hard to believe that Tourneur wouldn't have wanted the ending any other way. This is (excuse the pun) one hell of a demon. Designed by Ken Adam (who would later create the sets for most of the James Bond films, as well as "Dr. Strangelove"), the monster looks like it leaped from the freakiest medieval woodcut representation of Hell. The special effects and sounds accompanying it are also eerie and disturbing.Andrews is a bit stodgy in his part, but Niall MacGinnis makes up for it with his scene-stealing role as Karswell. MacGinnis is both a bumbling, whimsical British professor (complete with a doting and scolding mother), and a cold-blooded sorcerer -- often both in one scene. The ending of the film, involving the passing of the runes, is both funny and incredibly tense, leading to one of the most stunning climaxes in horror films. Peggy Cummins as the love interest is delightfully perky and intelligent, much more so than female leads in most horror films.The only extra on the disk is the inclusion of the American cut. However, the film is in perfect condition, and is finally shown in the original aspect ration of 1:1.66 (a typical European screen format infrequently seen in the U.S.; it's halfway between the shape of a TV screen and the typical 1:1.85 that most American movies are shot in today). "Night of the Demon" is essential horror film viewing for anyone who wants to understand the development of the genre into its current form. (And I have to repeat it, that's one helluva demon!)"
Maybe the best horror film you've never seen, a true classic
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 05/23/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There is really only one thing significantly wrong with the 1957 horror classic "Curse of the Demon" is that the producer insisted the "demon" had to make its appearance at the beginning and ending of the film. The better move would have been to leave the appearance of the monster up to the audience's imagination as director Jacques Tourneur intended, but you know producers. Still, "Curse of the Demon" (originally released in England as "Night of the Demon") is a great horror film. The film is based on "Casting the Runes" by M. R. James, with a literate screenplay by Charles Bennett and Hal E. Chester. The story deals with a curse cast by an evil magician, supposedly based on the self-proclaimed English sorcerer Aleister Crowley. The tone for the film is amply established in the opening sequence where a terrified Professor Harrington (Maurice Dehnam) comes to the home of Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis). Harrington the scientist had led an expose of Karswell's devil cult and made the mistake of telling the sorcerer "Do your worst." Now he wants Karswell to call off the demon, but, of course, it is way too late for that now. The protagonist in this story is Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews), a noted American psychologist who comes to England to help with the investigation of the cult. Holden does not believe in the occult, but then Karswell slips him a parchment marked with runes and learns the rules of our little game: whoever holds the parchment will die on an appointed day UNLESS they can pass it on to a WILLING recipient. Sounds like big time fun, right? Holden tries to hold on to his skepticism, but in due course he becomes a true believer. Allied with Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins), daughter of the late professor and Holden's obvious romantic interest in the film, the pair try to turn the tables on Karswell. The star of this film is Karswell as portrayed by Niall MacGinnis, who manages to give nice shadings to his villain. When Holden first meets the man trying to kill him at Lufford Hall, Karswell is dressed up as Dr. Bobo the Magnificent entertaining the local orphans. He even gives Holden a chance to recant his disbelief and when the psychologist becomes even more insulting Karswell summons a cyclone to take the American down a peg. One of the best sequences involves Holden breaking into Lufford Hall only to be attacked by the wizard's demon familiar. Andrews manages the passage from disbelief to understanding and horror adequately, but Karswell steals every scene. Even with the cheesy monster, "Curse of the Demon" is a classic horror film featuring a first rate script, solid performances, and artful direction. This may well be the proverbial best horror film you never heard of."
Matt Martinez | Sherman Oaks, CA | 05/02/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I rented this movie one night based on a great multitude of great reviews it had received online. As I popped the tape in my VCR, I wasn't sure what to expect. Imagine my surprise as I began to watch one of the single greatest horror/suspense films ever made. Everything in this film works, including the "controversial" appearance of the demon at the beginning and end of the film. The performances are quite noteworthy, especially that of the actor who portrayed Karswell. Niall MacGinnis does a great job in humanizing his character and makes sure that Karswell is leaps and bounds beyond the average evil villain in most horror films. Probably my favorite aspect is the fact the film has a film noir quality to it, which suits it fine, since it is a cross between a detective film and a supernatural thriller. It's one of the few films I've seen recently that has made me yell at the characters when they do things that may be understandable, however they are a bit on the unintelligent side. By the way, if you are a fan of this movie, be sure to check out Hammer's The Devil Rides Out, recently released in a widescreen edition by Anchor Bay Entertainment. It contains a similar occult theme, as well as the same level of sheer intensity. Oh, and I don't want to forget the fact that it stars Christopher Lee, is directed by Terence Fisher, and has a screenplay written by Richard Matheson (based on Dennis Wheatley's novel)."
Finally on DVD!!! ...almost perfect
Slade Simon | Scottsdale, AZ USA | 08/16/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"An underrated classic finally on DVD!! This is a truly great horror film based on the short story "Casting The Runes" by M.R. James. The movie mainly uses concepts from the story and isn't a direct adaptation of the story - kinda like Roger Corman's Poe movies. The names Karswell and Harrington are the only ones that appear in both James' story and the movie. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur whose Cat People (1941) is probably more well known. Unfortunately, the studio mettled a bit and forced Tourneur to show the demon way too early in the movie. Dr. Holden arrives in England only to discover that his colleague, Professor Harrington, has died under mysterious circumstances. During Dr. Holden's research into what happened, a curse that involves the use of Runic symbols is discovered. Karswell is the leader of a local religious cult. This DVD contains both Night of the Demon (UK version) and Curse of the Demon (US version - 13 minutes hacked out). Both movies are letterboxed. The image quality is great. There were a few points where it seemed the audio might be slighted distorted, but I'm not sure if it would be noticeable to the average viewer. It's not distracting. Something you'd have to be listening for. The close-ups of the Demon are great considering that this movie was made in 1957. The wide shots are not as impressive. The version of Curse of the Demon on this DVD is not as complete as the version that has been on AMC. The version AMC aired was closer to the UK version - with only a few minutes missing and the "Curse" titles at the beginning. I do prefer the UK version and would recommend skipping Curse of the Demon unless you just want to compare how the versions were edited. Just select Night of the Demon to see the complete, unedited version. I wouldn't call it a Director's Cut since he would want to cut all shots of the Demon from most of the film. I did find one little quirk with this DVD. Once you select a version, you're locked into it until you stop the DVD. Each movie has its own menu. Once you select a movie from the first menu, you are stuck on that movie's menu with no way to back out to that first menu. If your DVD player remembers where you left off when you hit Stop like mine does, you'll have to clear that memory to switch movies. With my player, I just hit Stop an additional time, and that makes the player go back to the beginning of the DVD when I hit Play. The two trailers are for Fright Night and The Bride. I highly recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys older horror movies and/or movies based on the supernatural. This is a personal favorite."
"What is this twilight, this half world of the mind?"
Ryan Costantino | Nowhere, Special | 03/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Curse of the Demon is one of best Horror movies I've ever seen, with one of the best scripts as well. A superb sense of foreboding permeates the entire film. For those of you who disregard any movie filmed in black & white this could be your wakeup call.
A retelling of "Casting the Runes" by M. R. James, for its time this film was downright terrifying (especially the amazingly nasty British release). Witchcraft, demons, supernatural winds, and one of filmdom's best onscreen villains ever( Niall MacGinnis as Mr. Karswell).
After watching this I couldn't stop thinking about it. So many scenes still cause chills, and the demon is just freaky. For any one who is affected by atmosphere in Horror movies be prepared to sleep with a light on after watching this one.
I've seen hundreds of Horror movies and most of them have one thing in common, they just aren't scary. Curse of the Demon was released in 1958 and it's scary even today. From it's very ominous opening monologue to its hellish ending you can't go wrong with this movie.