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Pulp Corner: Night Of The Demon

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Since we are in the midst of the Halloween season I figured I’d take a look at a more horror themed movie in today’s Pulp Corner. The movie in question is 1957’s Night Of The Demon also known as Curse Of The Demon to most U.S. audiences (which stripped away 13 minutes of footage). It’s a mix of suspense and noir which itself isn’t unique, but here it’s the overt addition of horror and the occult that really make it an interesting film.

The film stars two noir alums, Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins. Andrews we last saw in the Pulp Corner as the detective obsessed with a dead woman, in Laura. Ms. Cummins on the other hand was the devious and angry femme fatale of Gun Crazy making up one half of the Bonnie & Clyde like duo. The masterstroke though was that this movie was in the hands of one of the greatest noir directors, Jacques Tourneur. His signature picture Out Of The Past oozes noir and atmosphere. A perfect fit for Night Of The Demon.

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You know this movie means business when in the first 10 minutes we see someone gripping downed power lines with his bare hands to escape death by monster mutilation. The deceased is Professor Harrington who had been investigating a man named Karswell’s cult and his work in the dark arts. We see a confrontation with these two where a very terrified Professor Harrington asks Karswell to make it stop if he promises to halt the investigation. Very nonchalantly, Karswell tells him he’ll try and ushers him out of the house. Cue demonic monster from the beginning of the paragraph.

The story switches over to Dana Andrew’s character Dr. Holden an American psychologist who is flying into England for a conference to disapprove the idea of the supernatural. Professor Harrington was also supposed to be in attendance presenting his findings and outing Kraswell’s cult. Based on Harrington’s notes black magic is suspected to be the cause of his death, Dr. Holden while extremely skeptical decides to follow the trail.

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This brings him to the British Museum’s library to check out one of the oldest surviving books about witchcraft. After arriving he finds out it’s gone missing, only to receive a visit from Karswell who lets him know that he indeed has the book himself in his personal library. He agrees to pick the book up from him the next day. Later that evening at Professor Harrington’s funeral he meets Harrinton’s niece, Joanna (Peggy Cummins) who gives him access to the late Professor’s diary. The diary reveals Harrington’s growing paranoia of Kraswell’s abilities. Joanna decides to accompany Holden to Kraswell’s estate to investigate it together.

Things as you can imagine get much worse for them from here on out…

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Night Of The Demon is a chilling movie. Perhaps because it’s portrayal of the occult seems realistic and grounded. It’s tense and paranoid and dripping with atmosphere, which is what Tourneur does best. Many scenes are full of shadows and fog swapping out the urban decay which is a staple of the noir genre for a gloomy English countryside. It fills the viewer with a strange Gothic uneasiness which is only heightened by the great and frightening music score.

If there are any problems (albeit small) with the movie it is definitely the monster. You see it once at the beginning of the film and once at the end. While it looks damn good for 1950’s standards it’s still pretty laughable by the modern eye. The fault of almost all monster movies today is showing it, I know people would probably feel ripped off now a days if they didn’t see the creature but it’s the psychological horror that works as a prime motivator. What is scarier in the mind’s eye is far scarier than what is often shown on the screen. Tourneur knew this, take his 1942 suspense/horror movie, Cat People as a perfect example. He apparently fought with the Night Of The Demon’s producer to not include said demon in the movie, but once filming had completed footage was inserted unbeknownst to him.

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For those of you who are fans of older movies and are looking for something that’s genuinely a bit freighting rather than in your face blood and guts this is definitely worth your time.

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About Biff Tannen

Film Noir, Pulp, Comic Books and Hitchcock.

Posted on October 28, 2014, in Features, Movies, Pulp Corner, Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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