This year, rather than do a Halloween special, we thought we’d dedicate the whole of October to doing scary movies, and in the first of these Halloween podcasts we review Night of the Demon (or Curse of the Demon as it was known in the United States, for no real reason).
Ian first saw this film as a kid, and he was keen to cover it for 101 Films as it really stuck in his mind. As luck would have it, the BFI were screening it as part of their Gothic season, so we excitedly trooped into London Town for a night of witchcraft and intrigue.
The screening was held outdoors in the courtyard of the British Museum – appropriate seeing as a key scene in the film takes place there – and immediately upon arriving, Ian ran into writer Kim Newman yet again. Ian swears that Newman did a double take on seeing him; he’s convinced that Kim thinks he’s a stalker, as they keep running into each other at various events like this one, yet have never spoken. I tried to convince Ian to reach out to Kim on Twitter, perhaps to explain that he doesn’t want to kidnap him and make him the centrepiece of his Kim Newman altar, but he was having none of it. (Incidentally, if you’ve never heard of Kim Newman, go out and buy one of his excellent books immediately – Ian thoroughly recommends the Anno Dracula series.)
As an unexpected treat, Peggy Cummins, who plays schoolteacher Joanna Harrington in the film, appeared before the screening, leading to rapturous applause from the audience. She’s in her eighties now, and she seemed pretty overwhelmed by the response, bless her. A chap from the BFI was also on hand to pontificate about the film before the showing, noting in particular that Prof. Julian Karswell (played brilliantly by Niall MacGinnis) is a middle-aged man who lives alone with his mother hint hint nudge nudge saynomore. It reminded me of a screening of Gilda I saw a while back, in which the introducer announced that according to modern interpretations of the film, everyone in it is clearly a rampant homosexual. This interpretation certainly made the film’s odd ending much more understandable, but ever since watching The Onion Looks Back At Jaws, I can’t help but suppress a smirk whenever an academic tells me that someone in an old movie was obviously gay.
Anyway, I found myself totally entranced by Night of the Demon, and I’d highly recommend it. It’s unlikely to be considered ‘scary’ by today’s standards, and the ‘Demon’ special effects have aged badly, but it’s an undeniably creepy film. There’s a long-running debate (which we touch on in the podcast) about whether the demon should have appeared at the beginning of the film – the director purposely only wanted the demon to appear at the very end, or not at all, in order to keep the audience guessing as to whether it actually existed, but the producer decided to edit in footage of the titular beast right at the start in order to draw the audience in. Basically it comes down to whether you’re a fan of Columbo or Poirot – do you prefer to see the killer at the beginning or just at the end?
If our review has piqued your interest in the film, you can buy the Night of the Demon DVD from Amazon by clicking here (and we get a little bit of cash if you do – thanks in advance).
Anyway, without further ado, let us present our feature presentation:
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Director: Jacques Tourneur Year of release: 1957 Studio/Distributor: Associated British Picture Studios Country: UK