Night of the Demon (1957)

Night of the Demon (1957), directed by Jacques Tourneur.

Aka Curse of the Demon.


Like one that on a lonesome road
Doth walk in fear and dread,
And having once turned round walks on,
And turns no more his head;
Because he knows, a frightful fiend
Doth close behind him tread.
-- Coleridge, "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

Much stir in Britain regarding the Karswell Devil Cult. Those who investigate it and won't be warned off are dying under suspicious circumstances. American scientist Dana Andrews is the latest skeptic to become a believer; can he trust his own perceptions in a race against the clock to trap the evil wizard with his own magic?

His gal pal is British actress Peggy Cummins, last seen as an American psycho in Gun Crazy (1950).

The villain is a dapper, witty man, but because of that pointed beard we know he is a satanist. It's interesting: he points out that he himself is motivated by fear. If he fails in his work, the evil powers he deals with will do terrible things to him.

This is well-regarded, and I like it, but perhaps not has much as others. It slows down in spots and becomes talky. Dana Andrews is coasting. It may be well-liked for being an early demonology plot and also for the fright factor of close-ups of the demon's face, with the camera actually diving into his mouth with that slathering tongue.

Director Tourneur -- presumably in a homage to his mentor Val Lewton -- was originally not going to show the demon but the studio insisted it be added afterward. You could do it either way. The suspense shifts from what is suspected and unseen to what has been revealed and is waiting to jump out again.

We have a nicely tense moment of the invisible curse working on our hero in the weird hotel corridors, and the rather simple effects of the fire demon appearing in a cloud of smoke and striding through the night are lots of fun. Harryhausen was approached to do the effects but was busy elsewhere.