CURSE OF THE DEMON (1957)
(a.k.a. NIGHT OF THE DEMON)
Article #171 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 9-3-2001
Posting date: 1-17-2002
A psychologist intent on debunking and exposing a devil worship cult headed by a man named Julian Karswell finds himself the victim of a curse that will end with his destruction by a demon.
This is far and away my favorite horror movie from the fifties and is a real triumph from Lewton alumnus Jacques Tourneur. Since every discussion of this movie eventually centers on whether they should have shown the demon or not, I’ll get that particular issue out of the way first by saying that the child in me loves to see the monster and is very satisfied with this one, as it does manage to be quite scary. However, whether the movie NEEDS to show the monster is another question, and in my opinion, it doesn’t; this movie works because the buildup of tension throughout is so well-done that the ending would have been just as satisfying without the monster, and it would have added an extral dollop of Lewton-like ambiguity to the proceedings.
There’s so much I like about this movie; the solid work from both Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins, the fascinating performance by Niall MacGinnis as Karswell (one of the most interesting characters in horror cinema), and the wealth of memorable character roles throughout, such as Karswell’s mother, the medium in the seance sequence, and the psychologist from India also attending the seminar who openly admits to believing in demons. Then there’s so many great scenes in this movie: the first encounter with Karswell in the library; the seance sequence with the eccentric medium; the tense sequence where Dana Andrews breaks into Karswell’s mansion and then leaves through the woods nearby; the ending scenes, in which the roar of the trains adds a jarring note to the proceedings; and my favorite scene, the psychologist visiting Karswell at his mansion, and meeting him dressed as a clown, followed by a demonstration of his power by the summoning of a storm.