Night of the Demon (1957): Jacques Tourneur’s British Horror Film, Starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis

Jacques Tourneur went back to his horror roots (and strengths) with Night of the Demon, a British horror film, starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins and Niall MacGinnis.

Night of the Demon
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The film’s storyline concerns an American psychologist who travels to England to investigate a satanic cult suspected in causing some deaths.

Premise:

In England, Professor Harrington begs rival Dr. Julian Karswell to rescind a curse he inflicted on him; in return, Harrington will cease his investigation into his Satanic cult. After learning that a parchment he gave Harrington has been destroyed, Karswell promises to do what he can.

Harrington perceives gigantic demon in the trees, and tries to escape in his car but crashes into power lines. The authorities declare electrocution as the cause of death.

Screenwriter Charles Bennett owned the rights to the original story “Casting the Runes” and wrote a script loosely based on it, using the title The Haunted. He sold his script to independent producer and former child actor Hal E. Chester before going to America. Bennett later regretted selling the script, because RKO wanted to purchase it and allow him to direct the film.

Artistic differences arose between producer Hal E. Chester and director Tourneur and writer Charles Bennett. Chester’s plan was to show the demon on screen, but Bennett, Tourneur and Andrews objected.

To accelerate the pace and make the film more commercial, the 96-minute original was trimmed down to 82 minutes prior to its US release. This shortened version, retitled Curse of the Demon, played in June 1958 as the second half of double feature with The True Story of Lynn Stuart or The Revenge of Frankenstein.

Cast
Dana Andrews as Dr. John Holden
Peggy Cummins as Joanna Harrington
Niall MacGinnis as Dr. Julian Karswell
Athene Seyler as Mrs. Karswell
Liam Redmond as Professor Mark O’Brien
Peter Elliott as Professor Kumar
Maurice Denham as Professor Harrington
Reginald Beckwith as Mr. Meek
Rosamund Greenwood as Mrs Meek
Brian Wilde as Rand Hobart
Charles Lloyd Pack as Chemist (as Charles Lloyd-Pack)
Ewan Roberts as Lloyd Williamson

Credits:

Directed by Jacques Tourneur
Screenplay by Charles Bennett, Hal E. Chester, based on “Casting the Runes,” 1911 story in More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James
Produced by Frank Bevis, Hal E. Chester

Cinematography Ted Scaife (Color process Black and white)

Edited by Michael Gordon
Music by Clifton Parker
Production company: Sabre Film Production

Distributed by Columbia Pictures

Release date: November 1957 (UK)

Running time: 96 minutes (UK version); 82 minutes (US)