"Do I believe in witchcraft? What kind of witchcraft? The legendary witch that rides on the imaginary broom? The hex that tortures the thoughts of the victim? The pin stuck in the image that wastes away the mind and the body? Where does imagination end and reality begin? What is this twilight, this half world of the mind that you profess to know so much about? How can we differentiate between the powers of darkness and the powers of the mind?"
Originally intended as a Robert Cummings-Orson Welles vehicle before being recast with Dana Andrews and Niall McGinnis, Night of the Demon - to give the film its original UK title - may not bear a great deal of resemblance to M.R. James classic short story Casting the Runes, but it's easily the best screen version of any his stories, capturing perfectly his favorite arena, the man of learning coming up against ancient and malevolent forces that he does not believe in but which do believe in him. Despite the addition of an opening and closing sequence where you actually see the demon (directed by uncredited co-writer, the then blacklisted Cy Enfield), Jacques Tourneur's direction harks back to his earlier classic 40s chillers for Val Lewton where it's what isn't shown that's most chilling as Andrews' psychologist finds himself on the wrong end of a curse when he tries to debunk a black magic coven run by McGinnis in the role of a lifetime. It's as intelligent as it is chilling, with some choice dialogue and several unforgettable scenes, and it's particularly satisfying that, like Columbia's extras-lite US DVD, the UK release includes not only the shorter 82-minute US version, retitled Curse of the Demon, but also the uncut 96-minute UK version. The shorter version works surprisingly well, but it's the longer version that really seals the film's classic status. Very highly recommended indeed.