Beating the Devil: The Making of 'Night of the Demon' Paperback – 1 May 2005
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This is the first in-depth examination of 'Night of the Demon', one of the greatest movie chillers ever made. 'Night of the Demon' has enjoyed huge commercial success since it was made almost 50 years ago and is now a celebrated and revered cult horror film. The full history of this troubled picture has been unearthed in "Beating the Devil" -- a book no serious film fan can do without. The book is based on four years of original research and new interviews with surviving cast and crew members.The book presents the reader with intriguing never-before revealed detail, including: Tracing the route of the film from Edwardian short story to 1950s screenplay; Tussles with the British Censor over the film's supernatural content; Internal rows between director and producer over the inclusion of the demon; The development of the film's special effects sequences; The casting of imported American star Dana Andrews; Behind the scenes stories from actors Peggy Cummins, Brian Wilde, the late Richard Leech, stuntman Jack Cooper and the late producer Frank Bevis; First-hand accounts of shooting the film, many never before published; Extracts from the British Censor's report, never before published; A detailed breakdown of the film's special effects sequences; Dozens of rare images including behind-the-scenes shots, never before published; Ken Adam's production designs, many never before published; Biographies of all the principal actors and filmmakers.
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Mrs. Karswell: Yes, Julian.
Dr. Julian Karswell: Well, believe this also. You get nothing for nothing. This house, the land, the way we live. Nothing for nothing. My followers who pay for this do it out of fear. And I do what I do out of fear also. It's part of the price.
Mrs. Karswell: But if it makes you unhappy. Stop it. Give it back.
Dr. Julian Karswell: How can you give back life? I can't stop it. I can't give it back. I can't let anyone destroy this thing. I must protect myself. Because if it's not someone else's life, it'll be mine. Do you understand, mother? It'll be mine.
So goes the conversation between the occultist Julian Karswell and his mother. Played wonderfully convincingly by Niall MacGinnis and Athene Seyler respectively.
Others have talked about the locations, the actors and actresses who all did a sterling performance but really it is all too easy to underestimate this film and how invaluable this book is. As others have said Niall MacGinnis may have had a glimpse of the magnitude of what he was doing but in all fairness its doubtful most of the others didn't.
I have to mention Dana Andrews, who, when I first saw this film thought he was miscast. It's obvious he was brought in to create an American interest ready for when the film was shown overseas. But as the years go past his contribution seems to meld into the slightly offbeat and surrealism of it all.
Peggy Cummins the English actress played Joanna Harrington the daughter of the deceased Prof Harrington who came to a grisly end early in the film at the hands or should I say claws of the Demon. I don't propose to do an outline of the film here but suffice to say there are many sublime atmospheric set pieces. The whole mood is understated and menacing in the 1950s period adds to this feeling. It's a sort of halfway house between the old mediaeval superstition, practices and the emerging modern world.
The book is a marvelous cornucopia of information on the background to the film, filming locations, the making of the film, background to the scenes and much more.
Documented is the struggle between the producer and the director of whether to show the Demon or not. Films of this time needed to show the monster in order to keep audiences happy. The state of the art with regard to special effects was not conducive to suspending disbelief. Even so the makers of the Demon did a fantastic job and testament to this is that it in no way lessens the impact of the film. This to a great extent is achieved by the professionalism of the actors, the suspense that is created and the menacing believable subtext that is almost off screen.
The book adds to this and takes us on a journey through the wonderful making and construction of this supernatural masterpiece.
I don't mean to leave anybody out here but if I put down everything I wanted to say then I would be writing a book myself. So I will finish with saying that I cannot emphasise enough how essential this book is to anybody who is interested in what was a magnificent one-off and in my opinion the pinnacle of the supernatural thriller that has never been surpassed.
I will leave you with the words of Professor Mark O'Brien, one of the scientists gathered in Dr Holden's hotel room. Dr Holden played by Dana Andrews finds that the pages are missing from his diary.
"I'm a scientist also, Dr. Holden. I know the value of the cold light of reason, but I also know the deep shadows that light can cast."
I can say that is quintessentially the grip that this film can hold.
It's actually a very funny story, because nobody who worked on it seemed to be of the opinion that they were making a supernatural masterpiece that would be revered decades on: they all seemed to think that somebody else ruined it somehow. And actors who gave stonking performances like Brian Wilde and Maurice Denham seem to have barely registered that they were actually in it - although I bet Niall McGinnis recognised the worth of what he did.
I always thought that American lead Dana Andrews was a bit stiff playing the sceptical psychologist, but reading about how he seems to have spent the entire shoot drunk during the day and raving it up in nightclubs in the evening, I now think he must have been an acting genius.
Nothing can ever ruin this marvellous film for me - wherever you all are, whether in your dotage or in film peoples' heaven, you all produced a little piece of magic!
The dropped star is because in the actors' biographies, where they are all given their photos and CVs, the marvellous Peter Elliott - K T Kumar of Bombay - is simply not included. Otherwise, a super read.