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Two versions of this black magic classic with a bonus booklet
on 5 February 2018
‘Night of the Demon’ has been one of my all-time favourite movies since I first saw it as an impressionable youngster, and I finally have it on a DVD that does it proud. (This review is for the MediumRare / Sony / Columbia Pictures release.)
The original UK version of the film is presented here in widescreen, alongside a fascinating shorter version (retitled ‘Curse of the Demon’) that was put together for the US market.
Expanded from the MR James story ‘Casting the Runes’, the film has been the subject of much discussion since it was made in the 1950s, and plenty of this information is distilled in a very good booklet, from the development of the original ‘Haunted’ script, to casting, locations, and the practicalities of making the movie; plus it mentions the ‘controversy’ regarding the special effects, and the appearance of the demon.
Personally, I think the demon effects are fairly well executed, and add greatly to the movie. (‘Dana Andrews grappling with a stuffed leopard’ is by far the most embarrassing moment.) Otherwise it’s such a superlative film, with plenty of spooky set pieces, and dark humour (e.g. the seance scene with Reginald Beckwith) that one can forgive these limitations to the special effects.
The film benefits from being well-cast too - though surely Niall MacGinnis, as the warlock Karswell, steals the show. Funnily enough, he’s in another of my favourite childhood movies ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ where he plays none other than Zeus (!)
Clifton Parker’s score is also an asset, and for those interested in hearing the theme music in modern stereo there’s an excellent performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra (on the Chandos label, 2005). You can find it here: