Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Curse of the Night

Night of the Demon/Curse of the Demon (1957)  is a Jacques Tourneur horror film, with a twist - you get to see the monster. Not like in Cat People!

It starts with Professor Harrington begging a begging Dr. Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) to lift the curse, saying that he is sorry to have doubted him. Karswell, a chubby fellow with a beard like a billy goat, makes some soothing noises and gets rid of him, and goes back to playing cribbage with his mother. In a shocking development, we see a huge monster appear and kill him.

Now, American Dana Andrews is arriving in England to present at a conference about psychology (?), and to debunk Karswell's satanic cult. At the same time, Peggy Cummins, Professor Harrington's niece has also arrived.

It seems that Karswell can place a curse on you by slipping you a piece of paper without your knowledge. Your only hope is to sneak it back into the cursor's possession. Andrews starts out laughing and gets more and more spooked. Karswell starts out looking like a joke and gets scarier and scarier. Andrews and Cummins go to meet him and find him dressed as a clown, doing magic tricks for the local kids. When Andrews and Cummins don't take him seriously, he conjures a fierce storm - still done up in clown makeup. It's quite a scene.

The horror is real, but mostly psychological. We never meet more than one or two of the supposed cultists, and they aren't very impressive. But the way Tourneur builds suspense, conveying the inevitability of the curse, is masterful.

This isn't as great as some of the Lewton-produced Tourneur, but it's pretty good.

Viewing note: The two movies on this disc are the original, Night, and a cut-down version, Curse. At 95 minutes, the long version is short enough.

No comments: