The 1957 film NIGHT OF THE DEMON, or CURSE OF THE DEMON as it is known in the United States, is one of my favorite horror movies of the 1950s. The story is well-paced, the acting is excellent and the monster is one of the coolest ever put on screen, despite the fact that director Jacques Tourneur didn’t want an actual monster in his film (it was added later against his wishes). It is a British film produced by Hal E. Chester and Frank Bevis and starred Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins and Niall MacGinnis. It is based on a story called “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James from 1911.
The first time I saw this film was in the late-1980s when it was available on VHS video tape. I had heard a lot of great things about it and it did not disappoint. This movie has stood the test of time, still holds up great and stands up to repeated viewings, over sixty years later. This movie is so good in fact that I upgraded to DVD when it came out in 2002 and then upgraded again in 2018 when this import blu-ray was released.
This is, without a doubt, the definitive version of this film to get. When originally released in Britain, it went by the name NIGHT OF THE DEMON and ran 96 minutes. When imported to the United States it was renamed to CURSE OF THE DEMON and cut down to 82 minutes, to “help with the pacing.” In my opinion the original version is perfect the way it is and I will always prefer that one over the US version.
This two-disc set features six versions of the film. On disc one, NIGHT OF THE DEMON is presented in the 96 minute, pre-release version both in 1:75:1 and 1:66:1 ratios. CURSE OF THE DEMON is also presented in both ways, at 96 minutes each. On disc two, both the original UK theatrical cut of NIGHT OF THE DEMON and the original US theatrical cut CURSE OF THE DEMON are shown in 82 minute versions in the 1:66:1 aspect ratio. The 1:75:1 aspect ratio versions are 2K BFI restoration presentations and the 1:66:1 aspect ratio versions are high definition remasters. All versions feature the original mono audio which sounds great. Regardless of which one you watch or prefer, they all look here the best they ever have. Disc one also features audio commentary by film historian Tony Earnshaw, the author of the book Beating the Devil: The Making of ‘Night of the Demon‘.
Disc two features a ton of supplemental materials. First off is the twenty minute documentary, Speak of the Devil: The Making of ‘Night of the Demon’ from 2007. It features actress Peggy Cummins and production designer Ken Adams. Next is a video essay exploring the different versions from 2018 called Cloven in Two. From there there is a rare video interview with the producer from 1996 called Hal E. Chester at the Manchester Festival of Fantastic Films. Dana Andrews on ‘Night of the Demon’ is a ten minute, rare audio interview from 1972 conducted by film historian and preservationist Scott MacQueen.
From 2018 comes a 36 minute discussion of the film by Christopher Frayling and Ken Adams called The Devil’s in the Detail. Another interview with Chris Fujiwara from 2018 called Horrors Unseen is featured. Fujiwara is the author of the book, Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall. Author Kim Newman, who wrote Nightmare Movies, has an analyses of the film from 2018 called Sinister Signs.
Next is the documentary from 2018 called Under the Spell, a personal appreciation of the film by horror writer Ramsey Campbell. The Devil Gets His Due is a 2018 documentary where Scott MacQueen details the film’s release history. There is also a discussion of M.R. James by author Roger Clarke called The Truth of Alchemy.
David Huckvale discusses composer Clifton Parker in the 2018 short documentary The Devil in Music. Another short documentary, called A Note of Fear, features Scott MacQueen discussing aspects of the film’s score. Michael Hordern then reads M.R. James’ original story from this 1984 audio recording called Casting the Runes. You can also hear a radio adaptation of the story from 1947 called Escape: Casting the Runes. You can also watch a seven minute Super 8 version of the film. There is also an isolated music and effects track. The original theatrical trail as well as an image gallery are also available. This the UK premier of this film on Blu-ray and features new and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
Though this is a United Kingdom release, it is region free which means it can play on any Blu-ray player.
I cannot recommend this movie enough, especially on this release. I will be doing a FILMBOOK OF FEAR on this film soon. Don’t forget to read the other blogs in my BASEMENT BLU-RAY REVIEW series.
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