Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Curse of the Demon

(UK, 1957)

Original title: Night of the Demon. Most monster movies don’t give up a good look at the monster until somewhere around the half-hour mark or later. The best ones don’t let you see it until near the end, i.e. Jaws, Alien, on the belief (which I heartily endorse) that what you don’t see is scarier than what you do see. This one shows us the demon in the first five minutes, and what a lumbering, fire-breathing, smoking, papier-mâché and rubber piece of junk it is. It’s a bit embarrassing, though its actual entry is nice, with swirling clouds starting very small and then growing menacingly. It’s only when the boogieman steps out of the cloud that you just gotta laugh. Wiki says this about it:

Jacques Tourneur originally planned to shoot the movie without directly showing the monster, but the studio pressured him to add it for commercial reasons towards the end of filming.

Boy, was he ever right. Because an early scene is of a man confronting a demon from hell, then backing into an electric pole and dying. If you had just cut out the demon and shown only his terrified reaction to it, and then the fiery death, it would have been 1000% more effective. And it would have kept us wondering.

… because Dana Andrews plays a hard-headed scientist who has come to England to debunk devil worshippers. As it stands, since we’ve seen the demon and are pretty damn sure it exists (it might have been a delusion the dying man saw, but it doesn’t seem likely), Andrews just looks like the biggest fool around after things happen that are explicable in no other way. I mean, you’d have to look a long to time to find a man more skeptical than myself, but if I’d seen a man conjure up a tornado in his front yard, I’d at least have had my doubt severely shaken. He continues blithely on, as serene in his disbelief as Tom Cruise is in his faith in L. Ron Hubbard. The demon puts in one more appearance, at the very end, and once more it could have been a delusion, the cause of his death being getting in the way of a locomotive. But it you can ignore those two cheesy monsters forced on the director by the studio (and I can), this is a nice little scary movie. Tourneur directed a whole series of better-than-average spook stories, and this is one of the best of them.