Night Of The Demon (UK 1957)

Rating: ***
Alternate Title: Curse Of The Demon (US title)
Review Date: 10/5/20
Cast: Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis

"You could learn a lot from children. They believe in things in the dark, although we tell them it's not so."

Professor Harrington suffers a horrible death while trying to expose a satanic cult led by the sinister Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis). His colleague Dr. Holden (Dana Andrews) arrives in England the following day for a conference on hypnotism and psychology, and to continue Harrington's research. Karswell warns him to back off, but Holden stubbornly refuses and winds up with the same hex as Harrington. The professor's niece Joanna (Peggy Cummins) tries to help Holden and also wants to investigate the odd circumstances surrounding her uncle's gruesome demise. She's more open to the realities of witchcraft than Holden is, but after enough strange occurrences, Holden finally turns his thinking around just in time to save himself.

This is a fun horror thriller with a tense and spooky atmosphere, and some wonderfully creepy cinematography. Dana Andrews gives a solidly mediocre performance as the loud and brash American, and his character isn't particularly likable. It's Niall MacGinnis who ends up stealing the show as the gleefully wicked villain who is at once refined, gracious, menacing, and deviously calculating. As one character puts it, "He's most dangerous when he's being pleasant." Peggy Cummins is beautiful and delightfully charming, but has little to do other than play off of Andrews. Her character is a headstrong young woman with a quick temper, and her greatest accomplishment is managing to successfully deflect Holden's stumbling romantic advances. The film looks great, although it suffers from some blatant continuity errors and a few awkward rear projection scenes. The pacing can also being challenging, and a few scenes go on WAY too long. The demon is appropriately creepy looking, although not very convincing. Reportedly, the director didn't want to show the creature at all, and the producers added it afterwards without his knowledge. Overall, fans of 1950's horror should find it quite enjoyable.