screened Friday, April 25 2008 on DVD en route to San Francisco CA
At the same time that Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal (TSPDT #42) introduced arthouse audiences to existentialist cinema, B-movie veteran Jacques Tourneur’s entry into another 50s genre, the monster movie, tapped as potently into humankind’s fear of the dark unknown. American psychologist Dana Andrews investigates the death of a colleague possibly involving a British devil-cult leader, erupting in a Hegelian death-struggle between rationality and occultism; the outcome emerges when one side acknowledges the power of the other if only to turn it against him. Tourner’s cinema embodies the best of both worlds, utilizing an impressive repertoire of scare techniques – from shock close-ups to long tracking shots shrouded in smoke and shadow; from disorienting geometries achieved through camera and editing to blunt, explicit imagery – in the service of genuine inquiry into the nature of man’s relationship with the supernatural. The results leave a lingering chill, even with Tourneur’s compromise to his producer by, instead of his preferred tactic of perpetual concealment, having to present the titular demon outright (a literalizing of the film’s central concept that’s as egregious as Bergman’s chess-playing Death). The film is perhaps never so unnerving as when it envisions evil in the simplest terms: a storm that descends with sudden implacable force on a children’s party; a slip of paper flapping relentlessly against a fire grate towards its own incineration; a man stumbling down railroad tracks, literally chasing after his life in vain.
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The following votes were considered for the TSPDT 1000 rankings:
Anne Billson Time Out (1995)
Pascal Bonitzer Sight & Sound (1982)
Simon Mizrahi John Kobal Book (1988)
? Cinescape The Top 100 Sci-Fi, Horror & Fantasy Films (2000)
? Danny Peary Guide for the Film Fanatic: Must-See Films (1987)
? Empire The 50 Greatest Horror Movies Ever (2000)
? Fotogramas The 100 Best Films in the History of Cinema (1995)
? Halliwell’s Top 1000 Films (2005)
? Jonathan Rosenbaum Essential Cinema: Favourite 1,000 Films (2004)
? Jonathan Rosenbaum DVD Beaver:Ten Overlooked Fantasy Films on DVD (And 2 That Should Be!) (2006)
? Pascal Bonitzer Nouvel Observateur: Best Films 1953-2002 (2002)
? Quim Casas Dirigido Por: Best Foreign Films (Non- Spanish) (1992)
? Total Film 50 Greatest Horror Movies Of All Time (2005)
A major work in that minor genre, horror movies. Intelligent, delicate, and actually frightening (no kidding), this 1958 feaure was directed by Jacques Tourneur, author of many of the best of Val Lewton’s famous series of B-budget shockers. A shot or two of a cheesy monster (insisted upon by the producer) are the only violations of the film’s sublime allusiveness, through which the unseen acquires a palpitating presence. Tourneur is attempting a rational apprehension of the irrational, examining not so much the supernatural itself but the insecurities it springs from and the uses it may be put to. With Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins (of Gun Crazy), and Niall MacGinnis in a witty, Hitchcockian performance as an urbane warlock.
– Dave Kehr, The Chicago Reader
One of the finest thrillers made in England during the ’50s, despite the fact that the final cut was tampered with against the director’s wishes. Tourneur had used MR James’s short story Casting the Runes as the basis for a marvellous cinematic dialogue between belief and scepticism, fantasy and reality. His intrepid rational hero (Andrews) is a modern scientist who is gradually persuaded that his life is threatened by a black magician. The director employed a number of e normously skilful devices to ensure that the audience experiences the hero’s transition from confident scepticism to panic, and the process is observed with such subtlety that, in the original version at least, the interpretation of the plot was left open (i.e. the hero may simply be the victim of a conspiracy and/or his own imagination). The producer decided that the film lacked substance (in fact it was far more terrifying than most horror films), and added special effects of the ‘demon’ very near the beginning, which of course missed the whole point of what Tourneur had been attempting. Even so, the rest is so good that the film remains immensely gripping, with certain sequences (like the one where Andrews is chased through the wood) reaching poetic dimensions.
– Time Out
Karswell is like the devil on Earth, a force with very limited powers that he can’t always control. By definition he cannot trust any of his own minions. They’re unreliable, weak and prone to double-cross each other, attracting publicity that makes a secret society harder to conceal. He can’t just kill Holden, as he hasn’t a single henchman on the payroll. He instead summons the demon, a magic trick he’s only recently mastered. When Karswell turns Harrington away in the first scene we can sense his loneliness. The only person who can possibly understand is right before him, finally willing to admit his power and perhaps even tolerate him. Karswell has no choice but to surrender him over to the un-recallable Demon. In his dealings with Holden, Karswell defends his turf against the cult-debunker but is also attempting to justify himself to a peer, another man who might be a potential equal. It’s more than a duel of egos between a James Bond and a Goldfinger, with arrogance and aggression masking a mutual respect; Karswell knows he’s taken Lewton’s “wrong turning in life,” and will have to pay for it eventually.
Karswell eventually gets Holden’s respect, especially after the fearful testimony of Rand Hobart. It’s taken an extreme demonstration to do it, but Holden’s finally budged from his smug position. He may not buy all of the demonology hocus-pocus but it’s plain enough that Karswell or his “demon” is going to somehow rub him out. Seeking to sneak the parchment back into Karswell’s possession, Holden becomes a worthy hero again because he’s found the maturity to doubt his own preconceptions. Armed with his rational, cool head, he’s a force that makes Karswell — without his demon, of course — a relative weakling. Curse of the Demon ends with a classic ghost story twist, with just desserts dished out and balance recovered. The good characters are less sure of their world than when they started, but they’re still able to cope. Evil has been defeated not by love or faith, but by intellect.
– Glenn Erickson, DVD Savant
Curse of the Demon is much darker than Tourneur’s 1940’s work with [Val] Lewton. It loses some of the dreamy poetry and digs a little deeper into the psyche. I love all of Tourneur’s work, though. Cat People is one of the most beautiful and mysterious films ever made, but Curse of the Demon shows a little more maturity in Tourneur, and it allows for maturity in its audience as well.
– Jeffrey Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
Tourneur’s visuals always evoke a sense of supernatural dread which beautifully define the goals of the Horror genre, and Night of the Demon has these moments in spades. But the film doesn’t come close to exhibiting the great sense of character seen in other Tourneur films (the best examples being Cat People or I Walked With a Zombie). It does have one scene to die for though, a stunning montage within the villain’s mansion leading up to Dana Andrews’ battle with a demon cat. With Andrews’ meddling scientist shrouded in the background of a dimly lit mise-en-scene, a lone hand enters the frame and rests in the foreground, waiting to pounce. In one shot, the Dark Arts come alive.
The great thing about Tourneur is that when he shows up to play ball, he is a master of atmosphere and suspense. This is evident all throughout Night of the Demon, most notably in a startling seance sequence that practically lays the foundation for a similar scene in Poltergeist. The medium calls forth spirits from the dead, including Harrington, speaking in their voices, warning Holden of the dangers that lie ahead. Spooky stuff. Tourneur and his cinematographer Ted Scaife revel in chiaroscuro lighting that hides the real threats in the shadows, causing the audience to lean a little closer, to look a little harder at way may be lurking just out of view. The one exception is the monster, which is nothing short of ridiculous. At times, it reminded of Godzilla riding a tricycle, but truth be told, the monster isn’t around all that much, and what there is of him was added to the picture despite Tourneur’s protests. He knew it was better to tell than to show, and if he had had his way, the film would be a flat out masterpiece. In the end, though, Tourneur does come out on top. His talent is never in doubt, and the film holds up very well today.
– Clayton White, Catching the Classics
Tourneur bends the film cleverly – the normal daylight scenes, which are equated with reason, are directed with a monotonic flatness as though Tourneur had none but the most rudimentary interest in them. But this proves to be a subtle ploy as Tourneur is really lulling us into a false sense of relaxation for when the night-set scenes of the supernatural come, the film becomes more edgy – the eruptions of the supernatural are seen only momentarily and the camera lens itself becomes distorted as though the film itself were undergoing the hero’s journey from rationalism into panicky emotion. There are many beautifully directed scenes in the film which hover with a sense of unease where one is uncertain whether what is happening is being generated in the mind of the scared hero or not – like Dana Andrews’ entrance into Karswell’s mansion where movement through the house is several times momentarily intercut with a hand on the banister or a door opening and a brief jangling of the score, and the scene in the study where he thinks he is fighting a panther which only turns out to be a cat; and his pursuit through the woods by invisible footprints and a glowing cloud.
Ken Adams’s production design is a study in contrasts. The architecture of Karswell’s home is neo-classical. The shape of the space is round, but the floor is rectilinear–geometric shapes in the shot compositions of the film play an important thematic role in Curse of the Demon. With its serene Ionic columns and pedimental door moldings, the space suggests a place of classical order–a temple perhaps–but these flourishes are appointed with the paraphernalia of the occult. The painting over Karswell’s hearth is–I believe–Goya’s “Witch’s Sabbath,” for example.
– Chris Benedict, who also offers the following analysis of the film’s sense of architecture:
One visual motif running through The Curse of the Demon is the gradually constricting corridors as Holden gets closer to the solution of the mystery Karswell and his demon:
Here, in an overhead shot of the library at The British Museum, Holden enters a maze:
After being hexed by Karswell, Holden’s first encounter with the supernatural comes when he is looking down a dark corridor after Karswell:
Holden first senses the presence of the demon stalking him while he’s bounded by another corridor–this time at his hotel. The sound cue on the soundtrack is the same sound cue used when the demon first appeared at the beginning of the film. Mate this with the Coleridge quote provided in the diary of the late Professor Harrington:
“Like one upon a lonesome road he walks in fear and dread,
because he knows that close behind a frightful fiend doth tread.”
As Holden reaches the center of the maze, metaphorically speaking, the corridors constrict upon him and restrict his movements:
Night of the Demon was shot in Britain. It is full of locales that express a strong British atmosphere: Stonehenge, a Stately Home, the Savoy Hotel, the British Museum, an old-fashioned British farm house, Heathrow Airport, Scotland Yard, British lecture halls. The whole effect reminds one of John Ford, always a strong influence on Tourneur’s movies. Ford’s films are full of ethnographic depictions of a time and place. Ford constantly seeks out locations and activities that express the traditions and rituals of a society. Tourneur includes some of these too. The fete at the country home is a traditional party for the village children. The farm house and its denizens evoke traditional farm life. They are almost a sinister parody of the tradition Irish farms Ford showed in The Quiet Man (1952). The seance is treated as an English folk ritual. Just as Ford includes traditional music in his pictures to evoke other societies, here Tourneur has the seance members sing a traditional English song, “Cherry Ripe”, as part of the ritual (“The spirits like it,” one of the members declares confidently.)
Steve Biodrowski at Hollywood Gothique compares the source story “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James to the film:
The most significant being that “Casting the Runes” lacks the science-versus-superstition theme that energizes CURSE OF THE DEMON… In CURSE OF THE DEMON, this theme lies at the core of the plot. By focusing on a skeptic as the lead character, and by using a contemporary setting, the film sets up a convincing sense of realism that elevates the story to the level of a serious drama, not a conventional genre piece relying solely on spooky atmosphere and monsters. In fact, the film succeeds almost too well: some of its ninety-five minute running time seems almost dry and academic, relying on the occasional seance or eerie encounter to liven things up. But this is a small price to pay for a horror movie that takes its subject matter with an utter conviction rarely seen in the genre. This is definitely not a movie to see if you simply want a few giggly good scares. It wants to broach a controversial topic and leave you pondering the implications, preferably with a chill going down your spine as the light on the screen dims and you return to your everyday world.
There has been considerable contention as to whether the demon was added by producer Hal E. Chester after the film, thinking the public would be unable to handle Tourneur’s Lewtonian ambiguity that left the audience unsure whether the demon was real or not. Revisionists have offered substantial counter-argument, based on interviews, that the demon was placed there by Tourneur all along and this would appear to be the case. The latter assertion is one that one cannot help but have some sneaking affinity for, in thinking that the whole argument is something that has been more or less invented by the more ardent proponents of the less-is-more theorem of horror. The film does seem to work quite well with the demon – its emergence out of the boiling cloud is genuinely eerie and its appearance on the front of the train is an image that is truly unworldly. It would certainly be a strange film without the demon, but not quite as ambiguously Lewtonian as the less-is-more proponents seem to champion the film as being – the argument in favour of the supernatural explanation is so heavily weighed against Andrews that a purely materialistic interpretation of the events would be a very difficult one to make indeed.
Ally Peirse at Pixelsurgeon reviews Charles Earnshaw’s book Beating the Devil: The Making of Night of the Demon (Tomahawk Press/National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, UK)
Demon ‘s American producer was New Yorker Hal E. Chester, whom Earnshaw notes, many critics have accused of ripping the heart out of the suggestive, ghostly screenplay “in favour of the overt shockability of a monster – qualities demanded by the late 1950s youth market”. Tourneur is considered a director of suggestion, chiaroscuro lighting, and creating horror through playing with the frame, as opposed to the outright anamatronic action of Karswell’s fire demon shown in this film. However, Tourneur’s claims that he knew nothing of the visual monstrosity may not have been entirely honest as Earnshaw proves through scores of documentation: “what becomes clear is that certain elements that have been endlessly debated in the final movie – notably the deaths of Harrington and Karswell, and the highly visible figure of the fire demon itself – were already firmly in place before a foot of film was shot”.
Earnshaw also argues that Chester’s decision “to show the demon within the first six minutes of the movie robbed it, Tourneur and the audience of any supernatural suspense in that, from the outset, at least three characters – Karswell, Henry Harrington and Rand Hobart – already know of the demon’s existence”. But, in defence of the nigh-on hysterical reactions from the Tourneur purists, Earnshaw then points out that for “such a potentially hamfisted, destructive move also works extraordinarily positively in the film’s favour. From those first chilling moments we know the truth: Karswell is all he appears to be, his powers demonstrated clearly and mercilessly… Karswell’s powers, the runes, the leopard, the thunderstorm and the demon itself are all frighteningly real“.
Steve Duffy, for the Ghosts and Scholars M.R. James Newsletter, on Earnshaw’s discussion of the battles between the film-makers of Night of the Demon and the British Board of Film Censors.
Extensive excerpts from the censors’ reports on various drafts of the screenplay are included, and these contain some absolute pearls: not least, the characterisation of the fire demon by one examiner as a “nebulous horrible dinosaur”. Yes, that’s right – a dinosaur. Another examiner went back to MRJ’s original story for guidance, only to note with something very like alarm that “it differs considerably from this script”. The consensus view among the censors was that: “there are quite a number of scenes… which are not ‘X’ [i.e. X-rated, unsuitable for those below the age of 16], but the basic story seems quite unreasonable for any other category, even if it were done with restraint, which this is not”.
“The scenes in which you really see the demon were shot without me. All except one. I shot the sequence in the woods where Dana Andrews is chased by this sort of cloud. This technique should have been used for the other sequences. The audience should never have been completely certain of having seen the demon. They should have just unveiled it little by little, without ever really showing it. They ruined the film by showing it from the very beginning with a guy we don’t know opening his garage, who doesn’t interest us in the least.”
– Tourneur to Midi-minuit fantastique, as printed in Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall (Johns Hopkins University Press), by Chris Fujiwara
“I wanted, at the very end, when the train goes by, to include only four frames of the monster coming up with the guy and throwing him down. Boom, boom – did I see it or didn’t I? People would have to sit through a second time to be sure of what they saw. But after I had finished and returned to the United States, the English producer [Frank Bevis] made this horrible thing, cheapened it. It was like a different film. But everything after that opening was as I had intended.”
– Tourneur to Joel E. Siegel, as printed in Jacques Tourneur: The Cinema of Nightfall by Fujiwara
More excerpts from Fujiwara’s book:
The real horror is to show that we all live unconsciously in fear. Many people suffer today from a fear that they don’t begin to analyze and which is constant. When the audience is in the dark and recognizes its own insecurity in that of the characters of the film, then you can show unbelievable situations and be sure that the audience will follow. It’s strange, when we’re children, we say to our nurse or to our parents, “Frighten us,” and we love that. These fears stay in us all our life: we’re afraid of thunder, we’re afraid of darkness, of the unknown, of death. The horror film, if it’s well done, awakens in the mind of the audience this fear that it didn’t know it had in it, and this discovery makes it shiver.
Making the demon clearly visible fixes in a specific thing the generalized dread that is Tourneur’s professed concern. The demon thus creates a kind of disruption that is not, however, totally foreign to Tourneur’s cinema, which sometimes invokes the monstrous either by effects work simulating nonexistent objects or simply by the standard photography of an actually existing object whose nature is outrageous…
If the demon upsets the visual tonality of Tourneur’s film, it fits into the film’s structural play with ambiguity of point of view. The film uses several more subtle techniques to create this ambiguity:
1. An apparently normal shot corresponding to a character’s point of view contains what may be an unreal element (the demon that appears to Harrington at the beginning; the visiting card, with the mysterious handwriting, that Karswell gives Holden).
2. A shot corresponding to Holden’s point of view is optically distorted, wavering, so that we interpret it as seeing into another reality (Karswell walking away from Holden in the British Museum; the Hobart family looking at him in the farmhouse).
3. In a variation on (1), a shot from one angle contains an element – the hand on the banister – that is missing when the same space is photographed from other angles; here the mysterious element does not belong to the point of view of Holden, who is oblivious to it.
4. A shot and its reverse shot – designated as such by Holden’s looks and his presence/absence in the shots – are confusingly similar (the scene in the hotel corridor in which Holden hears the mysterious noise associated with the demon).
These ambiguities are all related to Karswell’s dark powers. To the extent that the film implicitly assumes that the viewer (at least in the viewer’s daily life, outside the movie theater) shares Holden’s point of view, these devices attack the stability of the viewer’s position as a place of knowledge about the world.
Curse of the Demon (the original cut of which, known as Night of the Demon) is a classic in Satanic cinema and earns the right to be on the shelf of anyone who considers himself to be a connoisseur of the fine art of Satanic filmmaking… This movie is a true Satanic classic because it exposes the devil worshiper for what he is. Anytime you have to rely on someone or something else to help you to be a success in life, you’re diminishing your own self worth. People who do this are basically saying, “I’m not good enough to get these things on my own; I need some kind of outside force.” This movie also hints at the fact that curses can be in one’s own mind and not something that is real. In the end, when Karswell is killed by the demon, the director sets up the final scene in a way that the viewer still has to ask himself if the demon really killed Karswell or did the train kill him. The answer to this question can only be answered by the moviegoer because everyone has their own perception of what happened.
Does the supernatural really exist? This will always be a subject of much controversy. Satanists viewing this movie should understand that YOU are in charge of your own destiny — and no one else. Asking some devil or some imaginary demon for favors only causes problems in the end. Satanism strives on individualism. The Satanist is his or her own God. There is no need to ask other entities for help.
– BrightMidNight, for The Sinister Screen Satanic Film and Video Review Forum
About the Columbia DVD
Gary Tooze, DVD Beaver
Rusty White, E!
Charles Avinger, DVD Maniacs
About Jacques Tourneur
Quotes found on the TSPDT entry on Tourneur:
“Jacques Tourneur, son of the late Maurice Tourneur, brings a certain French gentility to the American cinema…Tourneur’s first films for Val Lewton – Cat People and I Walked with a Zombie – possessed a subtler dramatic force than those of Wise and Robson. Out of the Past is still Tourneur’s masterpiece, a civilized treatment of an annihilating melodrama…All in all, Tourneur’s career represents a triumph of taste over force.” – Andrew Sarris (The American Cinema, 1968)
“The best pictures which he directed were those of suspense and genuine terror, though he also did well with those that had a great deal of action. He wisely resisted scenes with long patches of dialogue. When confronted with such scenes, he typically frowned and said, “It sounds so corny.” – DeWitt Bodeen (The St. James Film Directors Encyclopedia, 1998)
“Never a major director, Jacques Tourneur nonetheless possessed an unassertive and eloquent visual style that enabled him to transform decent scripts into superior films. Although much of his work was in the B-movie field, his subtle inventiveness and unerring taste frequently made for intelligent entertainment.” – Geoff Andrew (The Film Handbook, 1989)
“Perhaps the gentlest director of action films in Hollywood history. His early reputation was made with, eerie, subtle, intelligent, Val Lewton-produced horror thrillers (Cat People, 42; I Walked with a Zombie, 43). He brought out the little things which add up to humanity in his characters, good or bad, and knew how to employ expressive lighting and camera movement when necessary.” – William R. Meyer (The Film Buff’s Catalog, 1978)
Coverage of the 2002 New York Film Society of Lincoln Center Tourneur retrospective by Ed Gonzalez, Slant
Jacques Tourneur could figure as a test-case for auteurism. A director who said that he never turned down a screenplay ÷ã I did my best with whatever they gave meä ÷ Tourneur produced a succession of films of which almost every one belongs to a clearly defined, often formulaic genre: the Western, the horror movie, the noir thriller, the pirate movie, the spy movie, the medieval adventure movie, the jungle movie, all the way down (as the studio system collapses around him) to Timbuktu (59), with Victor Mature lending able-bodied support to French colonialism in the Sahara, and The Giant of Marathon (59), with Steve Reeves fending off hordes of invading Persians. His filmography suggests the workaday artisan, an identity Tourneur was happy to claim for himself. When a French critic asked him what place he thought his films would occupy in the history of cinema, he replied: ãNone.ä To find profundity among the frames of Appointment in Honduras (53) and Great Day in the Morning (56) might strike some as the ultimate expression of auteurism as mystical cult, perceiving revelation in what to the unreceptive looks very much like standard industrial product, more or less pleasing but singularly devoid of any obvious ambition. The spectatorâs question becomes: Is there really something there at all, or am I imagining this? That question, as it happens, leads directly into the heart of a lifework that, however unassuming, has over time surrendered none of its power to fascinate. Can there be a durable will-oâ-the-wisp, a monumental glimmer? Maybe only in the movies, and most particularly in the movies of Jacques Tourneur.
– Geoffrey O’Brien, Film Comment July/August 2002
Gary Morris reviews Chris Fujiwara’s Jacques Tourneur: Cinema of Nightfall
Fujiwara begins by persuasively rescuing Tourneur from one of Sarris’ gulags: the dreaded third ranking in American Cinema. Sarris’ backhanded praise in phrases like “subdued, pastel-colored sensibility” and “a certain French gentility” has been seconded by many critics, who attributed the virtues of the Lewton-produced films to Lewton and the brilliance of Out of the Past and Night of the Demon to Tourneur’s “intelligent” manipulation of prosaic generic elements. Fujiwara argues that the things that distinguish Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and Leopard Man — narrative ambiguity, lyrical mise-en-scene, understated dramatics — are also present in such unjustly forgotten thrillers, westerns, and historical dramas as Experiment Perilous, Stars in My Crown, Way of a Gaucho, and others. By examining Tourneur’s early French features and many MGM shorts, he shows decisively that the director’s stylistic maturity occurred before his first widely acclaimed feature, Cat People, and only grew from there.
Another review of Fujiwara’s book, by Geoff Mayer for Screening the Past
About Dana Andrews
Film Reference.com biography by Cynthia Baron
Throughout his career, Dana Andrews often played men who were very well dressed, but whose surface charm hid serious character flaws. His smooth looking characters were downright duplicitous in Otto Preminger’s Fallen Angel, Daisy Kenyon and Where the Sidewalk Ends, and in Fritz Lang’s Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. He is not a crook here. But his polished, upper middle class exterior is viewed with skepticism by Tourneur. Andrews often played men whose power and authority came from their upper class middle class position. This position comes from their professions: Andrews plays a famed psychologist here, a newscaster and author in Lang’s While the City Sleeps, a tycoon in Daisy Kenyon. But this professional standing is symbolized by Andrews’ elegant clothes: he is always dressed at the height of upper middle class good taste. On the screen, his social standing seems to come from his appearance. Tourneur suggests that Andrews is using his position to cover up insights into the supernatural unearthed by less upper class characters: the kindergarten teacher, Andrews’ less famous colleagues at the conference. His beautiful suits symbolize his social power, a power used to hide and suppress the truth.
Andrews’ polished clothes and appearance makes him irresistible to women: he always gets the girl in his films. His directors do everything they can to glamorize him, and fully display this side of his characters to add romance and glamour to their films. But they also suggest that there is something false about such glamour. It can be used to depict Andrews as a polished crook, or to suggest that his social authority is illegitimate and based on image alone, as Tourneur does here, or as Lang hints in While the City Sleeps.
P.L. Kerpius reports from Jonathan Rosenbaum’s presentation of Night of the Demon as part of the fall 2007 series The Great Transition: World Cinema in the 1950s at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago:
In his introduction to the film, Rosenbaum noted that both Tourneur and Dana Andrews were alcoholics and they probably served as each other’s enablers during production. He noted a drunken and/or hungover Andrews is visible at certain points and I think he’s right. For instance, in one scene between Andrews and his character’s love interest Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins), he leans over to her with heavy eyes (and with a glass of brandy in hand) and slurs a bit in his delivery. There are more moments like it and in almost all of them there’s a bottle of whiskey or brandy in arm’s length. Early Method acting? Doubtful.