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JACQUES TOURNEUR'S 'CURSE OF THE DEMON' W/ DANA ANDREWS

Curse of the Demon YEAR of RELEASE: 1957
Director Jacques Tourneur, in the first of two 1950's collaborations with actor Dana Andrews followed by THE FEARMAKERS and a decade after CANYON PASSAGE — wanted the CURSE OF THE DEMON demon — resembling a grizzly bear mated with an irate buffalo — to be revealed later on instead of the first ten minutes...

During an investigation by Dana Andrews as John Holden, a scientist who debunks a powerful occult/cult leader and is simply begging to learn his lesson the hard way, it's obviously far less of a mystery since we know exactly what kind of monster he'll wind up dealing with, as opposed to the audience being in-the-dark along with the main character... Kind of an implied and ambiguous gumshoe Film Noir approach within a supernatural horror picture...

Curse of the Demon spooky font title card
On the other hand, Dana's "Doubting Thomas" is more important to the story since the beast is visually out of the way...

So now the suspense relies on him finding out what we know as he catches up: So while the surprise element is deleted, taking its place is a sort of reverse mystery relying not on who or how but when the monster will eventually come around again...

The way the demon had stalked and killed its initial victim... a British professor who Dana replaces... is anticipated throughout. And now added to when is where will the same menacing nightmare occur? In that, several locations during the second and third act become the demon's potential runway... And those are, basically, wherever Professor Holden is "currently" located...

Dana Andrews hearing things in Curse of the Demon
For example, about fifteen minutes in, eerie yet subtle, ominous music is heard, which turns out is only audible to Holden as he apprehensively glances down a long, spooky hotel corridor...

Without experiencing firsthand the demon's method of charging forward with the right amount of space to gain momentum, this dark, suspenseful moment wouldn't mean half as much...

Also, since the demon looks exceptionally dated and hokey, especially up close, it's not something to hinge an entire film anticipating, and, compared to modern effects, is bound to be a let-down. But the creature returning is something else entirely, relying more on space and dimension than aesthetic. "If this world is ruled by demons and monsters," Dana's John Holden says at one point, "we might as well give up right now." And in a way, that's just it: CURSE OF THE DEMON is more about The Curse than The Demon...

Have a drink on me
And our leading man wasn't talking to the wall: Enter cute and energetic, determined ingenue in British GUN CRAZY starlet, Peggy Cummins as Joanna Harrington – fitting the role as it takes place in England, which provides a kind of doomed and grainy Baker Street vibe, counteracted by her innocence and beauty but especially an ongoing persistence — one of the reasons Dana's Holden keeps at it: Niece of that original cursed scientist killed in the opening, she wants to find answers, and believes the best clue lies within the massive estate of an eccentric millionaire...

"Turn on side one of Led Zeppelin Four..."
Who is the brilliantly subtle, classy yet underline-formidable Niall MacGinnis as Doctor Karswell: as if James Bond's rotund villain Auric Goldfinger had a brother into Black Magic. Like he did the first scientist, Karswell's out to keep Holden from writing a negative article, and will do anything in order to hold the press so that his followers will have a place to worship without prejudice or intrusion...

One particular scene, as Karswell conjures up a wind-swept tempest during a child's party outside his mansion, feels like a subtle yet palpable, surreal dream. But Andrews still doesn't believe; and with his rich, smooth voice, always makes for confident, headstrong characters: herein a perfect clean slate going in and out of dark proverbial mazes, and this is literally one hell of a maze...

BoBo The Clown Wind Storm Curse
The best thing DEMON has going is creative camerawork of the brilliant director who turned CAT PEOPLE into a unique, foreboding classic — and he also directed several of the other better Val Lewton productions including I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and especially intense and memorable is THE LEOPARD MAN...

Demon Score: ****1/2
The underrated but not under-appreciated Horror-Noir auteur makes this CURSE seem all too real, moving shadows around in an eerie and meticulous, mysterious fashion with a hybrid of pulpy, Gothic images and locales, including Stonehenge...

While an unseen presence lurks around corners, stalking our overly self-assertive yet inevitably vulnerable hero, and perhaps making you forget what the pontificating antagonist had conjured up: and that he'll be unleashing again on his new target...

Originally titled NIGHT OF THE DEMON in England, CURSE was edited-down and with key scenes either trimmed or shuffled around – one involving a group of seemingly common townsfolk refusing to disclose information, feeling more tacked-on than necessary, and, while the shorter American version gets to the point quicker, the original's what was intended for audiences to see, more like a cinematic page-turning novel or Hammer Films production. Only better. Darker. Deeper. Scarier. And while each version takes a slightly different path, and gets somewhat tedious and overlong in the middle, both are genuinely classic cult films and one of Dana Andrews' best latter-career vehicles. 
Smoking Dana Andrews with Peggy Cummins
Peggy Cummins pouts perfectly in Curse of the Demon
Inside the mansion Dana lights his way as that skull portrait looks cool behind him
A wide view of the end as the Demon attached to the train at ramming speed
Seeing this monster in the beginning made him familiar here at the end: a good thing actually
Dana Andrews starring in CURSE OF THE DEMON
Dana Andrews starring in CURSE OF THE DEMON
Niall MacGinnis in BECKET with Peter O'Toole, with more important things to do than thinking
Niall MacGinnis with Dana Andrews and Peggy Cummins in CURSE OF THE DEMON
Stalking an effeminate writer in LAURA or sensing a demon, Dana Andrews walks down corridors for twelve years
A personal favorite opening credit font sort of forest wood combined with flames for
Dana Andrews getting stoned in CURSE OF THE DEMON
Dana Andrews starring in CURSE OF THE DEMON
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