Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 241: Thu Aug 29

Night of the Demon (Tourneur, 1957): British Museum, 8pm

Monster Weekend at the British Museum is the launch event for Gothic: The Dark Heart of Film, which will comprise a major season at BFI Southbank and across the UK from October to January next year.

Here is the BFI introduction: Sceptical American psychologist Holden (Dana Andrews) must reconsider his beliefs when genial occultist and children’s entertainer Karswell (Niall MacGinnis) passes him a cursed parchment and informs him that he will die within four days. Aided by perceptive Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins), Holden races to escape his destiny. Adapted from M.R. James’ Casting the Runes by Hitchcock collaborator Charles Bennett, the film was atmospherically directed by the legendary Jacques Tourneur, who had built his reputation with an exceptional string of Val Lewton-produced horrors, including Cat People. Yet Night of the Demon – gripping, intelligent, eerily entertaining, and chillingly plausible in its depiction of witchcraft – still might be the finest of Tourneur’s works. The full length British version of the film has been digitally remastered in high definition by the BFI National Archive from 35mm negatives.

Fancy dress: Come along in your best Gothic-inspired costume to make it a spooky night to remember. To help you out, Angels Fancy Dress is offering a 15% discount instore and online from using the discount code ‘GOTHIC13’, available until 30 September.


Chicago Reader review: A major work in that minor genre, horror movies. Intelligent, delicate, and actually frightening (no kidding), this 1957 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

Here (and above) is a video essay on the film by Chris Fujiwara


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