ABOUT THE MOVIE:
Here’s a really entertaining old horror movie that modern horror fans seem to have forgotten about. Jacques Tourneur, who had already directed two of the most iconic films of the 1940’s (“Cat People” and “Out of the Past”) made this excellent adaptation of the classic story “Casting the Runes” by M.R. James. Niall MacGinnis is great as the demon-summoning cult leader Karswell, a performance obviously inspired by Aleister Crowley. The movie is very atmospheric with some really surprising scares and the story moves along at a good, steady pace.
Late in his career, when people started taking Tourneur seriously as an artist, he claimed that he was embarrassed by the big, furry, bulldog-faced demon-monster in this movie, that he only intended to suggest a demonic presence and never wanted to actually show a literal monster at all. He liked to say that the inclusion of the monster was forced upon him by his producer, who thought a horror movie needed to have a monster – and that all shots of the demon were filmed in post-production and edited into Tourneur’s intended final cut, after the fact.
…But the great film historian William K. Everson has called B.S. on this.
In his 1974 book, “Classics of the Horror Film”, Everson points out that at the time of the film’s release, Tourneur did interviews in which he seemed proud of his monster, and that if you examine the placement of the monster effects shots, and the way these scenes are cut together, you can clearly tell that the Demon could not have been an after thought, but must have been planned to be there from the start. Everson suggests that maybe the older Tourneur was just being a little dishonest in his efforts to be viewed as a ‘serious filmmaker’.
Well, who knows.
Personally, I LOVE this old monster! The Demon from “Curse of the Demon” is one of the wildest and woolliest looking monsters of the 1950’s. His drooling, ferocious face, with that big, mad-dog smile, is one of the film’s visual thrills and the movie would be less fun to watch if he was not there.
In England the film was released in a longer version titled “Night of the Demon” – which is actually the superior version. But I used the “Curse” title on this illustration because the film is better known by this title. A DVD has been released with both versions of the film.
On a final note, I probably should have put the hero Dana Andrews and the heroine Peggy Cummins in there, too… I really like them both in the movie… But what can I say… I was only in the mood to draw the Demon and Karswell.