Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Night of the Demon (1957, UK)
Curse of the Demon (1957, US)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Curse of the Demon (1957, US) (aka Night of the Demon, UK)

In director Jacques Tourneur's fourth true horror film (a fantasy horror thriller), an intelligent and thoughtful adaptation of the original ghost story "Casting the Runes" by noted practitioner Montague R. James - about a US psychiatrist's investigation into a Satanic cult in England:

  • the ominous opening voice-over narration was heard over views of the ancient stone circle ruins of Stonehedge, describing demon magic and witchcraft over many centuries: "It has been written since the beginning of time, even unto these ancient stones, that evil supernatural creatures exist in a world of darkness. And it is also said man using the magic power of the ancient runic symbols can call forth these powers of darkness, the demons of Hell. Through the ages, men have feared and worshipped these creatures. The practice of witchcraft, the cults of evil have endured and exist to this day"
  • in the opening sequence, scientist and Professor Henry Harrington (Maurice Denham) met with mysterious, occultist warlock cult leader Dr. Julian Karswell (Niall MacGinnis), accused of leading a group of cultists who worshipped an ancient Satanic demon; Professor Harrington was conducting an investigation into Karswell's Devil Cult, but then found himself fearing a deadly curse; at Karswell's residence known as Lufford Hall, an urgent Dr. Harrington asked for Karswell to call off his curse: ("Call it off, Karswell. Stop this thing you've started...") in exchange for Harrington's public admission that he had wrongly caused a public scandal: ("I'll admit publicly I was totally wrong and that you were totally right"); however, when Karswell asked for a parchment with runic symbols to be returned to him, Harrington answered: "They burned. I couldn't stop it"; Karswell quickly ushered Harrington out of the house, knowing that the hex was now irreversible, and in a short time, a demon would be summoned to destroy Harrington
  • as the cursed Harrington drove into his home's car garage, a demonic figure emerged from the trees in the woods and scared him; he accidentally reversed his car into an electrical pole and was electrocuted by live wires as he exited his vehicle; afterwards, his body was mutilated by a giant demonic beast-monster
  • skeptical disbelieving American psychiatrist Dr. John Holden (Dana Andrews) arrived in England to attend the Professor's international parapsychology convention and to debunk the supernatural, witchcraft and devil cults represented by Karswell's beliefs; the film's theme was the dramatic conflict between their two opposing world-views; upon Dr. Holden's arrival, he learned of the recent death of Dr. Harrington - by accidental electrocution
  • Dr. Holden spoke of his doubts about the single-most important link that could prove Karswell's involvement in the Professor's death - the character of accused murderer Rand Hobart (Brian Wilde), an uneducated farmer who was also a member of Karswell's devil cult, who was incarcerated in an institution for the criminally-insane, and had recently and coincidentally become catatonic; Hobart was blaming a fire demon for committing his crime of murder
  • Dr. Holden denounced the whole idea of a demon monster: "The whole question of this demon monster that you think shocked Hobart out of his mind is a perfect example of auto-suggestion and mass hysteria. Just the same as flying saucers. Someone imagines that they see moving lights in the sky. And the next thing, a thousand hysterical witnesses turn up all over the world swearing that Martians are attacking us. And now, this nonsense. It even affects serious men like yourselves. Sometimes even me. But logic -- the reality of the seeable and the touchable -- that's what convinces me finally. Certainly not rumor or intuition or funny feelings"
  • in the British Museum's Reading Room, Dr. Holden briefly met with Karswell, who was opposed to the American's skepticism, but invited Holden to visit him at his home Lufford Hall; Dr. Holden also met Harrington's niece Joanna Harrington (Peggy Cummins) at her uncle Henry Harrington's funeral; she presented him with Harrington's detailed diary chronicling Karswell's power; she explained how her uncle had been given a runes-covered parchment that flew by itself into a burning fire, and shortly thereafter, her uncle was cursed and killed; she cautioned Dr. Holden to end his denunciations and investigation of the Karswell cult group
  • in the scene set at an annual Halloween party held at Karswell's country estate, the sinister cult leader (dressed as a clown to entertain the children) expressed his views to Holden: "Do I believe in witchcraft? What kind of witchcraft? The legendary witch that rides on the imaginary broom? The hex that tortures the thoughts of the victim? The pin stuck in the image that wastes away the mind and the body?" Holden answered: "Also imaginary"; Karswell continued: "But where does imagination end and reality begin? What is this twilight, this half world of the mind that you profess to know so much about? How can we differentiate between the powers of darkness and the powers of the mind?"
  • in the next sequence, to prove his words to the skeptical Holden, Karswell removed his hat and pinched his forehead - soon after, a violent wind storm was summoned or conjured up by a spell initiated by Karswell; after retreating to the indoors, Holden spoke to Karswell: "I didn't know you had cyclones in England!" and Karswell replied: "We don't"; Karswell predicted that Holden, similar to Harrington, had already been cursed and would die in three days (Holden was unaware that an ancient parchment had been secretly passed to him by Karswell, originally in Harrington's possession; it held that curse written in runic script that claimed he had been "chosen" to die); the runic script in the parchment resembled the runes at Stonehedge
  • luckily for Holden, while having dinner with Joanna at Prof. Harrington's house, he discovered a parchment with runic symbols in his briefcase (amongst papers given to him by Karswell), and was able to prevent the document from being burned in the fire, thereby saving himself from the curse
  • he told Joanna Harrington, the dead professor's niece: "Nobody's free from fear. I have an imagination like anyone else. It's easy to see a demon in every dark corner. But I refuse to let this thing take possession of my good senses. If this world is ruled by demons and monsters, we may as well give up right now"
  • in a dark sequence, Dr. Holden snuck into Karswell's country estate house, when an ordinary small house cat was transformed or morphed into a predatory panther that attacked him in the study; after briefly speaking to Karswell, Dr. Holden departed, and in a very eerie, atmospheric and scary scene, he was pursued by a flaming ball of fire and smoke in the forest outside Karswell's dwelling
  • Dr. Holden learned from the hypnotized Rand Hobart that the parchment had been passed to him by Karswell because he had been "chosen" to die, but Holden could avoid the curse and death by passing it back to Karswell; Hobart misinterpreted and thought that Holden was passing the parchment onto him - causing him to become hysterical and jump to his death; Holden began to realize that the curse was real
  • in the film's conclusion, Dr. Holden learned that Karswell would be on the 8:45 pm train to Southhampton (with Harrington's kidnapped and hypnotized niece onboard); after catching the same train, Holden was able to cleverly return the ancient parchment to Karswell's own coat pocket that was given to him by a policeman; when the piece of paper flew out of Karswell's hands as he attempted to take it out of his coat pocket, he was forced to chase after it as the wind carried it onto the train tracks - it cursed him and doomed him to death at 10 pm - this was the scheduled time for Holden's predicted death (only two minutes away), now transferred to Karswell; after the paper burned to combustible ash against one of the rails as he reached for it, the parchment was transformed or manifested itself as a monstrous 30 foot demon; Karswell was caught between an oncoming train and the huge demon approaching on another set of tracks; as the oncoming train raced by, it appeared that a large demon claw picked him up and shredded him into pieces
Karswell Chasing Along Train Tracks After The Parchment - After It Combusted, the Demon Manifested Itself and Attacked
  • after witnessing the terrible accident (or attack), Joanna gave an opinion to Dr. Holden about what had just happened: "Maybe it's better not to know"; Holden rushed to the site of Karswell's smoking body next to the tracks where one train official announced that he had been struck and killed by the train - not destroyed by a supernatural being: "The train must have hit him and dragged him"; Detective Simmons (Lloyd Lamble) disagreed: "I thought he was on the other side, sir," but he was ridiculed: "Don't be ridiculous, Simmons, look at him. The train must have hit him"
  • as they walked away, Holden agreed with Joanna in the film's final line that they shouldn't try to figure out what had actually happened: "You're right. Maybe it's better not to know"

The Stone Circle at Stonehedge

(l to r): Dr. Julian Karswell with Professor Henry Harrington Who Feared the Curse

The Cursed Professor Harrington's Electrocution Death and Mutilation

A View of The Beastly Satanic Fire Demon

Devil Cult Leader Dr. Karswell Summoning a Windstorm with US Psychiatrist Dr. Holden

Attack on Dr. Holden by Karswell's Morphed House Cat/Panther

Dr. Holden Pursued in Forest by Flaming Ball of Fire Outside Karswell's Home

On the Train, Holden Confronted Karswell

Joanna to Dr. Holden: "Maybe it's better not to know"

Holden to Joanna: "You're right. Maybe it's better not to know"


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