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Copyright 1957 Sabre Film Production
Reviewed by Andrew Borntreger on 9 August 2010

The Characters:  

  • Dr. John Holden - He doubts everything that he cannot taste, touch, or smell, and he has a way with the ladies. I am not saying that it is a good way.
  • Joanna Harrington - "Oh John, you are going to die. Why do you have to be such a terrible boor about it?"
  • Prof. Harrington - Unfortunately, even his stolid British sensibility could not defend him from a fiend from the brimstone pits. Electrocuted, and then rent to pieces.
  • Prof. O'Brien - I think that he might be a wee bit Irish.
  • Prof. Kumar - I am certain that he is more than a wee bit Indian.
  • Dr. Julian Karswell - Well-mannered and affable, but he has a nasty habit of condemning people to death by a summoned demon. Great guy, that Karswell, shame about the demon.
  • Dr. Karswell's Mom - Hah! He lives with his mom!
  • The Demon - Not the sort of thing that you want to run into in a dark alley, spooky woods, or even a pastel-decorated Chuck E. Cheese.

Buy It!

The Plot: 

After a frantic late-night visit to beg Dr. Karswell to stop what he has set in motion, a much relieved Professor Harrington returns to his secluded home. Unfortunately, Dr. Karswell's assurance that everything is going to be alright did not mean that Harrington was going to be okay. What Karswell meant is that he, himself, would be just fine. The unlucky professor reacts with blind panic when Dr. Karswell's summoned fiend appears out of the darkness and fog. Knocking down a utility pole with his car and stumbling through the live wires only serves to hasten the poor man's gruesome death by a few moments. No person marked for the Demon ever survives.

Meanwhile, Dr. Holden is taking a red-eye flight from the United States to Britain so that he can speak at a convention of scientists who are dedicated to disproving the notion that the night is haunted by ghosts, ghouls, and demons. Dr. Holden is not having a good flight, and his discomfort is completely due to the nocturnal activities of Miss Harrington, who is sitting right behind Dr. Holden and doing every manner of thing that prevents other people from sleeping. To say that our male and female protagonists start off on the wrong foot is an understatement, and they will continue annoying each other for the rest of the film. Why they even attempt a romantic relationship confuses me. If they press on and do eventually plan a wedding, I certainly hope that they pick out a marriage counselor at the same time as their rings. They are going to need one.

I mean that they are going to need one marriage counselor. The accepted norm is that they will need two rings.

After arriving in England, Dr. Holden visits a library to conduct some research on the occult. Waiting for him at the vault of knowledge is Karswell. The arcane magician is exceedingly polite, but he insists that John immediately suspend his investigation into Karswell's followers. Unimpressed, the American refuses to back down. Resigned to doing it the hard way, Karswell tells John that he will die at 10:00 PM on October the 28th. Then he accidentally knocks John's notes off the library table. Even though he picks them up and apologizes before handing them back, it is obvious that Dr. Karswell is up to something. Only John seems oblivious to the danger.

Before long, Dr. Holden begins to experience strange things. Some can be explained as mundane parts of Karswell's plot, such as the pages of his day planner being ripped out, but others, like peculiar sounds and a sense of dread, are worrisome even to a man of science. Joanna is not any help, because she makes a point of reading passages from her late uncle's diary to John that are eerily similar.

"You don't believe in the supernatural, and my uncle didn't believe in devils and demons either. He died! You heard something in the hallway, and my uncle heard bumps in the night, too. He died! Your day planner's pages were ripped out after the 28th, and my uncle's day planner had all the pages ripped out as well. He died! You ate an English muffin. My uncle ate an English muffin for breakfast! He died! You're going to die, John! Diiiieeeeee!"

I am convinced that whoever marries Joanna is destined to suffer from high blood pressure.

As we know, the Demon is all-too-real, and John has been marked for death. When Dr. Karswell knocked John's notes off of the table in the library, he slipped a small piece of parchment into the folder before handing it back. In order to summon the Demon to kill someone, you first must trick them into accepting a parchment with special runes inscribed upon it. John discovers the parchment, and finds that it always tries to get away from the person marked for death. The runes seem to want to destroy themselves. There is a memorable scene in a room with a roaring fireplace where the parchment is denied access to the flames by a wire screen.

During the course of the film, John and Julian have several interactions. As the story progresses, the doubtful protagonist becomes more and more concerned that his dismissal of all things supernatural is a fatal mistake. Being wrong about anything makes Dr. Holden peevish. Being wrong about his own impending destruction by a horror from the pits of Hell turns John into a frightful boor. On the other hand, Karswell is always congenial, even after Dr. Holden breaks into the Karswell mansion to search for information about what he is up against. Granted, the devil-worshipping cult master can afford to be civil. He does not have a demonic death sentence hanging over his head. Dr. Holden is not so lucky. During an ill-advised midnight stroll through the dark woods, he is stalked by the Demon. He glimpses the eerie cloud that precedes the beast entering the material world, and sees its smoking cloven footprints appear. Finally, just a day before his appointed death, John believes.

Haven't mentioned her before, but Karswell's mother is also exceedingly polite, and she spends most of the movie trying to save Dr. Holden from her son's pet demon. Julian is not happy with his mother's interference. Everything to do with the Karswell estate, the money, the adulation of the locals, and even the house, are a result of his pact with the Devil. Even now, with the benefit of hindsight and the subprime lending fiasco, Karswell's mortgage might be the most onerous in the history of home finance.

The key to John's dilemma is understanding the rules governing Karswell's demon. Back in 1957 you could not walk into a bookstore and buy a copy of "Summoning Demons for Dummies." Heck, you still can't. I even searched for the title. In that same nether vein, John also couldn't Google "demon parchment Karswell" to look for answers. The Internet had not been invented. 1957 is so incredibly far in the past that Pong hadn't been invented yet (and we all know how useful Pong is).

The only thing more useful than Pong might be Ping Pong for the Wii, which is a version of Pong that requires enough physical effort that couch potatoes consider it a fitness game.

Fortunately, John avoids the pitfalls of simulated recreational ping pong and focuses on what he can do to avoid becoming demon fodder. The truth, when he finally discovers it, is grim. Having been summoned, the Demon must kill someone. Dr. Holden's only hope is to not be that victim. A ray of hope is that the Demon does not care who dies on the date and time appointed by the spell, it simply kills the last person who unknowingly accepted the parchment. So, that is how John, Julian, and Joanna (that's a lot of Js) come to be on a train together. Karswell is trying to escape from Dr. Holden before the other man can trick him into taking the parchment, while Joanna's role is still that of a concerned doom-sayer.

Good wins out over evil, and the amicable antagonist finds himself in possession of the cursed parchment shortly before the clock strikes ten. Trapped on the tracks, with the Demon approaching and his escape blocked by an oncoming train, Karswell discovers the horror of being caught between Hell and mass transit. John gets the girl.

Bully to you, John.

"Night of the Demon" is a competent film with nice atmosphere and a truly memorable monster. Overall, the film has a steady pace. Some scenes are swift, but afterwards there is usually a bit of a breather. That means that, like Dr. Holden, we have time to contemplate what is going on. There is nothing particularly deep about the story, or groundbreaking in its execution. Instead, this is a solid monster movie with deftly added elements of both mystery and suspense. What really makes the movie for me is the Demon. It is a nightmare denizen of the lower realms come to life. Twenty feet tall, it is completely unstoppable, and among my favorite movie monsters.

Things I Learned From This Movie: 

  • In England, the show was called "Leave it to Veever."
  • Druids invented the Dewey Decimal System.
  • Hurricanes and wicker do not mix.
  • Never schedule a dental appointment on the day after your death.
  • For those who oppose the occult forces in our world, doom is spelled "recycling."
  • 80% of England is covered by wallpaper; 95% of that is ugly, 50% hideously so.
  • The best part of being dead is that you are tone deaf.
  • Oak trees are bioluminescent.

Stuff To Watch For: 

  • 12 mins - All of that for a lamp.
  • 13 mins - Is he watching Dr. Holden take a shower?
  • 26 mins - "Let's see, the directions said to turn left at the third cow. Well, this should be it."
  • 38 mins - I know what you are thinking. That dessert cart is in desperate need of some oil.
  • 55 mins - Is that a reaction to the spirits or their singing?
  • 62 mins - Unfortunately, those vines are poison oak.
  • 72 mins - John, if you are interested in Joanna, I should point out that you are quite adept at getting her upset with you, but not so much at getting her interested in hanky panky.
  • 84 mins - Something tells me that the cost of insurance for the University is about go up.

 Audio clips in wav formatSOUNDSStarving actors speak out 

Green Music Note nightdemon1.wav Narrator: "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!"
Green Music Note nightdemon2.wav Prof. Harrington: "Call it off, Karswell! Stop this thing you've started and I'll admit publicly that I was totally wrong and that you were totally right."
Karswell: "Well, it's very gratifying to hear that, but some things are more easily started than stopped."
Prof. Harrington: "But I've heard it, I've seen it, I know it's real!"
Green Music Note nightdemon3.wav Prof. O'Brien: "Under hypnosis he produced this drawing. Now, it's crude, but remarkably similar to these copies of old woodcuts and medieval drawings of a fire demon invoked by witchcraft to destroy an enemy."
Dr. Holden: "You mean you think that thing committed the murder? I thought the purpose of our convention was to disprove that type of thinking."
Green Music Note nightdemon4.wav Prof. Holden: "I see you practice white magic as well as black."
Dr. Karswell: "Oh yes. I don't think it'd be too amusing for the youngsters if I conjured up a demon from Hell for them. Or for myself for that matter, as we're not protected by the magic circle we'd both of us be torn to shreds."
Dr. Holden: "And you'd spoil the party."
Dr. Karswell: "You're so right."

 Click for a larger imageIMAGESScenes from the movie 


 Watch a sceneVIDEOMPEG video files 

Video Clipnightdemon1.mpg - 6.0m
Dr. Karswell just caught Dr. Holden in the middle of breaking and entering. Now they have a friendly chat.

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