Thursday, October 1, 2015

Caftan Woman's Choice: One for October on TCM

You are cordially invited to attend
the annual children's Hallowe'en fete
at Lufford Hall

Your host, Doctor Bobo the Magnificent

Niall MacGinnis, Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins

Warning:  The host's mood is a changeable as the weather. Once a harmless children's magician "Doctor Bobo" is now Julian Karswell, the leader of a devil cult. He has power and wealth which is jealously guarded. The protection of his status has led to two murders that we are aware of and nothing, in this realm or the next, seems to be beyond his abilities. Karswell is played with deliciously subtle evil by Niall MacGinnis, so sympathetic in 49th Parallel

Dana Andrews (The Best Years of Our Lives, Laura) plays John Holden, an American psychologist and de-bunker of the occult. He is the latest of Karswell's victims. Holden has come to England to participate in a convention with the worthy title of "Investigation of International Reports of Paranormal Psychology". In particular, he was to join a Professor Harrington in unmasking Karswell's cult. Unfortunately, in the course of his inquiry into the cult, Professor Harrington met with a fatal accident. A similar fate now awaits Holden.

Karswell to Holden:  "You will die as I say. At ten o'clock on the 28th of this month. Your time allowed is just three days from now."

Holden is a practical man with an ordered, scientific mind. He puts no stock in such hocus-pocus as hexes and curses. However, his newfound companion Joanna Harrington, niece of Holden's deceased colleague has been researching her uncle's papers and uncovers disturbing elements in his death. Joanna is played with controlled hysteria by Peggy Cummins (Gun Crazy, The Late George Apley).

Joanna:  "You could learn a lot from children. They believe in things in the dark and we tell them it's not so. Maybe we've been fooling them." 

Andrews's performance as a man desperately holding onto his sanity in the face of unfathomable evil is the centerpiece of this fright-filled film.

John Holden:  "What do you expect me to do? Nobody is 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 sense."

Dana Andrews

Night of the Demon's director is Jacques Tourneur (Stars in My Crown, Out of the Past) whose earliest features were horror classics created at RKO's fabled Val Lewton unit: Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie, and The Leopard Man. Tourneur knew his away among the shadows, the mysterious hallways, the startling sound, the sudden appearance of a hand on a banister, the creak of a door, or the rising of the wind. The urgent, insistent score by Clifton Parker augments the visuals and the mind games of Night of the Demon to create a perfect thriller.

Another warning:  The world in general, and John Holden in particular, should learn to take fluttery little old ladies a little more seriously. It is in their best interests.

TCM is screening Curse of the Demon on Saturday, October 31st at 10:00 pm. I can think of no more perfect way to cap off Hallowe'en.


  1. CW, as you know, this is one of my very favorite horror films. I know Tourneur didn't want to show the demon, but I think it does look cool--especially the demon's first appearance. But Niall MacGinnis is why I watch it over and over again, plus some terrific set pieces such as the pursuit through the woods. My only qualm is that the delightful Peggy Cummins doesn't have a lot to do.

    1. Well ... we know if they gave Peggy a gun that demon would be toast!

      I love your apt description of MacGinnis as a Hitchcock-type villain. He is so smooth and so nasty. You just can't believe the evil.

  2. You never can trust those children's show entertainers. Usually when I hear a film has a demonic-themed plot, I stay miles away from it, but this classic I adore and have even recommended it parishioners in our local church (!) One should always be aware of the wiles of the enemy....thanks for spotlighting this gem, CW!

    1. Such an excellent film with atmosphere to burn. I imagine all those you recommended it to had themselves a wonderfully creepy time.

  3. Have you been telling me about this one my whole life and I haven't been listening? Will deffo set the PVR!

    1. Well, maybe not your whole life, but definitely post-Janet years. She's seen it and gives it the thumbs up.

  4. Ooh, this sounds quite creepy. Normally I shy away from these types of films, but if it has Dana Andrews...

    1. Please do check it out. Dana is marvelous and, when you peek out from behind the big pillow in front of your face (my trick), you will see a perfect example of genre filmmaking.



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