Night Of The Demon - Night Of The Demon( Blu Ray) [Powerhouse Films - 2018]This recent double Blu Ray set from Powerhouse Films is the long-needed & much deserved 2K edition of this classic slice of British Horror- which though made in the late 1950’s feels much more modern & still effectively chilling- with its heady mix of building tension, very tangible dread, and impressive creature effects.
Night Of The Demon (aka Curse Of The Demon) was made in 1958, and it’s effective & eventful blend of satanic themed horror, taut mystery, & highly atmospheric chilling, with fleeting creature feature elements. Unlike a lot of horror or sci-fi films of the period, Night Of The Demon takes it subject matter deadly seriously, and around this conviction is a wonderfully built slice of cinema that moves from one moody & chilling set piece to the next, as it expertly ramps up both the tension & feeling of very real dread.
The film was one of the first( if not the first) big screen adaptation of the work of celebrated English horror writer MR James- the film is based on James 1911 short story Casting The Runes. The story opens with British museum researcher & skeptic Edward Dunning reviewing The Truth of Alchemy by a Mr. Karswell, an alchemist and occultist. Afterward, he begins seeing the name John Harrington displayed wherever he goes. He learns that Harrington also reviewed Karswell's work and died in a freak accident not long after. Soon after he decides to investigates Karswell, to find he is in fact a black magician - dabbling with dangerous runes, rising demons, and causing chaos.
Night Of The Demon updates the story to 1950’s Britain- changing out the Dunning character for investigative journalist/ supernatural debunker John Holden- played by US actor Dana Andrews. Added in the story is female sceptic Peggy Cummins- played welsh actress Peggy Cummins. And the pair goes onto to investigates the wonderfully realized & goatee bearded Karswell- played wonderfully by respected Irish character actor Niall MacGinnis. The film was directed by genre versatile French director Jacques Tourneur and co-written by Charles Bennett- who wrote a lot of the early Hitchcock thrillers, and American screenwriter Hal E. Chester. And really what sets it apart from other horror films of the time is the balance of well-drawn & realized characters, perfectly built atmosphere & moody set pieces, and more than a handful of pulse pumping moments.
For this new two-disc edition of the film Powerhouse have really gone to town to offer the truly definitive edition of the film- the Blu ray set comes in two variants: a standard unlimited double disc edition, and an ltd box set edition- which adds in an 80 page book, and double-sided poster-we’ve only been sent the promo version of the release, so I can’t comment on either the packaging of either version, or for that matter the book & poster- but I can most certainly discuss the truly extras-laden discs. First off we get four different versions of the film- Night of the Demon – the original full-length pre-release version (96 mins), and the original UK theatrical cut (82 minutes); Curse of the Demon – the original US theatrical cut (82 mins), and the US re-issue version (96 mins). Next we get a new full length commentary track( on the pre-release version) from film historian Tony Earnshaw, who also wrote the definitive book on the film ‘Beating the Devil: The Making of ‘Night of the Demon’- this is a really great, great track- full of info on everything you’d need, or want to know about the film- going from discussing comparisons between the original story & film, detailed actor bios, location discussion, the different cuts, demon effects creation, and much much more, it really is astounding how much he's managed to cram-in, yet the track always flows well & is never over cluttered.
Moving onto the other new extras we have a host of new featurette/ interviews, & each of these run between the ten & thirty-minute mark. We get Sinister Signs- an analysis by always worth horror critic Kim Newman. Under the Spell- which sees celebrated British horror writer Ramsey Campbell, discussing the first time he read the original James story and his experiences with the film. The Devil in Music- discussion about the films score from David Huckvale, author of Movie Magick: The Occult in Film. Cloven In Two- a detailed discussion about the differences between the two key cuts. The Devil Gets His Due- which sees film historian and preservationist Scott MacQueen talking about the release history of the film. The Devil’s in the Detail-discussing the production design of Ken Adam by Christopher Frayling. Added to this we get a short doc from 2007, that sees interviews with actress Peggy Cummins, production designer Ken Adam, historian/ author Tony Earnshaw, and Jonathan Rigby. You also get a full reading of the short story, and much much more- truly there are hours & hours of extras here.
Really any self-respecting horror film fan needs to see Night Of The Demon- as it’s a stone cold classic. And this great new & truly definitive edition is most certainly the way to go- most certainly one of the Blu Ray highlights of 2018.Roger Batty