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Dagonbytes.com Presents
The Best of the B's
By Lucan


Dead Of Night
There's this wonderful British anthology film, "Dead Of Night" (1945), produced by The Ealing Studios and directed by "Calvacanti", Basil Dearden, Robert Hamer and Charles Crichton. An architect, played by Mervyn Johns, is invited to an old country house to make recommendations for an add-on to the property. But he is apprehensive about making the visit, for you see, he's DREAMED about visiting that particular house and even about the guests who are there! He knows each of them from his dreams, as well as the stories of their individual encounters with the supernatural. And as each person tells their tale, we are treated to five well done vignettes, some short, some longer, that would have done Rod Serling proud. (I wouldn't be surprised if this film served as Serling's inspiration for "The Twilight Zone".)

A young girl tells of her encounter with the ghost of a murdered child, there's the story of a young newlywed who unknowingly buys her husband a possessed mirror, a comic ghost story about two friends who aren't about to let a little thing like DEATH interrupt their golf game and there's even a British variation of an old American (!) ghost story, "Room For One More". The final sequence of the film is a KNOCKOUT and stars Michael Redgrave as a ventriloquist who's driven to madness by his malevolent dummy. (Yes, it's been done before, but not THIS well!)

This film is great for those chilly nights when you feel like hearing a good ghost story. So pop up a big bowl of popcorn and turn out the lights (well, maybe not ALL of the lights,) and enjoy. (NOTE: This film is available on VHS at varying prices. I recommend getting the 102 minute version, released by Republic Pictures.)


"Curse of The Demon" AKA "Night of The Demon"
Imagine being told rather matter-of-factly that you're going die in three days, at 10pm in the evening, and then finding out that the only way you could escape a violent death at the claws of a demon from Hell was to pass a piece of parchment bearing runic symbols back to the evil warlock who'd passed them on to you.

That, is the basic set-up for this delightful little 1957 black & white chiller, "Curse of The Demon" (originally produced and released in England by Columbia Pictures under the title "Night of The Demon"), based on the novel "Casting The Runes" by Montague R.James. Dana Andrews plays Dr. John Holden, a psychologist and professional skeptic of all things supernatural, who travels to London to attend a convention being conducted by his long-time associate Professor Harrington. But upon his arrival, he finds that Professor Harrington had died in an auto accident the night before. (If you watch the film, you'll see that this was no ORDINARY auto accident...*wicked grin*). Holden soon meets up with the daughter of his late associate, Joanna (played by Peggy Cummins), who seems to feel that there was something dark and sinister involved in her father's death. For you see, her father had been involved in an investigation of a "devil cult" led by Julian Karswell (wonderfully played by Niall MacGinnis), a seemingly polite man who harbors a deadly secret.

Karswell, knowing that Holden will be continuing the investigation into the cult's activities, "co-incidentally" meets up with him at the British National Library and invites him to his mansion in the country, on the pre-text of loaning him his copy of a rare witchcraft book that Holden had been looking for. But at the library, Karswell slips Holden the piece of parchament bearing the runes, the symbols used to summon up a fire demon who brings death to whomever holds it. Holden then begins experiencing stranger and more frightening omens that lead up to the fateful 3rd day, and the hour of 10 pm...

The movie was directed by Jacques Tourner, who'd previously directed two noteworthy fright flicks, the 1942 version of "Cat People" and "I Walked With A Zombie" in 1943. Like his earlier films, this movie has a wonderful, moody atmosphere (you can almost FEEL the chilly night air in the opening sequence) and even the scenes that take place during the day seem to have a dark cloud hanging over them, an omen of something frightening yet to come. There's a standout scene when Holden visits Karswell's mansion (during a children's Halloween party no less!) and while they stroll on the grounds, Karswell demonstrates to the ever-skeptical Holden the power he possesses, by summoning up a violent windstorm as casually as you or I would flick a light switch.

The film is currently available on both VHS and DVD, at suggested prices of 16.50 for VHS and 22.46 for DVD, not to mention such places as Ebay for potentially less. Be sure to check the running times on each, being that the original release version ("Night of The Demon") runs 95 minutes, while the wider released version seen in the U.S. ("Curse of...) had been trimmed down to 82 minutes. (No major plot points were taken out, just some incidental footage.) And two quick bits of trivia, director Tourner didn't want to actually SHOW the demon in the film, preferring that its appearance be implied, but producer Hal Chester insisted, and footage of the demon (a fairly good for the time rod puppet and mechanical head) was shot. The demon became one of the more enduring images of the film and appeared on the movie's poster art and numerous magazine covers well through the 60's. And if you've seen "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", you've heard mention of this film without even realizing it, when the song "Science Fiction Double Feature" plays and you hear the line, "...Dana Andrews said prunes, gave him the runes,..."


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Till Next Time.

Pleasant Screams,

~ Lucan ~

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Lucan - Classic Monsters - Best - Worse - Survivor - The Dead - Interviews