Night of the Demon Remembered

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 25th, 2008


Nick Redfern alerts me to the fact a character actor of some note, Brian Wilde, 80, died on March 20, 2008.

Like Nick, I recall Wilde for his role of Rand Hobart in the classic 1957 UK movie Night of the Demon (Curse of the Demon in the USA). For me, the film was a pure Jungian psychological look at strange phenomena and “paranormal” events, including the appearance of a mystery felid and a “demonic” creature. (Years later, I would write two books ~ The Unidentified & Creatures of the Outer Edge, with Jerry Clark, which touched on these same issues.)

How good was the movie? Below is an overview, with spoilers.

View the movie, if you get a chance.

Not too many modern films have reached this level of presentation of some excellent insights into the parapsychological overlap between “beasties” and the beyond. Yes, it is fiction, but considering the state of cinematic narrative fiction and cryptofiction today, it is good to remember that some films existed without color film, without blood & gore, and with the use of death for creative reasons.

Night of the Demon (1957): Synopsis ~

Southern England, the late 1950s. Having threatened to expose the occultist Karswell, scientist Professor Harrington dies violently, having been pursued by a monstrous demon invoked by Karswell. As his car has been hit a power line, the authorities conclude that Harrington has been killed by electrocution.

American psychologist Dr John Holden visits the UK, to attend a convention with Harrington, where the latter had been due to discuss Karswell’s ‘devil cult’. Perusing Harrington’s papers, Holden and some other fellow scientists find prints of fire demons from an ancient manuscript; these bear a marked resemblance to a sketch done by a member of the magician’s cult, since arrested for murder and now in a state of catatonic shock. Holden receives an unexpected telephone call from Karswell, who asks him to abandon his investigation.

Although sceptical of the supernatural, Holden is intrigued enough to visit the British Museum to look at the volume from which the demon prints were copied. This proves to have gone missing. Enter Karswell, who offers to loan Holden a copy. Knocking over Holden’s papers, he secretly passes him a parchment invoking a fire demon. Unaware of this transaction, Holden nonetheless immediately begins to feel unwell. Looking at Karswell’s visiting card, he briefly sees the words “Henry Harrington, allowed two weeks”, before they vanish.

Having met Harrington’s niece Joanna on his flight to England, Holden encounters her again at the professor’s funeral. She informs him that all the pages in her uncle’s diary for the ten days leading to his death have been ripped out.

Holden visits Karswell’s country house with Joanna, who is equally intrigued but less sceptical. The magician is hosting a party for local children, and is dressed as ‘Bobo the Magnificent’, a conjurer with clown’s makeup and red nose. Karswell summons up a storm to convince Holden of his powers, and informs him that, having received the parchment, he is cursed to die at the hands the demon, either at ten o’clock four days hence, or as soon as the paper leaves his grasp. At dinner with Joanna later that evening, the parchment flies from Holden’s wallet towards the fire, but he is able to retrieve it.

Following a visit to Stonehenge in an attempt to decipher the parchment’s runic symbols, Holden pays a call on the relatives of Karswell’s catatonic disciple, Rand Hobart. They are less than helpful, protective of Hobart and seemingly involved in the cult in some way. Holden and Joanna then grudgingly attends a séance arranged by Karswell’s mother and a jolly medium, Mr Meek. Joanna is convinced she hears Meek speak with the voice of her late uncle, reliving his death at the hands of the demon.

Breaking into Karswell’s mansion to examine his manuscript, Holden is attacked first by a leopard summoned by the magician, then by a strange cloudy presence in the woods. Pursued by huge phantom footfalls, Holden runs for his life to Joanna’s waiting car.

Undeterred but gradually losing his scepticism, Holden attends the science convention, where the catatonic Rand Hobart is awakened from his trance via hypnosis. Hobart claims to have taken the blame for a previous murder, so as not to expose the devil cult. Reliving a visitation of the fire demon, he proceeds to run amok and jumps to his death from a window. Pursued by the police, Holden boards a train, finding Karswell on board with Joanna, who he has abducted.

As the hour of ten swiftly approaches, Karswell is clearly anxious that Holden will attempt to surreptitiously slip the parchment to him, reverting the curse of the demon back onto he who summoned it. As the police arrive, Holden puts the parchment into Karswell’s coat, passing it first to the police then to the magician, who unwittingly accepts it. The paper then flies from from Karswell’s grasp, causing him to chase desperately after it down a railway track. The parchment combusts on a railway line, and the fire demon appears. The terrified magician is tossed into the air, then trampled to death. Onlookers assume that Karswell has been killed by an oncoming train.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

7 Responses to “Night of the Demon Remembered”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    I saw that movie a couple times. I think it was awesome. Take into account the time in which it was made. This is during the time frame that many science fiction movies you could see the wire holding up the “space ship”. Yes, the times when you get to see the demon is corny (the demon himself), but everything else is wonderfully done.

  2. sausage1 responds:

    Night of the Demon is still a genuinely scary film. If you haven’t seen it, treat yourself.

    As well as his brilliant role in this film Brian Wilde played the mild-mannered and ineffectual prison guard Mr Barrowclough in the Ronnie Barker series ‘Porridge.’ He had this bumbling character down to a tee, a really good piece of character comedy acting. He also played Foggy Dewhurst in the long running BBC comedy ‘Last of the Summer Wine,’ which first aired when gigantopithecus was still walking on his knuckles.

    Great actor, will be missed.

  3. Gary the Cat responds:

    I had wondered if anyone else would remember Mr Wilde’s minor (but pivotal) role in this fantastic film.
    It was due to be re-released in UK on DVD last year as an anniversary edition but the company went bust and it never happened, sadly.
    It was one of the horror films that, as a young lad of 9 or 10, I was allowed to stay up on watch on a Saturday night on BBC 2-the first place I saw The Legend of Boggy Creek, Night of the Lepus and the Beast From 10, 000 Fathoms.
    Maybe the programmer was a cryptozoology fan?!

  4. fallofrain responds:

    Curse of the Demon/Night of the Demon holds up very well over the decades, even taking into account modern special effects. It is a genuine classic. In this country (U.S.) both versions are available on a DVD set. Maybe try Amazon?

  5. Lyndon responds:

    Well this is news to me. I watched Night of The Demon only a month or so ago but I never noticed Brian Wilde in it. Great movie it is.

    As sausage1 said though, he is more remembered here in England for his roles in Porridge and Last Of The Summer Wine.

    I’ll have to watch Demon again to see who Wilde played in it. I seriously don’t recall.

  6. gridbug responds:

    Agreed, classic horror film! The reveal of the snarling beast is one for the ages. 😀

    BTW, does anyone have any info on the 1980 “Night of the Demon” which is supposedly a “lost” Bigfoot on the rampage classic?

  7. CryptoHaus_Press responds:

    BTW, does anyone have any info on the 1980 “Night of the Demon” which is supposedly a “lost” Bigfoot on the rampage classic?

    yes, this is a Bigfoot Attacks film that has a cult following in both the US and in the UK.

    in the US it’s because the savagery of the film is unmatched in any bigfoot film before or since. the onscreen violence and prolonged screen time of each assault is jawdropping, even in this so-called permissive era of screen violence. the final assault is literally THE WILD BUNCH of bigfoot films, with the creature single-clawingly destroying an entire group of kids in one of the bloodiest screen assaults ever filmed for sheer carnage. the director was clearly echoing TAXI DRIVER and ROLLING THUNDER.

    in the UK, the film is notorious because Margaret Thatcher’s government proclaimed it one of the so-called “Video Nasties.” that is, it was banned from official possession by any video store or person who collected such movies. no joke! raids were conducted in video stores all across England during this era. if shop owners were found in possession of any of the banned Video Nasties? they faced bankrupting fines, jail time and in some cases, both verdicts. it was a very 1984 Orwellian time in the 1980’s under Thatcher for the arts; i won’t brag about USA today, however, as we’re dangerously close in self-censorship here now, too.

    the film features one sequence the Brits evidently found too disturbing to be viewed by a free republic of people: a motorcyclist stops on a rural country road to relieve himself. two seconds later, a bigfoot claw reaches unceremoniously out from the brushes and grabs the poor lad by his ‘privates,’ whereupon he is ‘beheaded’ (so to speak) in shocking, graphic daylight, complete with close-ups designed to offend even Herschel Gordon Lewis.

    i’m not defending it as great art, but it is clearly meant to be Grand Guignol in tone. it’s so ludicrously shot and over-the-top that if you don’t at least giggle at this inane attempt at childish humor, you probably should have never rented nor bought a copy of a movie entitled NIGHT OF THE DEMON to begin with! i mean, what were you expecting? Shakespeare? Sasquatchspeare? 😉

    though hard to find, NIGHT OF THE DEMON is available from several cult distributors, among them BijouFlix (which, in full disclosure, is a cult film company i own). i recommend it to fans of bigfoot attack sub-genre who have a STRONG stomach for onscreen violence; otherwise, definitely pass on it, as it will upset you.

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