March 25, 2008

Night of the Demon Remembered


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.

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