Monday, October 24, 2005

Red enough!


by Paul Barrett

Night of the Demon – a classic film you may have missed.

IN 1911 M R James wrote a disturbing short story called The Casting of the Runes. In it the supernatural terrors that lurked on the periphery of the story’s events were never confirmed.

Yet in the 1957 horror film Night of the Demon, based on this story, there is no doubt that the horror is real. This little B film is one of the few of its kind that deserves to be remembered long after its first release, and remembered, respected and in many cases it is still loved.

And now the entire story of the film and those who made it is available in a book by Tony Earnshaw – Beating the Devil – printed by Tomahawk Press.

It is a fascinating insight into the story of the film, the cast and crew and is a highly informative easy read. It revealed that a Charles Bennett, who collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock on such films as Sabotage and The Man who Knew Too Much, wrote a highly literate script of the story under the working title of The Bewitched.

He was advised that any film version had no chance of the sought-after A certificate, with the censors likely to grant an X, even after swingeing cuts to the script and story. Then a chance meeting between Bennett and Hal C Chester, a small scale Hollywood producer and major hustler, resulted in a deal with Columbia Pictures to produce the film, with Chester’s name very prominent in the credits, while Bennett’s was not used.

Living in England at the time was black-listed writer/director Cy Enfield, who had been targeted by the fascist House of Un-American Activities Committee and had been considered a top Hollywood talent – though his inclination was to associate with the “brightest writers and directors”, ensuring that he was always prominent “at the Red table” in the studios’ cafeteria.

This of course sealed his professional doom in the “good old USA”. So Cy, whether a party member or not, was red enough to be driven from his country and astute enough to get out before the forces of reaction could jail him.

No doubt working well below scale, Enfield delivers a taut, tense and engrossing script. Incidentally he went on to great personal success, including the 1960s box office smash Zulu.

Night of the Demon, known in the US as Curse of the Demon, is a gripping little horror film that does so well what so few grossly over-budget films to today. It entertains, frightens and for the film’s duration almost convinces you that there really are ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night.

This enthralling little book is available online:
RRP £13.50.