BEATING THE DEVIL:
THE MAKING OF NIGHT OF THE DEMON
by Tony Earnshaw
Foreword by Alex Cox
Introduction by Sir Christopher Frayling
National Museum of Photography, Film & Television /
Tomahawk Press, October 2005
ISBN: 0-9531926-1-X (paperback)
This inter-review was first published in All Hallows #42, October 2006
© Brian J. Showers 2006
I REMEMBER THE FIRST time I saw Jacques Tourneur's 1957 film Night of the Demon (or Curse of the Demon as it's known in the United States). I was absolutely taken with it: from Professor Harrington's panicked flight down a dark, wooded road from an unseen pursuer to the smoke-obscured railway station and Karswell's final demise at the hands of . . . a man in a rubber monster suit. A real Jamesian ghost story if ever there was one! Ok, so maybe the film is a bit flawed-though not all will agree with my assessment-but it is perhaps this very debate that has transformed Night of the Demon into the cult classic that it is today. Tony Earnshaw's recent book, Beating the Devil, is a long overdue look at the making of one of horror's most reverently debated films; a film on which surprisingly little else has been written.
Earnshaw: 'There were a couple of lengthy magazine articles-one in the 1970s, another in the late 1980s-that looked at the film in some detail but nothing really meaty. I suspect this was because so many of the main players-[director] Jacques Tourneur, [star] Dana Andrews, and [co-star] Niall MacGinnis-were dead, thus making one-on-one interviews and research impossible. Plus NOTD was, in reality, an English film rather than an American one, so I suppose Stateside writers may have been put off by the prospect of coming to the UK and opening up a "cold case".'
The book starts with an evaluative foreword by Alex Cox, and an appreciative introduction by Sir Christopher Frayling, both excellent in commenting on M.R. James's original story, 'Casting the Runes', and summing up the film's background. The book continues with a list of NOTD's vital statistics: cast, crew, international titles, and the run times of the various versions, in short, the back of a baseball card: a list of facts. I found this to be a useful way to start such a book. The making of NOTD is as dramatic a story as the film itself, and so I frequently found myself referring to the cast of characters concerned with the film's creation. This cataloguing of raw information sets the tone for Beating the Devil. More...
For more information on Beating the Devil and Tony Earnshaw, please see his website at: www.tonyearnshaw.com
Brian J. Showers lives in Dublin, Ireland, down the road a short way from Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. His book Literary Walking Tours of Gothic Dublin was published in October 2006 by Nonsuch Ireland.
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