Dr. John Holden ventures to London to attend a paranormal psychology symposium with the intention to expose devil cult leader, Julian Karswell.
Holden is a skeptic and does not believe in Karswell's power. Nonetheless, he accepts an invitation to stay at Karswell's estate, along with Joanna Harrington, niece of Holden's confidant who was electrocuted in a bizarre automobile accident. Karswell secretly slips a parchment into Holden's papers that might possibly be a death curse.
Recurring strange events finally strike fear into Holden, who believes that his only hope is to pass the parchment back to Karswell to break the demonic curse.
Dana Andrews ... Dr. John Holden
Peggy Cummins ... Joanna Harrington
Niall MacGinnis ... Dr. Julian Karswell
Maurice Denham ... Professor Henry Harrington
Athene Seyler ... Mrs. Karswell
Liam Redmond ... Professor Mark O'Brien
Reginald Beckwith ... Mr. Meek
Anyone who sees this film for the first time really needs to remember when it was made and what there was to compare it with at the time. In 1957 this film was a pioneering work. The subject matter hasn't been effectively dealt with since - despite the mammoth budgets available to today's film makers.
The film's success is in it's simplicity. Scientists try to expose a Devil Cult for being fraudsters. They profess their innocence and are told to do their worse - which is exactly what they do.
Director Jacques Tourner makes up for an obviously tiny budget by weaving an extremely disturbing atmosphere throughout the film's pivotal moments. Those dissenters who carp on endlessly about whether or not the demon should have been included are arguing about the wrong issue, which is whether or not Tourner managed to effectively scare his target audience with an essentially psychological beast from the depths of Hell. He easily achieved this without showing the actual demon, but it should however be noted that the very last shot of the demon where it is shown for the only time in profile tearing poor Karswell to bits, is the only representation of a devil that I have ever seen that sticks rigidly to the earliest known wood cuts of demons. All you oculists out there - check out your old books, this film might be more of the real deal than you give it credit for. Remember that in 1957, the British public were still reeling from the witchcraft murders of Lower Quinton and Hagley Wood (do your homework on these murders!)
I honestly believe that this film addresses the subject of Black Magic in a far more sinister fashion than I have seen since. It is the 'Thinking Man's' Exorcist ... Watch it with an open mind !!!
* This is the movie that the line "It's in the trees! It's coming!" was sampled from for the opening of Kate Bush song "The Hounds of Love".
* This film was mentioned in the opening song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) ("Science Fiction Double Feature"): "'Dana Andrews' said prunes gave him the runes, but passing them used lots of skill".
* 'Dana Andrews' was so impressed with director Jacques Tourneur that when he returned to the United States he had Tourneur direct his next film, The Fearmakers (1958).
* In interviews regarding this film, 'Dana Andrews' credits the story to Oliver Onions. The story is actually based on "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James.
* Beginning in the 1980s, Columbia Pictures replaced their edited 83-minute U.S. version with the uncut original 95-minute version while retaining the U.S. title "Curse of the Demon." The various video releases, and pay-tv showings, have used this restored version. A DVD release contained both versions.
* Jacques Tourneur originally planned to shoot the movie without directly showing the monster, but the studio pressured him to add it for commercial reasons towards the end of filming.
* Joanna Harrington's license plate includes the numbers "666", the traditional "Mark of the Beast."