Beating the Devil – The Making of Night of the Demon

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BEATING THE DEVIL – THE MAKING OF NIGHT OF THE DEMON (2005)

Tomahawk Press

Foreword by Alex Cox

Introduction by Professor Sir Christopher Frayling

A foreword by Alex Cox and an introduction from Sir Christopher Frayling speak volumes about the far-reaching cult status achieved by the subject of film critic and broadcaster Tony Earnshaw’s book Beating the Devil. What could have been just another hokey black and white B-movie called Night of the Demon (or Curse of the Demon in the US) has grown in reputation as a celebrated and revered entry in the horror canon, aided and abetted by the controversy and conflicting stories about its gestation

Directed almost 50 years ago by Jacques Tourneur – the auteur behind the classic Cat People – and starring Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins and Niall MacGinnis, the movie’s troublesome off-screen life is brought to life vividly through Tony Earnshaw’s assiduous researches into original material. The wider cast includes a brash American producer, a difficult director, a slighted script-writer, a blacklisted rewrite man and the behind the scenes special effects wizards who, given “a hospital job” (“everything had to be done on fourpence”), created the iconic and much disputed demon, later disowned by Tourneur.

Using interviews with the surviving cast and crew and previously unpublished archive material from the then British Board of Film Censors, Tony Earnshaw’s book tracks the film from the original M.R. James ghost story Casting the Runes through the various shooting scripts and alternative titles to the final theatrical release. Along the way there are anecdotes, analysis and fascinating insights into the state of British movie making the 1950s, as well as previously unpublished production designs by Sir Ken Adam, who went on to create the lasers and lairs that helped make the Bond films an international phenomenon. With a comprehensive location guide, bibliography and biographies of all the players in front of and behind the cameras it is the definitive book on what has been described as “The Casablanca of Horror Films”.

Reviews

Night of the Demon (or in America Curse of the Demon, as it is now more generally known) was Jacques Tourneur’s last great film. The demon that figures on all the posters for the film has become an iconic image to compete with Lugosi’s Dracula and Karloff’s Frankenstein monster. Nevertheless, its inclusion has always been the subject of controversy. Tony Earnshaw’s admirably researched book doesn’t quite settle the argument, but it’s an indispensable companion to the film. Nobody who cares about horror films can be indifferent to Tourneur or to this film, and nobody who cares about them can be without Tony Earnshaw’s book. It’s as near to definitive as we’re ever likely to see.” – RAMSEY CAMPBELL in Video Watchdog

“What film books should be all about. Extremely well written. Loaded with facts. I can’t recommend this highly enough.” – Little Shoppe of Horrors

“This superlative book … will influence the way Demon is written about from here on out – just what a making of book should do. Tells you everything you would ever want to know. Ace writer-researcher Tony Earnshaw keeps it all very accessible and highly entertaining.” – TOM WEAVER in Fangoria 

“Earnshaw’s book is absolutely crammed with rich and thought-provoking details. It is wonderfully researched, drawing on any number of interviews with players both major and minor; it is comprehensively illustrated; and it contains numerous appendices packed with all sorts of information. Anybody who has seen and enjoyed Night of the Demon simply can’t afford to be without it.” – STEVE DUFFY in Ghosts & Scholars Newsletter # 9

“… stimulating… an excellent case study of the mechanics of filmmaking … The scope and detail of the materials presented here have produced a splendid companion that assuredly encourages further appreciation of a strange and wonderful film.” – DEBORAH ALLISON, http://www.kamera.co.uk, read full review here

“… quite fantastic… Kudos to author Tony Earnshaw for his research and lifelong admiration for a great film. His scholarship is most commendable.” www.filmsinreview.comread full review here.

“… well-written and engaging…” – Headpress

“… a superb book which is pretty much the last word on the subject. Unreservedly recommended for anyone with an interest in classic British horror movies.” – M.J. SIMPSON (Author of Hitchhiker)

“… everything you want to know about the film… absolutely fabulous …” – Up All Night (Radio Five Live)

“A gorgeous book which delves right into the story of the production of one of the great iconic horror films. A must-have.” – The Unofficial Hammer Films Site

“…a long overdue look at the making of one of horror’s most reverently debated films…” – BRIAN J. SHOWERS in All Hallows

“…a long overdue autopsy…” – Total Film

“…revealing…it’s good to see this underrated film finally getting the attention it deserves.” – SFX magazine

“…an immaculate piece, all killer and no filler. Superb!” – The Horror Channel

“…well worth a read. Fans of the movie will devour it with interest.” – Turner Classic Movies

“Earnshaw has cleverly straddled both academia and a contextual genealogy to cut through the myths of the film’s turbulent production, offer salient answers, illuminating information and incisive analysis. If you are doing a PhD on British Horror this book would serve as an excellent introduction to Night of the Demon. If you are simply a fan, this book also does the job. Whatever your needs, this text satisfies your horrific lust.” – www.pixelsurgeon.com

Beating the Devil moves beyond the speculation that has informed most writing on this matter so far. The demonic controversy isn’t the entire point of Earnshaw’s book, but it is an overriding one and Earnshaw can claim to having settled as much as possible. Essential.” – Scarlet Street magazine

“After going through this excellent book, you’ll watch the film from a totally different viewpoint.” – Razor Reel

“A most interesting and entertaining book.” – Maureen Endfield, widow of uncredited scriptwriter Cy (Zulu) Endfield

An interesting overview of the film with the writer hitching her flag to the mast of the “anti” demon brigade. Read full essay HERE

Combined film and book review – Shadowlocked (Martin Anderson) Read full review HERE

New Heritage of Horror book cover

Night of the Demon, which is a highly effective black magic thriller packed with atmosphere, is now highly regarded as a horror classic. And we are very fortunate in that a whole book has been devoted to the making of it. Amid a wealth of fascinating detail, illustrations, interviews and stills, Tony Earnshaw’s excellent Beating the Devil proves categorically that many of the stories about the film are false, revealing among a multitude of other things that the special-effects demon was in the script from the first and therefore not a last-minute addition imposed on the director. In the last edition of Heritage I defended the effects against the innumerable critics like Carlos Clarens who have called them atrocious. But I suggested they might seem out of place in an adaptation of an M.R. James story. Now I am not sure they need any defence at all. Who would want the film without them? The whole controversy merely reflected the wish of the time, which was to elevate the director into an artist assailed by Philistines. That might have been a necessary strategy when cinema was being ignored as a serious art form, but it is no longer a useful or tenable position, and (though the film’s producer hardly emerges in a rosy light) Earnshaw’s superb book makes it very obvious the all-seeing director is too simplistic a view.” – DAVID PIRIE in A New Heritage of Horror – The English Gothic Cinema (I.B. Tauris, 2008) 

 

Beating the Devil was nominated as Best Book of 2005 in the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.

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2 Comments

2 thoughts on “Beating the Devil – The Making of Night of the Demon

  1. Mike King

    I have been trying to find a copy of your book Beating the Devil but have had no luck at a sensible price-could you please help me find a copy as Night of the Demon is my favorite film-Best Regards
    Mike King , Adelaide, South Australia

    • Hi Mike,

      I’m afraid it’s out of print and copies go for stupid prices. I do have one copy remaining but am loathe to sell it. However I am working on a new edition for Tomahawk Press so keep an eye on their website for updates.

      Tony

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