Night of the Demon Blu-ray Review
Jacques Tourneur's horror classic comes to high def for the first time
I can see IT
Night of the Demon is a 1957 horror film from auteur Jacques Tourneur and is one of the most involving, thought provoking and downright terrifying pictures ever made.And all this from a tortured production that saw huge studio interference and a completion of the film without the consent or involvement of the director! The story is about the haunting of a psychic investigator drawn into the affairs of a cult believed to have ‘actual powers’ and have resorted to murder to get their way. Star of the piece is Dana Andrews, he plays John Holden the investigator brought in to expose the cult; but he didn’t reckon with Doctor Karswell, its leader, whose diabolical power and sheer menace is palpable.
Played with understated relish by character actor Niall MacGinnis, Karswell’s ambition knows no bounds; not only a believer in the Dark Arts, he also practices them and it is his Hexes that are the cause of so much consternation. We watch as Holden, a staunch sceptic, becomes ever more embroiled as his rational explanations to the events that occur to him become ever more unrealistic and eventually he comes to accept his fate – he will die in three days!
Night of the Demon as a true horror classic and still genuinely terrifying after all this time.
IT's in the shadows
The disc presents a theatrically correct 1.66:1 1080p transfer using the AVG MPEG-4 codec and is Region free (the box erroneously lists B).
For a film coming close to its sixtieth birthday, Night, certainly doesn’t look its age. Detail is excellent, especially close ups which demonstrate skin texture, clothing weaves and loose hair. For example check out the clown make-up or the rock surface texture of ‘Stonehenge’. Of course it can also be detrimental, the demon looks horribly plastic, and the wire used to tow the runic paper is now more visible than ever, but, to be fair, these were always issues. Background detail is very strong and holds edges extremely well, check out the blowing (or otherwise !!) trees during the wind storm.
Contrast and brightness, of paramount importance in a monochromatic picture, are set extremely well, giving, for the most part, a very strong grey scale. The picture seldom reached pitch black, always preferring a deepest grey, but it still adds some punch to the picture. The framing often uses deep focus and the picture shows some very decent three dimensionality (not quite the 3D pop that modern blockbusters demonstrate, but something close) which helps draw you into the picture. There are the occasional brightness fluctuation, most evident in the beginning night scenes, but the frame is always steady.
Contrast and brightness, very important in a monochromatic picture, are set extremely well
However there is a slight sheen to the picture that belies the deft hand of some digital tomfoolery; check out the high whites where grain is quite scarce; it’s not overly done by any means; there are no instances of smearing or waxing of detail, but it’s clear that there has been some clean up that has left a digital ‘fingerprint’ if you will. In fact if you get ‘nose to the screen’ you can even see the scan lines used to digitise the film print, and also at this distance the original print damage becomes quite apparent in the form of nicks, scratches and lines – but at normal viewing distances this is greatly reduced, to the point of being (almost) invisible. All this is not too detrimental though; the picture is bright, strong and remains detailed throughout – certainly the best I’ve ever seen it look. There are no compression artefacts or any edge enhancement, but the occasional jagged edge is visible. So, on the whole, considering its age, this is a very pleasing picture and scores a strong 6 out of 10.
I can hear IT
I, naturally, chose the English dts-HD MA 2.0 mono track, which plays without sub-titles, so hurrah for that! (To remove them, select the English track, play the film, access your players own menu and turn subtitles to off). The track is clean and free from any hiss, crackles and pops, even when turned up. But it is missing a little from the higher end of the fidelity range, speech therefore is slightly thicker sounding than natural and Clifton Parker’s wild score, whilst punchy at the low end, lacks the full range to be truly complete, indeed the opening chase even suffers a little from distortion. Bass is, obviously, limited, but enough to hold the track together well – nothing sounds shrill or tinny (the lack of the very high end no doubt helping here). Nothing is missed in the track and the information is delivered clearly and precisely; and for a film of this age and vintage I don’t think you can expect anything more.
The English dts-HD MA 2.0 mono track plays without sub-titles
Please No More144 Page Booklet – Written by Michael Henry Wilson it is chock full of movie stills, production and promotion as well as poster art and lobby cards, the book looks to be a truly great read on the production and effect of the film, its place in history and lasting legacy – unfortunately it’s all in French and I don’t read that, but boy do I wish I could!
Curse of the Demon – The 82 minute American cut of the film, but don’t waste your time here.
IT has me
Night of the Demon is a true horror classic; it grabs you from the first frame and drags you through the wringer in a terrifying ride that simply will not let up. You may come to the film a sceptic, like its main protagonist Dr John Holden, but like him you will be caught up in the mystery, unable to escape your destiny, the runes have been cast and your destiny is set – you will certainly die, unless you see the film! There is a clear inevitability to the film, director Jacques Tourneur is a master of light and shadow, eking the story out but at pace, relentlessly drawing you towards a terrifying conclusion that even now, nearly sixty years after its release still manages to be edge of the seat viewing. With a strong script, serious and dedicated performances from its cast and despite studio interference regarding the monster, Night of the Demon remains compelling viewing.
There is a clear inevitability to the film which draws you to its terrifying conclusion
Currently the only way to see the film in high definition is with this French disc, luckily it’s pretty decent. The picture is bright and clean, even with its slight digitised look, and the sound, whist not remarkable, is also clear and precise. Sadly the only real extra is the wonderful 144 page booklet, but you need to read French to get the most out of it. But despite this the film is well worth your time and investment. Highly recommended.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £31.00
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