Three Films that Remind Us: Don’t Mess with the Devil!

If I’ve learned anything from horror movies, it is this: Don’t mess with the devil.

Sure, he’ll promise all kinds of things, but ultimately he doesn’t care if you’re screwed… and he has eternity to wait for it. Keep your soul. Eventually, you’ll need it.

Here are three films that hammer that point home.

Curse of the Demon (Spanish Blu-ray)

Smart and well acted for a ’50s horror yarn, Curse of the Demon (aka Night of the Demon) (1957) follows an American psychologist investigating the death of a colleague, possibly due to a demonic curse. Actor Dana Andrews, though in many ways a typical ’50s male movie hero, portrays the skeptic believably, making his fall even more interesting, as science collides with sorcery.

The idea for the film came from a 1911 M.R. James short story, “Casting the Runes.” A curse is physically passed along to the victim. Frightening, when you think about it — those who are cursed first have to figure out they are and how it happened.

Sure, the devil in this movie is 1957 awful, but note how distance and lighting helps immensely. (I can be quite forgiving of movies shot prior to Lucasfilm’s Industrial Light and Magic.)

There’s an excellent soundtrack by Clifton Parker. For the best cut, look for the original UK version. Director Jacques Tourneur uses just enough atmospheric lighting, long hallways, and storms to set the proper mood.

The Death Wheelers (also called Psychomania) (1973) is a gem from the age of B-movie and gives us motorcycling teens. English bikers The Living Dead kill themselves on the thinnest of promises to return from the dead. But why not? They’re groovy.

The high-speed bike and car stunts are well filmed for this age before Mad Max (1979) set a higher standard. Death Wheelers doesn’t live up to its premise as a horror movie, though — picture “the biker dead” and you’re way off — and there is no payoff on some cool concepts like living dead bikers, the witches, or the missing father. However, I was entertained by the unexpected turns, the humor, and the period style.

As bad B-movies go, Death Wheelers isn’t too bad a trip. It’s directed by Don Sharp (Kiss of the Vampire, Rasputin: The Mad Monk). Oscar winner George Sanders (All About Eve, the voice of Shere Khan in The Jungle Book cartoon) shines as the devil in this last movie role before his suicide.

It’s a pleasure to discover an early ’60s B-movie with competent acting, like The Devil’s Partner (1961). Jean Allison, Richard Crane, and others here, including Edgar Buchanan (Uncle Joe on “Petticoat Junction” and “Green Acres”), had long careers in movies and TV, and they ply their craft well.

Black magic works its way into the lives of people in a rural community when a handsome stranger comes to town.

This movie is far from perfect. Every inside room appears to have 20- to 30-foot ceilings. Don’t expect fast-paced action. In typical Eisenhower era fashion, the evil works its way into everyone’s lives subtly, like those damn Communists.

It’s hard to build mood when most everything takes place in full sunlight. Director Charles R. Rondeau knows, though, that when things go dark, the mood gets sinister. Plus, everyone loves hearing a theremin! Thanks, Ronald Stein, composer for over 80 movies, most of them horror.

There is no attempt at major special effects, monster makeup, or gore. I appreciate the simplicity of The Devil’s Partner, but I understand simple is not for everyone.

So, if Satan saunters up and offers to curse someone for you, grant you eternal life, or the power of transmutation, just smile, say “No thank you,” and run fast and far!

Gary Scott Beatty’s graphic novel Wounds is available on Amazon and Comixology. Is madness a way to survive the zombie apocalypse? The strangest zombie story ever written, Wounds throws us into a world where nothing is beyond doubt, except a father’s concern for his wife and daughter. If you enjoy that “What th-?” factor in graphic novels, you’ll enjoy Wounds. For more from Gary Scott Beatty, visit him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Gary Scott Beatty

"Wounds," the strangest zombie graphic novel you'll ever read, “Jazz: Midnight,” a collection of short stories with art inspired by ‘50s album cover design, and "Worlds," the first Gary Scott Beatty retrospective, are now on Amazon and Kindle, published by indie legend Caliber Comics. Gary’s comic "Number One," with "Adventures of Aaron" artist Aaron Warner, was one of the best indie comics of 2014 (Shawn Perry, Bleeding Cool News). Through his Indie Comics publication, Gary presents promising newcomers and veteran independent creators, introducing them to a wider audience through worldwide distribution. Gary produces a Publishing Comics video blog on YouTube. He colors and letters for many publishers and, locally, produces a full color, monthly entertainment magazine. The list here is but a small sampling of the projects he has prepared for print over his 35 year career in printing and publishing. And -- Strange Horror is here!

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