It’s been six decades since director Jacques Tourneur unleashed his snarling, nocturnal demon on terrified audiences. His occult classic Night of the Demon (1957) – once included on Martin Scorsese’s list of the scariest horror movies of all time – takes place in 1950s London, Salisbury and Hertfordshire, where a rational-minded American, Dr John Holden (Dana Andrews), investigates the mysterious actions of the not-so-rational-minded Dr Julian Karswell, a devil-worshiper with supernatural powers. Demons and devils aside, Tourneur’s county-hopping film makes excellent use of its English locations. Surprisingly, some 60 years later, many of them remain unchanged. Then again, others will have you rubbing your eyes in disbelief. Let’s take a closer look.
The curtain opens and everyone’s favourite prehistoric monument appears over the credits – and again, toward the end of the film, when Dr Holden is slowly coming round to the idea that the paranormal might exist. Holden walks between the stones, dwarfed by their epicness. The site itself, in Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, is roughly 5,000 years old and originally thought to be a burial ground. Aside from a bit of erosion here and there, it’s almost identical to what you see on screen. It’s appeared in many movies, though most used replicas of the site. Not so with Night of the Demon. Other movies shot at the actual location include: Thor: The Dark World (2013), Chronos (1985), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (2008) and the Doctor Who episode ‘The Pandorica Opens’ (2010).
Brocket Hall, Hertfordshire
120 miles from Stonehenge is Brocket Hall, home to Dr Julian Karswell, the hoity-toity man with supernatural powers. The stately mansion is where Karswell casts a spell and conjures up a whirlwind to convince the skeptical Holden. In the film the house is supposed to be in Warwickshire, but in reality it’s in Lemsford, near Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire. You first glimpse it from Paine Bridge, over the River Lea. Its riverbank looked a little bushier back then. The only real difference now is the sharper landscape design. To visit the hall today you will need a fat wad of cash. Its website boasts “exceptional golf” and “afternoon tea”. You can rent it for corporate events, weddings and general posh private parties.
The British Museum
“You’ll find the library right through, sir,” says Holden’s cabbie, in the poshest cabbie voice you’ve ever heard. Holden enters the British Museum via Great Russell Street, in the Bloomsbury area of central London. Then the film cuts to the museum’s famous reading room, where Karl Marx wrote Das Kapital. Sixty years later, the books have long since been moved out to the British Library’s new site on the Euston Road, but the museum’s exterior looks very much the same. The most marked change in the 264 years that the building has been standing there is the people. Where you would once see a man in a sharp hat and a Bogart-style trench coat, you will now see selfie-stick-wielding tourists in Union Jack T-shirts.
Holden’s jaw drops when he lays eyes on Karswell’s mansion, but Holden himself is clearly a wealthy man. How else could he afford to stay in one of London’s priciest hotels? He rolls up to The Savoy, a five-star luxury hotel with rooms available for upwards of £500 a night, as if it’s no big deal. A porter ushers him from a car and we see the entrance, the hotel’s name glowing in a stylish Art Deco font. The entrance faces the Thames, on the Embankment. Built in the 1880s, the hotel has had multiple refurbishments over the years, one of which saw a huge canopy erected over the Embankment entrance. Alas, that stylish Art Deco font is no more. You might also be interested to know that the hotel was the first in the world to have electric lifts.
‘Clayham Junction’ station
‘Clayham Junction’ sounds a lot like Clapham Junction, doesn’t it? But don’t be fooled, this is actually Watford Junction, the station that leads up to the last location in the movie (more on that in a second). This is the station where Dr Holden catches up with Karswell and boards the same train. Looking at the same station today, your eyes might pop out of their sockets. It looks nothing like it did. But an old photo online confirms that this is indeed the same Watford Junction, albeit with a stark brutalist makeover.
‘Lexton Wood’ station
The film’s dramatic climax takes place at Lexton Wood station. Only, that’s another fake name. The station you see in the film is called Bricket Wood, and it’s in Hertfordshire, on the line between Watford Junction and St Albans Abbey. This is where you glimpse, for the last time, the bloodthirsty demon as it bursts forth from a plume of smoke. Apparently the station used to have a second platform and line, but they were removed in 1966. The station is actually quite small now. The only mystery remaining here is: why do so many movies change the name of stations?