BFI Monster Weekend at the British Museum


curtain-raiser for


BFI’s autumn blockbuster

BFI is gearing up for its UK-wide Autumn blockbuster project GOTHIC: THE DARK HEART OF FILM with three nights of spectacular open air screenings at the British Museum featuring three classic 1950’s horror films: Night of the Demon, introduced by its star Peggy Cummins, Dracula and The Mummy – both starring Sir Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. These events will prepare the way for the terrors to come in the BFI’s next major season Gothic, launching in the autumn and prior to a major unveiling of the entire project on Thursday 27th June.

Heather Stewart, BFI Creative Director said, “The British have a genius for creating nightmares and we are very excited to be launching GOTHIC: THE DARK HEART OF FILM with a spectacular collaboration with the British Museum. Few things are more delicious than the frisson of terror which so many great film-makers can give. For the Twilight and Harry Potter generation we promise Gothic will be a revelation.


Scene of last year’s acclaimed open air screening of Hitchcock’s Blackmaila highlight of the London 2012 Festival, the BFI returns to the British

Museum for an unparalleled weekend of outdoor screenings of classic British horrors in its spectacular forecourt, complete with themed food and drink and a guarantee of warm-blooded entertainment which promises an invigorating summer chill like no other. The British Museum has inspired many films based on the premise of secret knowledge and terrifying ancient lore contained within its collections, including a world class collection of Ancient Egyptian artefacts. Whilst writing the novel Dracula, Bram Stoker is known to have been a researcher at the British Museum Library, which was the setting for key scenes in Night of the Demon.

Three major monster films screen on successive nights:

Night of the Demon dir. Jacques Tourneur, UK/USA, 1957, 95 min on Thursday 29th August 


With Dana Andrews, Peggy Cummins, Niall MacGinnis

Sceptical American psychologist Holden (Andrews) must reconsider his beliefs when genial occultist and children’s entertainer Karswell (MacGinnis) passes him a cursed parchment at the British Museum and informs him that he will die within four days. Aided by perceptive Joanna Harrington (Cummins), Holden races to escape his destiny. Adapted from M.R. James’ Casting the Runes by Hitchcock collaborator Charles Bennett, the film was atmospherically directed by the legendary Jacques Tourneur, who’d built his reputation with an exceptional string of Val Lewton-produced horrors, including Cat People. Yet Night of the Demon – gripping, intelligent, eerily entertaining, and chillingly plausible in its depiction of witchcraft – still might be the finest of Tourneur’s works.

The film has been digitally remastered in high definition by the BFI National Archive from 35mm negatives, and screens here in a version considerably longer than the original British release.

Doors open 6.30pm. Film programme 8pm. Tickets £15.

Dracula dir. Terence Fisher, UK/USA, 1958, 82 min on Friday 30th August


With Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Melissa Stribling

Maligned and misunderstood by critics on first release, Hammer’s bloodily beautiful reworking of Dracula has grown in reputation over the decades and is widely regarded as the definitive film adaptation of Stoker’s novel. Wonderfully cast, with Lee icily magnetic as the centuries-old vampire and Cushing a resolutely upstanding Van Helsing, it was evocatively directed by Gothic-auteur Terence Fisher; and here the viscerally erotic allure of the Count and his shadowy realm was captured – in full colour – as never before. The titanic climatic confrontation between Cushing and Lee, though much imitated, remains unsurpassed.

Restored by the BFI National Archive in 2007, the film screens here in a new digitally remastered version with further footage thanks to additional restoration by Hammer, Icon and Lionsgate including newly rediscovered footage which was originally banned by the British Board of Film Classification in 1958.

Doors open 6.30pm. Film programme 8pm. Tickets £15

The Mummy dir. Terence Fisher, UK/USA, 1959, 88 min on Saturday 31st August


With Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Yvonne Furneaux, Felix Aylmer

The success of Dracula saw Lee and Cushing – by now referred to by one newspaper as “The Horror Boys” – teamed again in Hammer’s Universal-sanctioned refresh of the Mummy mythos. But whereas Karloff had quickly relinquished his bandages, Lee – as reanimated Ancient Egyptian Kharis – retains his. Devoid of dialogue, his chillingly expressive eyes tell a tale of torment, as he wreaks violent vengeance on those who desecrated the resting place of his long lost love (Furneaux). Director Fisher expertly piles on atmosphere and excitement, as supernaturally strong Kharis erupts nightmarishly from shadowy swamp to violate the well-ordered world of enfeebled archaeologist Banning, impeccably portrayed by Cushing.

The films screens here in a digitally remastered version.

Doors open 6.30pm. Film programme 8pm. Tickets £15

GOTHIC: THE DARK HEART OF FILM will run from August 2013 – January 2014 with a UK-wide programme of special screenings, events and more. Invitations to the press launch at BFI Southbank on 27th June will be issued shortly. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.