In the entire history of American movies, The Night of the Hunter stands out as the rarest and most exotic of specimens. It is, to say the least, a masterpiece--and not just because it was the only movie directed by flambo... more »yant actor Charles Laughton or the only produced solo screenplay by the legendary critic James Agee (who also cowrote The African Queen). The truth is, nobody has ever made anything approaching its phantasmagoric, overheated style in which German expressionism, religious hysteria, fairy-tale fantasy (of the Grimm-est variety), and stalker movie are brought together in a furious boil. Like a nightmarish premonition of stalker movies to come, Night of the Hunter tells the suspenseful tale of a demented preacher (Robert Mitchum, in a performance that prefigures his memorable villain in Cape Fear), who torments a boy and his little sister--even marries their mixed-up mother (Shelley Winters)--because he's certain the kids know where their late bank-robber father hid a stash of stolen money. So dramatic, primal, and unforgettable are its images--the preacher's shadow looming over the children in their bedroom, the magical boat ride down a river whose banks teem with fantastic wildlife, those tattoos of LOVE and HATE on the unholy man's knuckles, the golden locks of a drowned woman waving in the current along with the indigenous plant life in her watery grave--that they're still haunting audiences (and filmmakers) today. --Jim Emerson« less
Janie B. (Friskie) from STUART, FL Reviewed on 1/20/2016...
Excellent cinematography! Great use of light. I appreciated the film even more after reading some of the "behind the scenes" trivia! A true classic.
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A dark journey on the river of dreams...
Wing J. Flanagan | Orlando, Florida United States | 09/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There are images in Night of the Hunter, Charles Laughton's only film as a director, that will sear themselves into your brain and haunt you the rest of your life. That's not hyperbole; this film is simply that potent.Nothing about Night of the Hunter is "realistic" or even plausible - not the plot, not the dialogue, not the behavior of the child characters, not the photography. Yet, Night of the Hunter transcends realism utterly to do something far more challenging than merely create a simulacrum of reality. It creates a waking dream - a vivid hallucination of fearsome beasts, tragic heroines, children in peril, and ultimate redemption. It succeeds as a modern fairy tale in the darkest tradition of the brothers Grimm. Even comparisons to German expressionist cinema of the silent era (apt though they are) diminish the singular, elemental power of this film. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and Nosferatu are stunning, but it's hard to imagine either of them getting under the skin in quite the same way. The plot centers on the evil machinations of Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), a murderous, psychotic "preacher" who does time with bank-robber Ben Harper (Peter Graves), father of two young children (Billy Chapin - brother of Father Knows Best star Lauren, and Sally Jane Bruce). Before being taken away by the police, Harper hid the money he stole and swore his children to secrecy about its location. No one else - not even their mother Willa (wonderfully played by Shelley Winters) - knows where the money is hidden. But after Ben Harper is hanged for the murder of two bank guards killed during the robbery, Harry Powell makes it his business to find out. Thus begins a cinematic odyssey like no other, filled with stark symbolism and eerie imagery.Perhaps the most unsettling image is the celebrated shot of Willa's corpse in the river, strapped into a car, her hair billowing out in the water like the aquatic plants that surround her. It is one of the strongest images in all cinema - comparable to the baby carriage racing down the Odessa steps in Battleship Potemkin, or the eyeglasses landing on the snow-covered battlefield of Dr. Zhivago. The central sequence is a boat journey that the children take down-river in an attempt to escape the evil preacher. Though obviously filmed on a sound stage and filled with incongruous and frankly theatrical moments, the overall effect is nearly overwhelming in the way it evokes childhood fears of abandonment and pursuit. Every time I see it, I fall completely under its spell. Stanley Cortez's breathtaking black-and-white cinematography is complemented by Walter Schumann's atmospheric score. There is a moment during the river journey when Pearl (the little girl) begins singing a children's lullaby. The orchestra swells and turns the song into a dreamy, meditative piece of night music - filled with dread, sadness, and awe. It's not at all realistic, but if that scene doesn't give you chills, then you're just made of stone.It is fitting that Lillian Gish plays the children's savior, the elderly Mrs. Cooper - a righteous woman with a steely constitution. Gish was there for the birth of cinema itself. Her presence in Night of the Hunter is like seal of approval, a testimony to this film's enduring status as a classic. My only reservation with this otherwise superb DVD is the warning at the beginning that "This film has been modified from its original version. It has been formatted to fit your TV". Either that's flatly untrue (as Night of the Hunter looks perfectly at home in 4:3), or MGM has cheated us by not giving a true American classic its due."
"Wherefore By Their Fruits, Ye Shall Know Them..."
Sheila Chilcote-Collins | Collinswood, Van Wert, OH USA | 06/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"From the novel by Davis Grubb - the first and only film directed and purportedly written by the flamboyant and swashbucking actor, Charles Laughton. In Robert Mitchum's biography, he stated that Laughton found the script by James Agee (co-writer of the African Queen) totally unacceptable. Laughton paid off Agee, sent him packing and rewrote virtually the entire script himself, uncredited.This 1955 melodrama cum Grimm's Fairy Tale is brilliantly directed, acted, scored and the cinematography by Stanley Cortez is breathtakingly creepy and beautiful all at the same time.Mitchum plays the sexually repressed, thieving, lying, cheating and quite sociopathic Rev. Harry Powell. The ol' Rev. got caught in a stolen vehicle while watching a "hootchie cootchie" dancer in a burlesque establishment and is sentenced to 30 days in the state penitentiary. It just so happens as fate takes a turn that the scheming Rev's bunkmate is in the clink for killing two men and robbing a bank of over $10,000.00 that has never been recovered. The Rev. tries to get the "sinner" to tell him where the money is hidden but the man won't budge. The man is hanged for his crime, the Rev. is let out of jail and goes to find the man's wife, played by Shelley Winters, his two young children and , of course, the loot! The Rev. even marries the young widow to get to the money and many evils ensue... Lillian Gish turns in a wonderful performance as a benefactor of the children. I don't want to spoil the premise of the movie as other reviewers have done. Just know that it's a horror/fairytale/melodrama/satire all rolled into a great piece of filmaking! If you liked Mitchum in "Cape Fear" you will love him as the sociopathic Rev. Powell!Happy Watching!"
A gothic film-noir classic....
email@example.com | Denmark | 04/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Charles Laughton unfortunately only directed one film, but what a brilliant one it turned out to be! A gothic film-noir classic infused with a wicked sense of understated black humor.The storyline is quite simple; centered around the quest for the loot of a bank-robbery gone wrong, but the real high-point of this film is Robert Mitchum.Mitchum's portrayal of a sexually frustrated, sadistic, murderous conman, that tries to uncover the whereabouts of 10.000 $ by presenting himself as a god-fearing preacher-man, is one of the most sinister and menacing displays of criminally insane, psychopatic behaviour ever captured on film.Laughton's direction and Stanley Cortez's cinematography, especially in the underwater, where the dead body of Shelly Winters is found strapped to her car, and in the nightmare-ish, dream-like sequense, where Mitchum stalks the river-bound children, creates scenes that has forever etched themselves in my "movie-memory".Laughton's directing-style seem influenced by german expressionists as Fritz Lang or Walter Ruttmann with his highly stylized use of film-techniques to underline Mitchum's darkened mental state and the general disturbed "feel" of this truly frightening film."
Mediathrill version of Night of the Hunter
R. Tihista | 07/26/2006
(1 out of 5 stars)
"I purchased "Night of the Hunter" from MediaThrill, a website selling films on Amazon. I have seen this film five or six times since 1962. WARNING: the copy I got from MediaThrill has been altered and cut. It is NOT the original "Night of the Hunter." Buyer BEWARE. MediaThrill will not give me a refund or credit. How is anyone supposed to know if what you are buying is the original. If I hadn't seen "Night of the Hunter" so many times I might have forgotten the scenes that were cut, and they were significant. Someone who has never seen the film wouldn't know. Buyer Beware"