The Night of the Hunter
Director: Charles Laughton Run Time: 92 min. Format: DCP Rating: NR Release Year: 1955
Starring: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce, Peter Graves
An initially overlooked film that’s now considered a classic, The Night of the Hunter is a tightly composed tale of “good versus evil” told through innocent farm kids and the sociopath preacher who is stalking them.
Bringing Davis Grubb’s novel to the big screen, actor Charles Laughton made his only directorial feature with The Night of the Hunter. All shadows and light, the film is a beautiful juxtaposition of love and hate, quiet moment with bursts of violence, and at its most fundamental, a representation of the struggle between good and evil. And evil enters into the world of a desperate family in the form of the religious fanatic with sociopathic tendencies Harry Powell (played to eery perfection by Robert Mitchum). A serial murderer who marries for money and then kills his brides, he marries a gullible widow (Shelley Winters) for the $10,000 her deceased husband stole. His plan gets complicated when neither of her two children will disclose the whereabouts of the fortune, they head up river to escape the preacher…but he’s always close behind.
The Night of the Hunter is haunting mixture of stark realism and German Expressionism that’s both inspiring and horrifying. Walter Schumman’s score and the cinematography of Stanley Cortez and fundamental to the feel of the film, which is one of a poetic struggle.