The Night of the Hunter

 

(1955)


Distributor : United Artists 
Director : Charles Laughton
Writing credits : James Agee, Charles Laughton
Producer : Paul Gregory

Cast :

Robert Mitchum ......... Harry Powell
Shelley Winters ......... Willa Harper
Lillian Gish ......... Rachel
Evelyn Varden ......... Icey
Peter Graves * ......... Ben Harper
Billy Chapin ......... John
Sally Jane Bruce ......... Pearl
James Gleason ......... Birdie
Don Beddoe ......... Walt
Gloria Castillo ......... Ruby
etc...

  * Peter Graves played Jim Phelps in TV serie Mission: Impossible 

This was the first and only directorial outing from actor Charles Laughton, best known for classic acting roles like Dr Moreau in The Island of Lost Souls (1932), Captain Bligh in the Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) and Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Quite criminally this film was a failure in its time, and Laughton resultingly returned to acting, never to direct again. It is a genuine tragedy that this happened and that the film was so ignored, for it has an import to the thriller/horror genre that is not incomparable to the stylistic shadow that Orson Welles cast on cinema in general when he made Citizen Kane.

Everybody knows the Mitchum character, the sinister "Reverend'' Harry Powell. Even those who haven't seen the movie have heard about the knuckles of his two hands, and how the left one has the letters H-A-T-E tattooed on them, and the right one the letters L-O-V-E

During the Depression, Ben Harper steals $10,000 from a bank to try and help his family but is forced to shoot two men in order to get away. Before he is arrested, he tells his two young children, John and Pearl, the hiding place of the money. In jail he shares a cell with hellfire preacher Harry Powell who becomes intrigued when he hears Ben talking about the money in his sleep. However Ben does not tell its hiding place before he is hung. And so Harry heads to Ben's hometown and befriends then marries Ben's widow in order to try and get the money. Young John realizes that Harry is lying but all the adults are swayed by Harry's hellfire preaching and nobody will believe him. And when Harry kills their mother, John and Pearl are forced to embark alone on a frightening danger-laden journey in search of safety.

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