Movie Review – The Night of the Hunter

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MGM, 1955

Wow.  No time for exposition, let’s just get into it.  I just finished watching The Night of the Hunter, starring Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters, and directed by Charles Laughton.  Although not well known and not well received upon it’s first release, it has been hailed by nearly every critic as one of the pinnacles of American cinema.  A character study that defied genres during it’s time, it has not come to be considered as a weird film noir-type thing.  Don’t worry, it’s awesome.  Well, actually…. you know what, let’s just get started.

The Night of the Hunter follows Harry Powell, a fanatic self-proclaimed priest who seduces a widow in order to track down the $10,000 that her late husband, his former cellmate, hid before he was captured by the police.  The children of the widow know the location of the money, and were forced by their real father to never reveal the truth.  The story grows darker as Powell’s beliefs spread through the town as a result of his charisma, while his desperation threatens to reveal his true intentions.

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MGM, 1955

Okay, so I’ll just set the record straight.  I think that this movie was carried on the back of Robert Mitchum.  Sure, the content was alright.  However, the characters were the real work of art, and everything revolves around the pursuer Powell.  Like a Hitchcock villain, the inability to see Powell at certain points in the film while knowing for certain that he is behind a corner watching you is what drives the suspense up the wall.  Mitchum uses his gravitas, his smooth features and his smooth talking to creep into the lives of the Depression-era town, and takes advantage of their insecurities by offering them the word of his god.  It’s just… so damn good, simply because he’s so damn bad.  I’ve really only seen Mitchum in Westerns, so this was a welcome, if not chilling, surprise.

Of course, we can’t forget the other actors.  Peter Graves is just randomly the father, the man who stole the $10,000 in the first place, hides it in his home and tells his children to keep the location a secret, before getting taken away by the police.  Yeah, Peter Graves.  Colin Mochrie, would you do the honors?

Thank you Mr. Mochrie.  Thank you.

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MGM, 1955

Yeah, Shelley Winters is also pretty decent, although she certainly seemed completely pointless at the beginning.  But maybe that was the point.  As Powell began worming his way into her mind, she changed and the transformation is both unsettling and reassuring.  A very strange combo indeed.

Lastly, there are the kids, John and Pearl.  Mmmm, not important.

Yup, that’s pretty much it.  A very strange movie, but most certainly worth the watch.  Check it out folks, it’s a winner.  Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great day!

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