Monday, April 16, 2012

Movie of the Week – The Night of the Hunter

This week’s movie is The Night of the Hunter (1955).

The thriller is about John Harper, a young boy who, after his father steals $10,000 and hides it, swears to his father to never divulge the money’s hidden location as his father is being taken off to prison to be executed (for killing two guards in the robbery). However, a twisted religious man, Harry Powell, learns of the money in prison and shows up at the Harper home to prey on John’s gullible widowed mother and sister in search of the money. It is directed by actor Charles Laughton, who was so crushed by the film’s initial reviews and box office (being a critical and commercial failure) that he never directed another film. It also features music composed by Walter Schumann, which is wonderful matching the tone of the film (here is a clip). Cinematographer Stanley Cortez shot the film to look like a film-noir, utilizing lots of shadows – it is magnificent photography (it is well worth seeing the film just for Cortez’s work). Hilyard Brown’s art direction is great as well – the film almost seems like a fairytale (though a nightmarish one) and has tons of visual symbolism. It stars Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell – his performance produces one of the great villains in cinema history (he is just so unnerving). Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Peter Graves, Billy Chapin, and Sally Jane Bruce make up the rest of the main players. The Night of the Hunter is an odd, highly stylized film (that is really nothing like most of the films of the 1950s). Everything feels a bit off, even cartoonish at times, as if done through the perspective of a child. But, the result is a visual and emotional work of art that is dark, scary and full of suspense. It is a must for those that enjoy great villain performances, photography and dark tones. Check out the trailer.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Streaming

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