NIGHT OF THE HUNTER

(1955)
With Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish, Shelley Winters, Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce, Peter Graves
Directed by Charles Laughton
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

    With THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, Charles Laughton proved himself the greatest one-hit wonder in film history.  The actor's lone directing effort was a stunning and unique masterpiece that ranks with the best of Hitchcock and Welles in terms of visual inventiveness and dark thematic undertones.  A parable, a fairy tale, and a surreal horror story all in one, the film chronicles an episodic cross-country chase by the psychotic, murderous "Reverend" Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum in his greatest performance), who is in pursuit of two orphaned children who know the hidden location of their late father's $10,000 stash.  The great Lillian Gish is a pillar of integrity as the film's moral core, and Shelley Winters is appropriately innocent as Powell's tragic and psychologically abused wife.  Perhaps THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER's most impressive aspect is how everything is unified under Laughton's highly stylized approach: the acting is mannered, the visuals are darkly expressionistic, and everything rings emotionally true through all the artifice.  An amazing and unforgettable film without antecedent or descendant anywhere in American film history. 5 - JL

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