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  • The Night of the Hunter [1955] [VHS]
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The Night of the Hunter [1955] [VHS]

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Product details

  • Actors: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, James Gleason, Evelyn Varden
  • Directors: Charles Laughton
  • Format: PAL, Black & White, Full Screen
  • Language: English
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Classification: 12
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: 18 May 1998
  • Run Time: 89 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (114 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B00004CWC5
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 220,421 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

Product Description

Robert Mitchum stars in this thriller set in the 1930s in the rural American South. Psychopathic preacher Harry Powell is arrested for a minor offence in a small West Virginian town. His cell mate, Ben Harper (Peter Graves), who faces the death penalty, confides that he has hidden $10,000 from a bank robbery. When Powell is released Harper has already been hanged, so the preacher tracks down his widow and children in an attempt to get his hands on the loot.

From Amazon.co.uk

In the entire history of American movies, The Night of the Hunter stands out as the rarest and most exotic of specimens. It is, to say the least, a masterpiece--and not just because it was the only movie directed by flamboyant actor Charles Laughton or the only produced solo screenplay by the legendary critic James Agee (who also co-wrote The African Queen). The truth is, nobody has ever made anything approaching its phantasmagoric, overheated style in which German expressionism, religious hysteria, fairy-tale fantasy (of the Grimm-est variety), and stalker movie are brought together in a furious boil. Like a nightmarish premonition of stalker movies to come, Night of the Hunter tells the suspenseful tale of a demented preacher (Robert Mitchum, in a performance that prefigures his memorable villain in Cape Fear), who torments a boy and his little sister--even marries their mixed-up mother (Shelley Winters)--because he's certain the kids know where their late bank-robber father hid a stash of stolen money. So dramatic, primal, and unforgettable are its images--the preacher's shadow looming over the children in their bedroom, the magical boat ride down a river whose banks teem with fantastic wildlife, those tattoos of LOVE and HATE on the unholy man's knuckles, the golden locks of a drowned woman waving in the current along with the indigenous plant life in her watery grave--that they're still haunting audiences (and filmmakers) today. --Jim Emerson, Amazon.com --This text refers to the DVD edition.

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Seatinthestalls on 13 Aug. 2011
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Charles Laughton's one and only foray into directing has left us with a unique and almost unclassifiable work.

Non-Christians may find the Blblical tincture - especially during the few minutes intro - just a wee bit stifling, but it does set the social tenor of the time and place. Otherwise it's a fascinating piece of cinema.

Robert Mitchum gives a truly nightmarish turn as a psychotic misogynist with Messianic delusions. He talks to God, and there are hints of a serial killing spree during his soliloquies. It's obvious he's insane. He dresses in black with a broad-brimmed hat and presents the very incarnation of wickedness.

Whist in prison, he meets an inmate facing the death-penalty and learns that this man has stolen and hidden $10,000. Upon his own release he decides to go in search - all in God's name, of course. Some of the encounters are classic cinema scarefest. The story mingles childhood innocence and wonder with ruthless villainy. The executed man has entrusted the money to his children, and we are induced to view the story almost from a child's perspective. There are so many strange and magical scenes played out against the brooding terror of Preacher Powell's influence that the movie has to be watched and watched again. Portentous, threatening cords signal his approach, when closer he can be heard singing some religious anthem. A second theme represents the children. It has a lilting, lullaby score that is once sung by the little girl.

You make of this what you will. Laughton and Mitchum created the template for every sinister lunatic and bogeyman that came after and set it within a lyrical fairly-tail about good and evil, corruption and innocence. It's a spell-binding work.

The Amazon DVD supplied is unrestored but in good order. It is B&W, has an 89min runtime, and 4:3 aspect ratio. It has a `12' viewing rate, which is certainly appropriate. Extras are minimal.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ben Smith [SHELF HEROES] on 6 Dec. 2013
Format: DVD
Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), a black-hatted fire and brimstone preacher with LOVE and HATE inked into his knuckles, travels 1930's West Virginia not only spreading the word of the Lord, but killing the widows God requests him to. Sharing a prison cell, his path crosses with Ben Harper, a family man who killed two men in a robbery while attempting to provide for his wife and children. Only his son John and daughter Pearl know the secret location of the stolen $10,000. As Ben is hung for his crime, Powell is released from his short sentence and attempts to work his way into the small rural community and con the family out of the money.

Released in 1955 the film hasn't aged a day, and thanks to this glorious restoration the deep blacks and looming shadows look incredibly crisp, truly highlighting the exceptional cinematography which has more in common with the eccentricities and inventiveness of German expressionism than traditional Hollywood. An intriguing use of foreground gives scenes a real voyeuristic depth that, along with its surreal atmosphere, seduces you into Powell's sinister tale. Hinging on the killer-cum-preacher's pursuit of the money and his penetration into the grieving family's life, `The Night of the Hunter' is awash with tension and mystery that keep it driving forward - but what really makes the experience so uniquely arresting is its creeping, unnerving atmosphere. Spiked with pure blackness it is still powerfully able to shock, delving into surprisingly nightmarish areas that seem at odds with the film's idealised Deep South aesthetic.

Steeped in religious iconography and parable it's a timeless story of the powers of good and evil - as the preacher's tattoos attest - and it paints both sides with the heaviest of strokes.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Paul Wilcox on 6 Dec. 2013
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
The Night of the Hunter is a curious beast. It appears to the casual viewer as a simple tale of murderous preacher discovering the whereabouts of a stolen haul of cash and a battle of wits with a boy who knows where it is hidden. In a sense this IS the plot of the film.

However there is so much more to this tale than that.

British actor Charles Laughton made only one film as director and many see this as a master class. It is a very stylised picture and some suspension of belief and an appreciation of the art form is required. Laughton has filled the movie with shadows, reflections, silhouettes and framed scenes. There is a lot here that could suggest you are looking at a painting.

Scenes do jar from location filming to set dressed stages but that is part of its appeal. There is a chapter where the two child characters float down the river and just about every wildlife critter you can think of gets a front of screen cameo. The image of the underwater discovery is another standout.

It is also a difficult film to pigeon hole. You would think that the darker elements of horror would conflict with the collection of small town caricatures and the arrival of Lillian Gish's `Foster' mother. Even a teenage romance is briefly thrown in. the scene of a line of children following Gish's character like ducks could come straight out of a 50's musical yet it compliments the scene of a dead woman found by kids at the head of the movie. It even turns into a Christmas family film at one point.

Robert Mitchum's Preacher has become an iconic picture, leaning on the fence with "Love" and "Hate" tattooed on his knuckles. It's an acting tour-de-force at turns sinister, violent, melodramatic and comedic.
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