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on 3 September 2015
I really don't know where to begin with this gorgeous remastered Criterion release. It's absolutely stunning to behold and hear. After you've been to www.bluray. com to read their comprehensive review of both the film itself and ALL the extras and supplements you can then scour the Internet for the best deals on region /zone free bluray players to play this on. Criterion have really outdone themselves with this indispensable bluray.
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on 2 October 2015
Masterful Cinema.
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on 5 August 2015
Watch out, the product description is misleading as the mentioned 200 page booklet is all in French! Subsequently just one star, even though the film deserves more...
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on 30 June 2016
Charles Laughton's sole directorial effort and undisputed classic of American cinema, the 1955 produced "The Night of the Hunter" makes it to the hall of fame that is the prestigious Criterion Collection on a fabulous extras stacked double Blu ray set featuring an impressive 2k scan (in glorious widescreen) with it's original monaural soundtrack presented in uncompressed LPCM. My copy also came as an attractive (but slightly flimsy) fold out digi-pack release featuring a card outer slip cover and glossy 30 page booklet. This has now been replaced (as of 2014) in a standard clear plastic case which still contains the two discs and the insert booklet. Please note that this American import is region A locked meaning that UK and European buyers will require a multi-region Blu ray player to view the content on this disc.

Set during the great depression the story begins with bank robber Ben Harper (Peter Graves) as he is arrested in front of his two children, John and Pearl for the robbery to the tune of $10,000 in which two men were killed. Before the police take him away he assures his children he loves them very much but also asks them to keep a secret, the secret being the hiding place of the stolen money. Thrown in jail and awating the death sentence Harry pours out his story of the loot hidden somewhere on his wifes modest estate to his cellmate Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) whom he believes to be a small time crook and car theif. Unfortunately for Ben, Harry's incarceration for petty crimes is just the tip of the iceberg as his smooth talking and quietly confident fellow inmate is actually a malevolent serial killer masquerading as a preacher who stalks the backroads befriending rich, lonely or widowed women before he kills them for their money. Released from prison Powell makes his way to the small West Virginian town that was the home of Ben Harper where he soon gains the favour of the local townsfolk with his self-righteous demeanor and story behind the love and hate tattoos that adorn his knuckles after which he seizes the opportunity and charms his way into the home of Ben's grieving widow Willa (Shelly Winters). Before long Willa's friends encourage her that she needs the stability of a man in her life and who better than the supposedly respectable preacher Harry Powell who has also become a hit with her young daughter Pearl. Only Willa's son John seems aware of the evil and unscrupulous motives lurking beind the pretense of the faux man of god even when his mother takes Powell's hand in marriage and is converted into his fiery religious zealot. A brooding vendetta begins between the two as Powell knows that John is keeping quiet about the whereabouts of the hidden money and away from the prying eyes of other adults intimidates the boy, hoping to break him into revealing the secret entrusted to him by his late father. Quite rightly John stubbornly refuses to reveal the location of the hidden money his father died for enraging Powell into murdering Willa and commencing a cross country hunt as the two children desperately try to evade the dogged and determined preacher. Travelling downriver by rowing boat Peal and John happen across the home of Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) a fiesty, plain speaking bible quoting mother hen who takes in poor and orphaned children and who may also be a match for the despicable God driven Powell thanks to her quick tongue and proficient use of a good shotgun.
Based on a novel by Davis Grubb which itself was taken from the true life crimes of West Virginian serial killer Harry Powell, The Night of the Hunter sadly marked the first and last time English thespian Charles Laughton graced a director's chair so displeased he was with the reception his debut movie recieved. Looking back to the time the movie was produced it is easy to see why Laughton's picture could have been seen as so controversial and subsequently such a financial and commercial failure with it's objectionable view on religious figures, uneasy imagery involving two recently orphaned children and an often expressionistic approach which could have been seen as overtly artisic. Over the succeding years audiences perceptions and tolerances changed yet The Night of the Hunter retained it's disturbing and suspenseful edge making it ripe for re-evaluation and proving what a masterstroke of filmmaking Laughton's movie really was with it's exquisitely beautiful but occasionally bleak noirish black & white cinematography by Stanley Cortez and towering central performance by bad boy of the period Robert Mitchum. Brimming with Southern Gothic splendor and filled with ominous shadows and evocative camera angles, often juxtaposed by brightly lit, shot on location daytime exteriors this still feels fresh today making it one of the most gorgeously photographed and captivating movies of all time, a piece truly ahead of it's days and a thrilling and genre defining horror picture.

Night if the Hunter arrives on Blu ray courtesy of Criterion on a BD50 Blu ray disc featuring an AVC encoded MPEG 4 1080p transfer framed for the first time in it's correct widescreen ratio of 1.66:1. I have seen Charles Laughton's movie many times before from TV airings and VHS tapes through to MGMs fullframe DVD but nothing could prepare me for how impressive this looks here in HD. Taken from the original 35mm camera negative and scanned in 2k with supervision from the UCLA Film and Television Archive this is an absolutely spectacular restoration up there with the best Criterion have put out. Stanley Cortez's striking b&w cinematography truly shines like never before and makes you fully appreciate this gorgeously designed movie. The Night of the Hunter is a film bathed in consuming shadows and dark expressionistic visuals which in tune play a huge part in the narrative and tone of the story. Thankfully this Blu ray provides superior contrast for crisp natural whites and a pure descending grey scale assisted by deep inky blacks with no noticable crush that grace the image with a wonderful range of hues and revealing shadow detail. Despite occasional softness detailing across the board is extremely pleasing picking out intricacies in the set design, surrounding flora and character faces as well as precise texturing on clothing and interior period decor. Depth and dimensionality are readily apparent especially in the bright daytime exteriors and the exceptionally well lit night scenes and this also looks smooth and natural in motion. The source utilised appears to be in excellent condition and thanks to the exceptional clean up job, high bitrate and good compression the transfer is free of any age related anomalies or digital bugaboos whilst retaining the naturally occuring (though occasionally heavy) grain structure providing an organic and utterly filmic presentation which is a marked improvement over any other previous release. It is worth noting that this is the first time Laughton's picture has been presented in it's intended widescreen aspect ratio. Long time fans will immediately notice that visible information is missing from the top and bottom of the frame when campared to the 1.33:1 version whilst negligible amounts are added to the sides but for me the tighter 1.66 framing looks far more focused and balanced.

Criterion equip Night of the Hunter with a lossless 1.0 channel 24bit LPCM rendering of it's original mono at a decent 1152kbps. With no stereo or 5.1 bump this sounds authentic to the original sound design and like the image has been cleaned up considerably well providing a rich and detailed aural accompaniment to the exemplary visuals. Dialogue clarity is strong and stable with a warm natural timbre to the voices perfect for Mitchum's deep baritone and even during the more heated exchanges there is nothing in the form of clipping or distortion. As to be expected from a single channel offering this remains relatively flat but the dynamic range is surprisingly wide with well rounded atmospherics and robust foley work plus Walter Schumann's bombastic score contains more than enough power even exhibiting some depth as the onscreen tension rises. Thankfully there are no issues with damage, distortion or background hiss making this a pleasurable problem free listening experience.

Criterion provide an absolute wealth of more than worthy supplementary features spread out over the two BD50 Blu ray discs to create what is the definitive package for Charles Laughton's spellbinding movie which I'm sure will enthrall both fans and cinephiles alike.
First up on disc 1 is a fantastic feature length audio commentary featuring input from second unit director Terry Sanders, film critic F.X. Feeney, archivist Robert Gitt and author Preston Neil Jones. This is an extremely insightful chat track going into detail on Laughton's direction, the history of the movie and it's initial poor reception, the influence it has had over the subsequent years and the many themes throughout it's runtime. A truly recommended listen.
Next up is The Making of The Night of the Hunter which runs for around 40 minutes and is presented in 1080i. This is another enlightening piece which covers the origins of the movie from Davis Grubb's story, casting choices and the wonderful cinematography. As to be expected the poor initial reception and controversy is touched upon and so much of the film is talked about it is best to view this after witnessing the main feature.
Disc 1 continues with an interview with actor/author Simon Callow on Charles Laughton presented in HD and running for 11 minutes. Mr.Callow goes on to talk of Laughton's lasting influence as well as the many themes prevalent in The Night of the Hunter.
"Moving Pictures" is a 15 minute 40th anniversary piece from 1995 which goes into detail on the creation of this classic and most interestingly includes vintage interviews with Robert Mitchum and Shelly Winters making this instantly essential viewing.
A brief 4 minute excerpt from The Ed Sullivan Show recorded in 1955 is up next with stars Shelly Winters and Peter Graves (who play Ben and Willa Harper in the movie) acting out a scene that was never filmed.
Want to learn about the infamous expressionistic cinematography from The Night of the Hunter? Well the next interview is with Stanley Cortez who talks about his career and in particular the movie at hand. This is an archival 1984 piece filmed for the American Society of Cinematographers and runs for approximately 13 minutes.
To round off disc 1 is a selection of sketches by author David Grubb which were given to Charles Laughton for ideas on the film's design and the original theatrical trailer is also included presented here in 1080p.
The second disc in this fabulous set is by far the best in the extras department as it holds quite possibly the most staggeringly in depth "making of" documentary ever to grace the special features of a Blu ray disc. Presented in HD and running an epic 159 minutes film archivist Robert Gitt's 2002 produced "Charles Laughton Directs The Night of the Hunter" really is a true labour of love encompassing rare and never seen before deleted scenes, outtakes and rushed footage throughout it's sprawling runtime.
The piece begins with a record of Laughton's career before a brief introduction to Davis Grubb's novel and why the English thespian wished to bring it to the big screen. From then on the viewer is treated to unused footage, alternate takes, different camera angles and of course Laughton in the director's chair as well as casting choices and the histories of the cast members.
Only previously seen at film festivals, this exemplary and extremely comprehensive documentary is a fascinating insight into the production of this wonderful movie that is essential viewing for fans and movie scholars alike and truly cements this Criterion Blu ray despite it's hefty price tag as a must own release.
To round off this superb package is an exclusive 17 minute chat again with archivist and documentary maker Robert Gitt and film critic Leonard Matlin. They briefly discuss the history of the movie and Laughton's direction but this is mostly concerned with the production of Gitt's glorious two and a half hour documentary opus and the restoration and preservation efforts of the raw footage utilised which we find out was donated by Charles Laughton's widow.
As always from Criterion a well produced 28 page glossy insert booklet is also included which includes essays from films critics Terence Rafferty and Michael Sragow, stills from the movie and notes on the transfer restoration process.

Vilified upon it's initial release so much so Charles Laughton never directed another feature The Night of the Hunter is now considered one of the most exquisitely shot movies of all time, an influential powerhouse and thought provoking masterpiece of sustained terror that was undeniably ahead of it's time proving that in this case cinema can truly be thought of as a form art.
Criterion's Blu ray release is easily well above even their usual very high standard featuring an awe inspiring picture transfer and an absolute wealth of outstanding supplementary features earning this my very highest recommendation.
It is worth noting that Arrow Films in the UK have released their own Blu ray release of The Night of the Hunter as part of their Academy range and compared to the phenomenally expensive American equivalent may look like a far better deal. Unfortunately for the purpose of this review I haven't seen this release personally so I feel it would be unfair to comment on overall quality although various other sources state that this features a different, far less robust and overly bright picture transfer compared to the gorgeous Criterion disc but does offer in addition to the original mono a newly re-purposed DTS HD Master 5.1 soundtrack although for a movie such as this I am more than happy to stay with the original authentic 1950s monaural sound design. In terms of extras it does drop the vast majority of bonus features found on the import whilst retaining the long Charles Laughton directs documentary and adding an isolated music and effects track in PCM mono. I would also feel concerned that both the movie and the two and a half hour documentary are housed on a single Blu ray on the Arrow version whereas the Criterion splits them between two which I am sure would be beneficial in terms of both disc space and compression.
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VINE VOICEon 30 November 2013
The Night of the Hunter stands out as one of the most chilling films ever drawn from the power of old time religion,good vs. evil,light vs.darkness,innocence vs. experience.Laughton that great film actor showed what he could do directing.Robert Mitchum showed how menacing he could be in Cape Fear,here it's to the power of ten as told from the child's perspective.With Mitchum's presence we get a sense of palpable dread,a sense of growing evil and malevolence,the closing in of shadows,the warping of religion like the tearing of fabric in the night,the persecution and the dwindling hope of goodness on the run.Godliness gone wrong.

This is a poetic,visionary classic of Southern gothic,graced with Mitchum's finest performance as preacher Harry Powell,at once sinister,charming and slyly comic. Hunter channels the silent cinema of Murnau and DW Griffiths. This link is made by the casting of Griffith's favourite actress,Lillian Gish,as the fairy godmother with whom the children,fleeing from Powell,find refuge.Two nocturnal scenes,in a film of expressionistic shadows,encapsulate the haunted fairytale mood.As the children drift down the river,they're watched from the banks by animals seen in huge close-up,like tutelary spirits.And when Gish guarding the house,her shotgun across her lap,starts singing `Leaning on the everlasting arms', the preacher prowling outside in the dark,joins in-good and evil in deceptive harmony.

Cahiers du Cinema, recently voted it the second "most beautiful" movie ever made, just behind Citizen Kane. Laughton worked closely with man-about-town writer (and godfather of popular film criticism) James Agee to transpose Davis Grubb's fevered, Southern pulp thriller into a lucid, poetic, terrifying work of pure intuition. Laughton and Agee's adaptation zeroed in on the novel's Faulkner-meets-Brothers Grimm overtones and maximized the tonal contradictions. Few moments in movie history are as shockingly bold, and simultaneously ethereal, as the moment the newly orphaned John and Pearl narrowly escape Powell's slashing knife and float down the river on a skiff. In the space of 15 seconds, the movie transitions between a moment of pure horror--capped by Mitchum's hellish bellow of frustration--into a slow, starry-skied journey into an American pastoral twilight, capped by a seemingly diegetic musical number about a "pretty fly" sung spontaneously by Pearl.Due to its poor reception,
Laughton never directed again,on this evidence a major loss.
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on 15 March 2015
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER [1955] [The Criterion Collection Special Edition] [Blu-ray] [US Import] Towering Above All Others . . . But Greater Than Them All is The Impact of the Motion Picture Itself!

‘The Night of the Hunter’ incredibly, was the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed and is truly a standalone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum [‘Cape Fear’ and ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’] as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters [‘A Place in the Sun’ and ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’] are uncovered by her terrified young children. Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humour, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish [‘Intolerance’ and ‘Duel in the Sun’] and writer James Agee, is cinema's quirkiest rendering of the battle between good and evil.

FILM FACT: The film was a collaboration of Charles Laughton and screenwriter James Agee. Charles Laughton drew on the harsh, angular look of German expressionist films of the 1920s. The film's score, composed and arranged by Walter Schumann in close association with Charles Laughton, features a combination of nostalgic and expressionistic orchestral passages. The film has two original songs by Walter Schumann, "Lullaby" (sung by Kitty White, whom Walter Schumann discovered in a nightclub) and "Pretty Fly" (originally sung by Sally Jane Bruce as Pearl, but later dubbed by an actress named Betty Benson). A recurring musical device involves the preacher making his presence known by singing the traditional hymn "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." Robert Mitchum also recorded the soundtrack version of the hymn.

Cast: Billy Chapin, Sally Jane Bruce, Peter Graves, Shelley Winters, Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish, Evelyn Varden, James Gleason, Don Beddoe, Gloria Castillo, Michael Chapin and Gloria Pall

Director: Charles Laughton

Producer: Paul Gregory

Screenplay: Charles Laughton, James Agee and Davis Grubb (author)

Composer: Walter Schumann

Cinematography: Stanley Cortez A.S.C.

Video Resolution: 1080p [Black-and-White]

Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1

Audio: English: 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio and English: Dolby Digital Mono Audio

Subtitles: English

Running Time: 93 minutes

Region: Region A/1

Number of discs: 2

Studio: The Criterion Collection

Andrew’s Blu-ray Review: ‘The Night of the Hunter’ is a cinematic curiosity. Shot in black-and-white, the 1955 film is Charles Laughton's sole directorial effort. It starred Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish, and Shelley Winters; James Agee wrote the screenplay (or is at least credited with doing so). Based on Donald Grubb's 1953 bestselling novel, it is a dark and powerful morality play. Not a great success when first released, it is now an acknowledged masterpiece.

It is a tale of good and evil, innocence and sin. The good, especially Rachel Cooper can seem too good to be true, but the evil, in the person the preacher, is as roundly, soundly evil as it gets. Good triumphs, but the damage done along the way is spectacular. The film is remarkable in a number of respects, not least of which is its acknowledgement of pure evil (and that in the guise of a man of god). Robert Mitchum's portrayal is particularly noteworthy, while Lillian Gish is also a perfect "benevolent antidote to Preacher's evil."

In his own words, director Charles Laughton described ‘The Night of the Hunter’ [1955] as "a nightmarish sort of Mother Goose tale." Based on a popular novel by David Grubb, the film takes place in West Virginia during the Depression and follows a homicidal preacher as he stalks two children, a brother and sister, across the rural landscape. The reason for his pursuit is $10,000 in cash and it's stuffed inside a doll the little girl is carrying.

Charles Laughton worked with James Agee on the screenplay but the famous author of “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” had a severe drinking problem (he died the same year) and the screenplay he delivered was a mammoth script by Hollywood standards that Laughton had to whittle down to an acceptable length. Although Agee biographer Lawrence Bergman maintained that Charles Laughton had to rewrite most of screenplay, the discovery of James Agee's first draft of the script in 2004 proved that it reflected Laughton's final release version, almost scene for scene.

The casting was also exceptional and Laughton coaxed excellent performances from Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish. However, he developed an aversion to the two child actors and when he overheard the little boy, Billy Chapin, bragged about winning the New York Critics' Circle Prize for a recent play, Charles Laughton roared, "Get that child away from me." After that, the two children took their direction mostly from Robert Mitchum. The only other problem Charles Laughton encountered was having to juggle his shooting schedule so that Robert Mitchum could begin work on his next film, ‘Not as a Stranger’ [1955].

Ignored and misunderstood at the time of its release, except by a handful of critics, ‘The Night of the Hunter’ had to wait several decades before it took its rightful place alongside other revered works of the American cinema. It was the sole directorial effort of actor Charles Laughton and he took the film's commercial failure very hard, abandoning any future plans to direct another film.

‘The Night of the Hunter’ is anything but a failure and is chock full of riches: Robert Mitchum creates a chilling portrait of evil in one of his finest performances (and one of his personal favourites); the rock-steady presence of Lillian Gish is both a homage and a direct link to the films of D.W. Griffith, who the film pioneer Charles Laughton pays a great tribute to this film genius. The shimmering beauty of Stanley Cortez's cinematography also recalls the shadows and lighting of other silent era classics by Fritz Lang and Josef von Sternberg, and the music score by Walter Schumann is unusually evocative, mixing hymns, children's songs, and orchestral effects. Unforgettably haunting images (a car submerged in a watery grave; a spider's web view of the children fleeing in a riverboat to the strains of Pretty Fly; a silhouetted angel of death) make this a perennially unsettling masterpiece from which modern chillers could learn much.

The Night of the Hunter’ is a complex film: arty, and yet as straightforwardly terrifying as any contemporary slasher film. It is a story of seductions, as well as the seduction of both evil and of good. It is a haunting film, and a memorable one. As others have pointed out, it was not an ideal debut for Charles Laughton, being too ambitious, trying too much. Audiences (and many critics) were apparently unsure of what to make of it. Though it received decent reviews, sadly it was not a commercial success. In Britain it was even rated with an ‘X’ certificate (not as far-fetched as one might think: it is definitely a film for a mature audience). Each aspect of the film’s production, from the idyllic cinematography to the incredible performances, to the contrary uses of cinematic stylisation and narrative, presents an interplay of opposing ideas through a sophisticated, haunting, and strangely buoyant whole. It endures as an enchanting American folk tale ripe with intricate melodrama and mythic symbolism, one that no film fan will ever forget.

Blu-ray Video Quality – Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and encoded with a stunning encoded 1080p transfer. Charles Laughton's ‘The Night of the Hunter’ arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of The Criterion Collection. This new digital transfer was created in 2K resolution on a SCANTY film scanner from the original 35mm camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MITT’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s DVRN system was used for small grain, dirt and noise reduction. This is a very impressive high-definition transfer.

Blu-ray Audio Quality – There is only one audio track on this Blu-ray disc and that is a 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio and was taken from the UCLA Film & Television Archive restoration, supervised by Gitt and also by John Polito of Audio Mechanics. This restoration was painstakingly constructed from a 35mm composite master positive, a variable-density soundtrack negative of the film’s music and effects track, a projection print, and many rolls of 35mm magnetic film containing fully edited dialogue recordings. So in the end there was a great deal of work was done to make sure that the audio presentation is as good as possible, and it clearly shows. The new 1.0 LPCM Mono Audio track conveys excellent depth and stability that will undoubtedly impress those of you who own the old inferior NTSC DVD release. The dialogue is also clean and stable and I did not detect any pops, cracks, hissings, or audio dropouts.

Blu-ray Special Features and Extras: The Criterion Collection brings an amazing treasure trove of supplements for this Blu-ray edition of 'The Night of the Hunter.' Spanning two discs and mirroring its previous DVD release and most of the bonus material is being released for the first time on the home video market. For fans of this horror masterpiece, the collection is exceptional and worth the price of admission alone.

NEW and Restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack.

The First Special Features and Extras Blu-ray Disc:

Audio Commentary: Commentary Recorded in 2008 and the commentary features Second-unit Director Terry Sanders, Film Archivist Robert Gitt, Film Critic F.X. Feeney, and Preston Neal Jones: To listen to the commentary while viewing ‘The Night of the Hunter,’ press the AUDIO key on your Blu-ray remote at any time: This is a very informative commentary, in which second-unit director Terry Sanders, film archivist Robert Gitt, film critic F.X. Feeney, and Preston Neal Jones, author of “Heaven and Hell to Play With.” A great deal of the conversation is, of course, on the history of the movie, Charles Laughton's direction, but the discussion also includes several comments on the film's initial reception, it's immense influence and rise to a cinematic treasure, how each participant came to discover it and some wonderful thoughts on the film's themes. This is a terrific commentary, worth listening for those with an interest in film history and about its reception and restoration, the film's message, and Charles Laughton's fascinating life and career, etc.

Special Feature Documentary: The Making of ‘The Night of The Hunter’ [2010] [1080p] [4:3] [37:59] This documentary traces the history of ‘The Night of the Hunter,’ from Charles Laughton discovery of the Davis Grubb novel of the same title, and we also get to hear about the films poor reception in 1995 by the critics and the audience, but we also get to hear about its later ascension into the pantheon of classic films. This brilliant documentary features producer Paul Gregory, second-unit director Terry Sanders, and authors Preston Neal Jones, F.X. Feeney and Jeffrey Couchman. What we get over the period of the documentary is some really fascinating information, like Davis Grubb did some special pencil sketches of what he visualised how certain characters and scenes would appear in the film, and Charles Laughton was so bowled over, that he demanded Davis Grubb to send more drawings and Charles Laughton actually used them as the virtual storyboard. We also get to find out that the film took 35 days to shoot and came well under budget at $800,000, which is what they would spend on food and drink for the actors and crew today. The cost of getting the rights to the novel was $80,000. But the most fascinating interesting facts of the film, is that 99.9% the film was shot on the backlot of the RKO Studio. But what was sad to hear is that United Artist would not spend certain amounts of monies on publicity for the film, and the film at the time of its release was a complete flop and it made Charles Laughton totally depressed and crushed, but of course it has now become one of the Top 5 Classic Film. This is a must view documentary.

Special Feature Documentary: Simon Callow on Charles Laughton [2010] [1080p] [16:9] [10:35] In this interview, that was shot in 2010 in London. Simon Callow, the author of “Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor” discusses Charles Laughton’s career and the effects on this lone foray into film directing it had on his life. Simon Callow gives a totally engrossing talk about Charles Laughton and definitely shows how he loved this fascinating character and gives loads of praise on the talent of Charles Laughton and feels he could of gone onto greater things, especially going onto a brilliant film director, which sadly ended with ‘The Night of the Hunter.’ This is again a must view documentary, as Simon Callow is a very charismatic person and it also shows how much he loved the film and that is why he produced his first class novel on Charles Laughton.

Special Feature Documentary: Moving Pictures [1995] [480i] [4:3] [14:18] This just under fifteen-minute special documentary on the classic film ‘The Night of the Hunter’ is presented by Howard Schuman, which was originally broadcast in the United Kingdom on the BBC Two channel, on 19th February, 1995 and features interviews with producer Paul Gregory, actors Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lilian Gish [1978], editor Robert Golden, art director Stanley Cortez, and second-unit director Terry Sanders.

Special Feature: Clip from The Ed Sullivan Show [1995] [480i] [4:3] [3:51] In this short excerpt from the 25th September, 1995 episode of The Ed Sullivan Show, we get to see the actors Peter Graves and Shelley Winters perform a scene not included in the film ‘The Night of the Hunter,’ here we get to see Willa Hunter visits Ben Harper in prison. Sadly the quality of the video image is really rough, as is the sound and it looks like it was recorded off someone’s home VHS video recorder.

Special Feature: Archival interview with Cinematographer Stanley Cortez A.S.C. [1984] [480i] [4:3] [12:53] In this July 1948 interview, that was shot in Hollywood at the American Society of Cinematographers, where we get to see the Oscar® winning Stanley Cortez being interviewed by Claude Ventura and Laurence Gavron about his work on the classic film ‘The Night of the Hunter,’ and we hear his total respect for Charles Laughton the director and the way he respected all the actors and crew, and especially his Cinematographer Charles Cortez, as Charles Laughton knew he would get the best cinematography for his film with light and shade. Because it was filmed by a French Television crew, you unfortunately get French subtitles appearing on the screen.

Special feature: Gallery of Sketches by Author Davis Grubb: To navigate this sequence, press the right arrow on your Blu-ray remote to move forward the images and with the left key arrow to move backward to the previous images. To exit, your press ENTER. Here we get to see all of the pencil sketches that Davis Grubb sent to Charles Laughton, which was used as the virtual storyboard for the film. You also sometimes get to see the actual black-and-white images that relates to the pencil sketches.

Theatrical Trailer [1955] [1080p] [1.66:1] [1:36] This is the Original British Theatrical Trailer, as you get the British Board of Film Censors logo advertising an ‘X’ Certificate Film for a ‘U’ Trailer.

The Second Special Features and Extras Blu-ray Disc:

Special Feature Introduction: In this conversation, recorded specially for The Criterion Collection in 2010, here you have film archivist Robert Gitt and film critic Leonard Maltin discuss the discovery and preservation of the material used to make Charles Laughton Directs ‘The Night of the Hunter’ [2010] [1080p] [16:9] [16:58] This is a really fascinating interview and we hear lots of anecdotes on how this preservation work came to fruition. Robert Gitt had felt he had been on this project from 1959, especially after viewing the film broadcast on his television and not realising it was directed by Charles Laughton. Eventually he met Elsa Lancaster, who informed him of 18 boxes of all the rushes and outtakes of the film. Over the next 20 years Robert Gitt painstakingly edits all of the rolls of film of the rushes and outtakes to produce this special presentation that follows this interesting interview. But one big problem Robert Gitt had when everything had been edited together in 2001; he found that he had over 8 hours of film, if shown in one session. But eventually Robert Gitt had to edit the rushes and outtake down to a manageable 2 hours 39 minutes to give it a brilliant presentation, which you are about to see after this interview. What you get to view is a full 4:3 frame presentation, which gives you an insight into Charles Laughton’s frame of mind in producing this classic film.

Special feature: Charles Laughton Directs ‘The Night of the Hunter’ [2002] [1080p] [4:3] [2:39:05] Here you get to see a treasure trove of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage. It was “The Epic That Was” and seeing Charles Laughton in person directing all the actors is a glorious treat to view and it was a tragedy he was not allowed to direct more films, as he would have made some stunning films, as he was a true professional in his outlook towards presenting good classic films. But sadly ‘The Night of the Hunter’ was a total disaster at the time of its release and Charles Laughton was totally devastated why it was not a success or won any Academy Awards. But of course this film has now gone into the annals of a classic film, that The Criterion Collection has now produced a beautiful stunning presentation. Anyway this special presentation of the outtakes and rushes is totally fascinating and gives a much better insight into this beautiful magical classic film.

BONUS: Here we have a stunning 30 page Special illustrated booklet containing Terrence Rafferty's essay "Holy Terror" (the author teaches at Princeton University) and Michael Sragow's essay "Downriver and Heavenward with James Agee."

Finally, Despite being a box-office and critical failure during its initial theatrical release, 'The Night of the Hunter' has since become widely recognised as one of the most beautifully photographed and remarkable films in cinema history. I think it is fair to say that the wait was well worth it. Indeed, ‘The Night of the Hunter’ looks totally spectacular on Blu-ray, and the supplemental features Criterion have provided are simply outstanding. This is a true American classic, folks, which has received the type of treatment it so rightfully deserves. A special thanks to UCLA Film & Television Archive for making this release possible. Very Highly Recommended!

Andrew C. Miller – Your Ultimate No.1 Film Fan
Le Cinema Paradiso
WARE, United Kingdom
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 December 2007
The story may be simple - two children, John and Pearl, are pursued by the evil 'Preacher' who killed their mother and is after the money their father stole - but there is nothing in cinema to compare to The Night of the Hunter. Both Robert Mitchum's stunning extroverted performance and the film itself were shamelessly plundered by De Niro and Scorsese for their all but inept remake of Cape Fear, but this is the genuine article. A flop in its day and plagued with censorship problems (it was banned outright in Memphis and some of the more stridently Catholic countries), Laughton's perverse fairytale of innocence and evil is far more disturbing and affecting in its subversion than modern shock tactics could ever be.

The pacing and construction are almost akin to a vintage Disney animated feature, and just as primal albeit far more explicit. Disney would never have addressed the dark undercurrents as directly as Laughton, with the traditional safeguards of family, religion and small-town values soundly undermined. Here Mitchum's preacher plays the two children against each other and their mother (the most chilling line in the film is when Mitchum tells the boy "Well, it doesn't matter. It's me your mother believes") while the very forces that bay for his blood at the end are the same that all but forced Shelley Winters' widow and Mitchum's psychopath together.

Here people are to be judged by their actions rather than their apparent position, with the matchless Gish as the Mother Goose with her brood of the waifs and strays of the Depression showing that the forces of good needn't be wishy-washy or wimpishly self-righteous. When she says "I'm a strong tree with branches for many birds. I'm good for something in this old world and I know it," you believe it. Through her generous performance the film radiates a faith in the power of goodness and the endurance of children ("Children are men at their strongest. They abide," notes Gish) that provides a direct link between Laughton's film and D.W. Griffith and ultimately heals the boy's deep wounds.

While Pearl is oblivious to what goes on around her, the boy is clearly seriously scarred by the responsibility of it all (when Gish takes out her Bible, he skulks away, and, in the film's most masterly touch, his reaction to the arrest of Mitchum's preacher is identical to his reaction to the arrest of his father. There are moments in his relationship with Gish as he edges back to trust and innocence that are among the most intensely moving in all cinema.

One of the most sensual films ever made, Night of the Hunter is also surprisingly frank in its sexual analogies. It is made clear that the children's parents' relationship was primarily sexual, with Winters' sexuality, both humiliated and rejected by the Preacher, transformed into a disturbingly blind religious devotion. Like Lucifer, a fallen angel who has made a mockery of the religion he once proposed to serve into something "the Almighty and me worked out betwixt us," to Mitchum's Preacher Powell sexuality is violence, his switchblade bursting through his pocket like an erection.

It's often what happens on the sidelines that sets it so apart: the hangman coming back from executing the children's father to watch his own children, Pearl innocently repeating the hanging song the other children have been taunting them with at the beginning, the comforting singing coming from the nearby farmhouse as the children sleep in the barn only to be awoken by the Preacher's threatening rendition of 'Leaning on the Everlasting Arms' (later reclaimed by Gish) in the distance.

Not nearly enough has been written about Walter Schumann's truly extraordinary score. The nocturnal journey downriver under the watchful gaze of animals benefits enormously from a simple narrative song, while the score's shifting menace, melancholy and warmth both embraces the visual and psychological aspects of the film to perfection. One of the great neglected works of the 50s, it cries out for a recording.

There is a visual mastery here that recalls Griffith at the height of his powers, with a magnificent use of light and shade (when John talks of bad men, he unwittingly summons the menacing shadow of the Preacher on his bedroom wall) and a brilliant use of sets that are at one moment realistic and the next highly stylised, often both within the same shot thanks to Stanley Cortez' remarkable cinematography. Laughton may never have directed another film, but he packed more into this one than most other directors can manage in their entire career.

Sadly, no extras apart from a trailer on MGM/UA's Region 2 PAL DVD - and even that has had the original captions removed - but Criterion's 2-disc US NTSC version has a splendid transfer and an amazing selection of extras: audio commentary by Terry Sanders, F.X. Feeney, Robert Gitt and Preston Neal Jones; 38-minute documentary; interview with Simon Callow; extract from The Ed Sullivan Show with cast members performing deleted scene; extract from Moving Pictures with Robert Mitchum; interview with cinematographer Stanley Cortez; video conversation with archivist Robert Gitt and Leonard Maltin; gallery of sketches by Davis Grubb; original theatrical trailer; and - best of all - 159-minute documentary Charles Laughton Directs The Night of the Hunter featuring a vast treasure trove of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage
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on 8 May 2013
Won't play on region 2 players. Should be more explicit about that. Never had a problem before. Got the files converted but lost the DVD structure, menus etc. mostly because the software is not very good - not the DVD's fault but frustrating nevertheless.

Actual content is wonderfully fascinating. Why isn't it available in region 2 format?
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on 27 July 2013
Amazon reviews have reached a new depth with these reviews. This review is of the Criterion collection US import Bluray disc. There are 53 reviews of this product. Without exception these are reviews of DVDs or VHS tapes. These reviews are utterly pointless. It is precisely because Night of the Hunter is one the greatest films ever made that it needs the Bluray treatment. The film noir cinematography allied to the expressionist style demands Bluray presentation. The Criterion version is transferred from the excellent restoration, which was truly painstaking, which was done a few years ago. This information can be gleaned from the US reviews.

How sad, then, that the Criterion version will cost £31 and then incur additional expenses, about which Amazon neglect to tell you. Since April 2012 changes to the regulations regarding imports will see import duty imposed. The Post Office then effectively impound your item until the duty is paid. The Post Office then adds a "handling fee" of £8 for inconveniencing you. The overall cost would be near enough to £50. I had this very experience with an imported DVD last year.

How fortunate, then, that European Blurays are available. One then checks the reviews of these products to find that the same 53 reviews of DVDs and VHS are supposed to help you assess the quality of presentation on these discs. Painstaking research, and no thanks to Amazon, has revealed that apparently, as is so often the case, the European version is a lazy and inferior version. It seems that, unbelievably, the transfer was not even taken from the excellent restoration.

If I am being unfair here, I welcome comments, as it is really difficult to find information on these versions, as may be the intention.

Five star film. One star review of the product.
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