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The Night of the Hunter [DVD] 
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Robert Mitchum stars in this thriller set in the 1930s in the rural American South. Psychopathic preacher Harry Powell (Mitchum) is arrested for a minor offence in a small West Virginian town. His cellmate, 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.
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.comSee all Product description
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Top Customer Reviews
That it was made some 60 years ago makes it something of a ground-breaking masterpiece, especially as it precedes one of most favourite 'noir' classics from that period, the quite superb 'Touch of Evil' by Orson Welles....
So, whilst I should have seen this film many years ago my tardiness has one benefit - I can 'enjoy' (this is a 'horror' film after all !) it for the first time at it's best, courtesy of this wonderfully produced Blu-ray.
Before I forget, this 'Arrow' production has one specific feature I've not seen much of before - the outer paper insert of the case is reversible, so you have a choice of 'covers'.
The inner side has a reproduction of the theatrical-release poster which in some ways doesn't properly hint at what the film is about (perhaps a good thing !), but is certainly more nostalgic and relevant than the 'standard' outer cover.
I've attached photos of the inner/outer so you can see what I'm on about and perhaps increase the purchase temptation....
This film was the only one directed by that British stage/screen legend Charles Laughton and it appears that it ruffled so many feathers on release (it bombed and got panned) that it is why he stopped directing - before his untimely death 7 years later; what a travesty.
It's easy to see why at the time this film would have been misunderstood/disliked/shocked - it has little of a pleasant nature in it and concentrates on the 'activities' of a ruthless ex-convict who is mad, psychopathic, murderous and cruel in equal measure.Read more ›
For me aswell, the film (apart from the ending) had a very summer feel to it! So a fantastic SUMMER EVENING movie!
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.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I only got half way through, as it just didn't seem to work on any level. The acting, aside from Robert Mitchum, was awful. Maybe it just hasn't aged well; I don't know. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Kennito Milligano
The preacher, a man of charm, conviction and commanding fire, a family loving man who arrives in a quiet troubled town. There's one problem though, he's completely crazy... Read morePublished 6 months ago by L.W
Absolutely perfect edition. The extra material goes further than you can imagine: the documentary on the film is a masterpiece and a lesson for those who want to learn more about... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Toni Martí
This is one of the best classics and will remain so for years to come.
Someone did try to remake it some years later starring Richard Chamberlin but with disastrous... Read more
Love this old movie.... scary when your a child; not so bad now!Published 8 months ago by Anthea Webster