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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The First Bogeyman, 13 Aug. 2011
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This review is from: The Night of the Hunter [DVD] [1955] (DVD)
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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