The Night of the Hunter| Review
Updated: May 31, 2022
Upon release, The Night of the Hunter flopped both financially and critically. Most critics found the film to have an uneven tone. It was the first film to be directed by Charles Laughton, whose main career revolved around acting, and was to be his last since he wouldn't return as a director for the rest of his career. The film only started to gain respect during the '70s and has since been declared a post-masterpiece, like other films that were poorly received upon initial release and consist of Vertigo, Citizen Kane, and The Rules of the Game. It has since routinely appeared on "Greatest Films of All Time" lists and even topped The Spectator's list of "50 Essential Films." I would even go as far as to put in, at least, the top ten of my own personal essential films list.
While serving time in prison, Rev. Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) meets Ben Harper and tells Powell about his hidden $10,000. After being released from prison, Powell tracks down Harpe's children and wife in pursuit of finding the money.
The Night of the Hunter has to be one of the most unique films I've seen. While the screenplay never feels dull or misguided to tell a conventional narrative, Laughton instead uses visuals to tell the story, something many films have failed to do. The visuals are some of the best ever to be presented on screen, due in part to the cinematographer's emphasis on shadows. The cinematography works in contrast with Laughton's direction to convey the horror and suspense of the film. The audience always experiences the horror and dread the main characters experience, which was one of the examples of Laughton's emphasis on visual storytelling. Mitchum's excellent performance as Rev. Harry Powell rivals some of the best performances of the '50s and the horror genre. He embodies what almost comes off as a Universal Monster, such as Frankenstein's monster and the creature from the black lagoon. Mitchum's performance defines the pinnacle of acting in a horror movie. Charles Laughton's masterpiece, The Night of the Hunter, is one of my favorite films and one of the greatest films of all time.
Time Stamp: June 2020