Monday, 14 December 2009

(500) Films of Empire - Day 90

71 - Night Of The Hunter - 3 stars
Initially a flop on its release, the criticism of the film caused this to be Charles Laughton's only film as a director. And that is a terrible shame as there is a great deal to admire in this tale of a villainous preacher who infiltrates a young family in an attempt to get his hands on the takings from a bank robbery.
The film is anchored by the performance of Robert Mitchum as Preacher Harry Powell, a man of God who definitely works in mysterious ways, even having 'love' and 'hate' tattooed on his knuckles. Tip-toeing the line between charming (his outward persona to the naive small town locals) and terrifying (to the children as he plots to get the money from them).
There is also beautiful cinematography, some of it is reminiscent of Citizen Kane.
Now the film does have it faults. Perhaps it was because "it was a simpler time back then" but I couldn't get over the fact that Shelley Winters gets married to Powell about a week after her husband's hanging because some local busy-body thinks that the kids "need a man around".
Also some of the performances are a little corny, especially that of Pearl (the little girl), but I shouldn't be too harsh since Laughton apparently had no time for the kids during filming.
Rewatching it this time, with a greater degree of film knowledge, I was able to spot wonderful touches like the cross of light that appears on the water as the children escape Preacher, or how the sets of the bedroom look like a church. The level of religious imagery is very detailed.
Regrettable that he never directed again as I think there were more great films to come from Laughton.

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