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The Night Of The Hunter - Oldies but Goodies n°1

When, in 1955, Charles Laughton released his movie, titled The Night of the Hunter, it wasn't a success for both the audience and the critics. The peculiar photography of the movie didn't attract the public then, with the bizarre camera angles, the prominent shadows and a constant fight between right and wrong, light and dark.

But, nowadays, The Night of the Hunter is well-known and recognized for its true value. And that's what seduced me...

Let's talk about the movie's details first. It was directed by Charles Laughton, who also participated on the script with James Agee. The cast is composed of Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce. We follow the steps of Reverend Harry Powell, who thinks has been sent by God to punish widows by taking their money and killing them. After being caught for driving a stolen car, he finds himself locked up in a cell with a death-penalty sentenced man, called Ben Harper. While talking with him, Harry Powell discovers that Harper was condemned for stealing $10,000 from a bank ; however, he hid the money at his house before being arrested. When Powell gets out of jail, he's keen on finding that money, whatever he might have to do...

What is quite peculiar is that you can't really put this movie in any genre... That's probably one of the reasons that led to its demise, and another reason why this movie is now a classic. By mixing suspense with horror, laugh and a very real villain, Charles Laughton succeeded in creating an unreal atmosphere, particular to The Night of the Hunter. The movie feels like you're walking in a biblical nightmare, with the constant battle between good and bad.

This is due with the impressive acting of both Robert Mitchum (playing Reverend Harry Powell) and the two children (playing the son and daughter of Ben Harper). Robert Mitchum is an amazing villain, con man and manipulator in this role, with the famous LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles.

We believe him when he seems to be the good guy, trying to help a confused widow, Willa Harper (played by Shelley Winters). And he turns terrifying while running after John and Pearl, the children. While Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce are just so convincing in the terrified but not so naive children.

But what moved me the most was the photography. The use of black and white enhanced the feeling of uneasiness and terror you feel in front of the movie. The constant shadows surrounding John and Pearl, the moment you see their mother's hand hovering over the door handle, hesitating, and the surreal river waiting for it to be used. Every single image is so intelligent and yet so instinctive...

I felt this movie in my bones; the story was breathtaking and you're always waiting for the next plot-twist. It is elegant and interesting. I truly hope that you, reader, will help continue to spread its legacy...

See you next week!

- Justine Vergier

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