Night of the Hunter


Viewed – 24 August 2021 Blu-ray

After a man is arrested for murder, he befriends a petty crook in prison who discovers that the man has hidden $10,000 in cash. After being released and intent on finding the money, the crook, played by Robert Mitchum, swoops down on the man’s family, posing as a preacher.

This 1955 drama has quite the classic status, and the menacing portrayal of evil from Mitchum is effective, as is the often gothic, black & white photography, giving the movie a very eerie and iconic atmosphere. Directed by actor turned one-time Director Charles Laughton, this seems on the surface, choppily put together, with performances (with the exception of Mitchum) ranging from awful to amateurish. Even Shelley Winters gets little more to do than fawn over Mitchum due to her character’s god-fearing beliefs.

The frequent songs being sung (although not a musical) also vary from cringe to creepy, yet add to a rather strange mood. By the second half however, I found myself getting caught up in what was happening, especially with the focus being on two young children being stalked by a crazy preacher. There’s just something really haunting about it all, and I must say it kind of freaked me out – in a good way. Maybe not the masterpiece it’s lauded as, but worthwhile nonetheless.

I picked up the Criterion Blu-ray of this and must admit found the image quality a little underwhelming. For a movie of its time I’ve definitely seen sharper, with an overly grainy image. However the soundtrack was clear enough in uncompressed mono audio. Yet it’s in the extras where this release impresses most. We have a commentary from an ensemble comprising of the second unit director, a film critic and an author of a book about the making of the movie. There’s also interviews, clips from chat shows, archival documentary, a 2 and a half hour behind the scenes compilation and plenty more. To top it off there’s also a detailed booklet featuring several write ups on the movie. Impressive stuff.

Verdict:

(the movie) Good

(the Blu-ray) Recommended