The Night of the Hunter

DVD - 2010
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
The Night of the Hunter
A self-styled preacher marries and murders the widow of an executed convict with whom he once shared a cell. He then terrorizes her two young children to force them to tell him the whereabouts of the $10,000 he knows their father hid before his imprisonment.

Publisher: [United States] : The Criterion Collection, 2010
Edition: DVD ed., widescreen
ISBN: 9781604653502
Branch Call Number: DVD Drama NIGHT
Characteristics: 2 videodiscs (93 min.) :,sd., b&w ;,4 3/4 in. +,1 booklet (28 p. : ill. ; 19 cm.)


From Library Staff

A creepy, dark fable starring the incomparable Robert Mitchum as a self-styled preacher who marries and murders the widow of an executed convict with whom he once shared a cell. He then terrorizes her two young children to force them to tell him the whereabouts of the $10,000 he knows their fathe... Read More »

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Feb 27, 2015
  • scruff rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

This is a film you're supposed to see if you're a "serious" film buff. Having just watched it, I understand why. It's got some stunning photography, great art direction, and uses shadow and light in a dazzling manner. Simply put, it looks great. But that's where its charms ended for me. I understand that it's a fable, and therefore some archetype characters are to be expected, but this is a pretty big slice of ham and cheese! It's entertaining, for sure, but not an effective "thriller." It's too sappy, and the performances are too hammy for it to pull off any sense of dread. Worth a viewing for the beautiful photography and direction anyway.

Dec 05, 2014
  • Nursebob rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

In the depression-era south a fanatically religious psychopath disguised as a wandering minister drifts from town to town preying on lonely widows and slitting the throats of any women who arouse his deep-seated sexual rage. While serving a thirty-day sentence for theft however, the “Reverend” Harry Powell shares a cell with a death row inmate who, unbeknownst to his wife, has hidden a small fortune in stolen cash somewhere on the family farm. Obsessed with finding the money, Powell immediately sets his sights on the newly widowed Willa Harper and her two children, John and Pearl. Lost without her husband and easily manipulated, the somewhat simpleminded Willa quickly falls under Powell’s spell eventually joining him in a loveless marriage and taking up his fire & brimstone rhetoric. Meanwhile, convinced that the children know the whereabouts of their father’s loot, Powell sets his eye on young John. At first trying to cajole the boy into revealing his secret, the false preacher eventually shows his true nature when the suspicious lad steadfastly refuses to cooperate. What follows is a harrowing mix of suspense and backwoods horror as a terrified brother and sister attempt to flee from their murderously insane stepfather… From a desperate trek down a moonlit river to a sinister silhouette splayed across a bedroom wall, rarely has the use of light and shadow played such a key element in the telling of a story. In fact the dichotomy of light and darkness forms the very basis of director Charles Laughton’s gripping fable which examines the endless struggle between innocence and evil (appropriately enough, Powell has the words “hate” and “love” tattooed on the fingers of opposing hands). Filmed in striking shades of B&W against fanciful backdrops of starry skies, fairy tale houses, and forest familiars, Night of the Hunter has the aura of a dark fantasy told through the eyes of a child in which adults, their motives unfathomable, can’t always be trusted to do what is right. Although some may be put off by the film’s stagey sets and theatrical presentation (a cold-blooded murder is filmed as a chilling pas de deux), one must remember that Laughton has reimagined the story of Hansel and Gretel complete with deep dark woods and a precarious path to grandmother’s house. This is a grim bedtime story expertly directed and featuring a stellar cast which pits a baleful Robert Mitchum as the bible-spouting madman against an angelic Lilian Gish as the children’s last refuge. Brilliant!

Jun 19, 2014

I was really hoping for a scary movie, or at least an artfully done film noir. HA HA HA, WRONG! This was the best bad movie I've ever seen. Our faces hurt from laughing at it. We started counting the wildlife closeups and laughed harder with each one. And the commenter who mentioned the scene of Robert Mitchum chasing the children up the stairs with his arms outstretched was spot on. And what was with the angry crowds with furniture? It was over the top. We provided our own commentary and enjoyed ourselves immensely. But don't for a minute think this is a good thriller. I dare anyone to watch it without laughing.

Feb 03, 2014
  • VRMurphy rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Well worth watching, but I suggest you take an academic viewpoint, rather than "hey, let's watch a movie!". The art direction is outstanding, in presenting a very flat, black & white background against which the actors depict archetypes - it's a very dark fable. Billy Chapin, as the young boy, gives an outstanding performance, and Mitchum, of course, is quite chilling. Lillian Gish is terrific.

Feb 02, 2014

Robert Mitchum "grew up" in the movies playing the bad guy in Hopalong Cassidy and Johnny Mack Brown cowboy flicks. The sinister personna he developed plays perfectly in the "Hunter". Charles Laughton created this movie as a visual fantasy and the "excesses" in the staging and acting were purposeful. The IMDB includes "Hunter" on its top 250 list and Roger Ebert gave it four stars - good enough for me!

Jan 19, 2014
  • Bazooka_Joe rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

Whenever cast as a cowboy-dude, Robert Mitchum would always be a Western fan's hero._____ And, whenever cast as a no-nonsense tough-guy, Robert Mitchum would always be the epitome of pure "Film Noir" cool._____ But, when cast here as a psychotic, serial-killing "man-of-the-cloth" (fanatically spewing out religious mumbo-jumbo), Robert Mitchum would amount to being nothing but a truly embarrassing and laughable example of some of the most serious miscasting that I've ever seen._____ Had "The Night Of The Hunter" (TNOTH) been billed as a rip-roarin' Comedy then, yes, I could've easily understood Mitchum's hammy, bug-eyed, scenery-chewing performance as "Preacher" Harry Powell. But, if I was actually expected to take his demented, over-the-top histrionics with the dead-seriousness of awe, admiration and reverence - Well, that I could not (and would not) do._____ I defy anyone (in their right mind) to keep a straight face and not burst out laughing when Mitchum's character (like a slapstick parody of Frankenstein) chases the 2 young brats out of the basement with his arms stretched up over his head._____ This potentially promising "Psychological Thriller" suffered significantly at the hands of its one-time director, Charles Laughton, who had obviously bitten off more than he could chew. With TNOTH, Laughton had an annoying tendency to dwell too intensely on things which were decidedly frivolous, that either didn't help move the story along or clearly worked against any efforts made to sustain its frequently faltering suspense._____ Set in the 1930s (with its story taking place along the Ohio River in West Virginia), TNOTH was filmed in glossy b&w and, thankfully, only had a running time of 93 minutes.

Jan 19, 2014

Wonderful film.

Dec 05, 2013
  • empbee rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

Child actors are very good. A "modern" fairy tale.

Sep 17, 2013
  • martyrofevil rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A lot of beautiful shots and the music is pretty good for the time but it lost a lot of momentum in the last half hour and got a little too sappy towards the end.

Apr 20, 2013
  • aaa5756 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

This movie was entertaining and interesting but not one of my favorite for this year. Not too bad---good performance. I fast forwarded a lot but not all the way.

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Apr 15, 2013
  • aaa5756 rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” ― Martin Luther King, Jr


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