“The Night of the Hunter” may be the movie I get the most from the Library (at least till I buy it). It is very intoxicating. It is beyond creepy, magnificent, sublime story telling, superb acting, and great entertainment.
I hope they NEVER remake this movie. Ever. No one else could be Harry Powell. Can you think of an actor who could equal the performance by Robert Mitchum? Neither can I. He is so determined that God is telling him to commit these crimes, you know there is not a chance of changing his mind. We see him come across Ben Harper (a young Peter Graves), about to be executed for murder. Harper has already entrusted a stolen 10,000 dollars to his son John, and asked him to hide it from everyone, even his mother (Shelly Winters).
After the execution, the Reverend Harry Powell makes his way to the Harper house hold, and becomes one of the creepiest villians in movie history. We all know the story of “left hand and right hand, the story of good and evil” (I even saw this spoofed on “Phineas and Ferb” on the Disney Channel). We see little moments that makes us believe how much of a psychopath Mitchum’s character is (notably his eyes and the way he stares). And when he calls out “CHILLLLLLDREN?”?…well, you will find your blood decreasing in temperature to chilling.
Another great thing about the movie is the settings. It does not take place in a real time or place (although I assume it was meant to take place in the Depression, since the movie talks about kids needing a place to stay). It is really timeless (where else do you get a small town where kids can go down a river with animals along the side of it?)
The visuals are great too. We see a certain character, after they have been killed, left at the bottom of the river. That scene is terrifying not just because of the context, but because of how REAL it looks. The director, actor Charles Laughton, made only this movie in his career, but it was knock out.
The movie also ends (SPOILERS) in an odd way: It ends on a happy note. I always felt that was weird, but I realize now it is the right choice. The caretaker, Rachel (the perfectly casted legend Lillian Gish) understands how hard it is to be a child. Ever child should be loved, no matter what.
Parents, the movie is creepy, but not horrible. I am thinking if you have a middle schooler or older who wants to see a classic fifties scary movie, this would be fine. There is one scene of a dancer dancing provacativily, but it does not go too far (Ironically, Harry Powell’s character is AGAINST lust, which is one of the main reasons why he commits murder).
Another thing parents: Harry Powell’s favorite song to sing is “Leaning on the everlasting arms”. If your kids see this movie, they may not be able to sing it the same way again. Come to think of it, you may not be able to either.
Overall: 5 Stars *****