Night of the Hunter: a masterpiece of American cinema

Night of the Hunter: a masterpiece of American cinema

Image result for night of hunter

Today I talk about The Night of the Hunter which is a classic Gothic fairy-tale classic that may be one of cinema’s great travesties is that Charles Laughton only directed one official film. So poorly received, both critically and commercially, was The Night of the Hunter that Laughton never helmed another film again as this film is simply a masterpiece for the ages as I talk it for The Shelley Winters Blogathon which is hosted by poppitytalksclassicfilm whom has a simply wonderful blog you should check out for the others in event n blog daily for its wonderful work.  Let’s honor Shelley Winters whom may be one of the finest actresses of any era with a look upon this classic movie.

the Shelley Winters Blogathon

Night of the Hunter: a masterpiece of American cinema

The Night of the Hunter is a classic Gothic fairy-tale: an evil being charms an unsuspecting parent, while only the children are aware that things are not what they seem. It was only while watching the film you are enthralled but also deeply unsettled, that I fully realized just how insidiously terrifying the stories of our childhoods as this deeply moving fairy-tale classic takes to the tradition of a Gothic fairy-tale from the pages of grim’s fairy-tales to bring to live a movie unlike anything you will see any again on the screen.

Image result for night of the hunter 1955

Based on a Davis Grubb novel and a James Agee script, The Night of the Hunter is the Bible-soaked, Depression-era tale of a “false prophet” named Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum). Tall and handsome, with a deep voice that easily lends itself to familiar hymns, Powell is, nonetheless, a serial killer who believes his crimes are ordained by God. He leaves a trail of dead women at the movie’s start, moving on to a recent widow (Shelley Winters) and her two children, John and Pearl (Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce). Powell has learned that the man of the house (Peter Graves) stashed $10,000 somewhere before he died, and Powell plans to find it by any means necessary.

Part folk tale, part horror story, the film’s amalgamation of moods and methods proves arcane, even off-putting upon first assessment. Based on Davis Grubb’s novel, the film changes perspectives between characters from the point of view of a child to that of a murderer; and with these dramatic tonal switches, the stylistic approach shifts as well—in sometimes abrupt transitions: deep contrasts with noirish photography give way to bright rural landscapes from a storybook that paints such a dark gothic fairy-tale upon the screen with wonderful direction and acting. The effect upon viewing this movie you will be amazed it was his only movie as a director as you see him capture such richness n depth that matches any other great film-makers of his day.  Motion pictures this distinctive have a way of mesmerizing an audience with their mysteries of style and narrative, instilling a seed that germinates over time and springs into an emergent affection that lingers in the viewer’s unconscious. As a result, audiences and critics alike dismissed the picture in 1955, and yet slowly, over time, the film has gained esteem so that today it is hailed as one of cinema’s greatest treasures over time to be often hailed as something that may be simply a masterpiece in film.

Image result for night of hunter 1955

That The Night of the Hunter was Charles Laughton’s first effort as a director is remarkable, but that it was his only film behind the camera is also one of cinema’s most unfortunate tragedies. Laughton made a picture that does not wallop the viewer upon first viewing, rather cultivates with memory and time. The effect is comparable to Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane, in that with Laughton’s directorial debut he constructed a film so masterful, so complex, it could not be fully appreciated in its day. Each aspect of the film’s production—from the idyllic cinematography to the incredible performances, to the contrary uses of cinematic stylization and narrative presents an interplay of opposing ideas through a sophisticated, haunting, and strangely buoyant whole. It endures as an enchanting American folk tale ripe with intricate melodrama and mythic symbolism, one that no moviegoer will soon forget upon watching it anytime. I hope You liked my talk today about this classic movie.

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5 thoughts on “Night of the Hunter: a masterpiece of American cinema

  1. Pingback: The Shelley Winters Blogathon has arrived! – Poppity Talks Classic Film

  2. Pingback: BLOGATHON… The Next Chapter of the Shelley Winters Blogathon – Realweegiemidget Reviews Films TV Books and more

  3. Great review with wonderful screen captures. Mitchum is at his very best, supported by a powerhouse cast including Winters and the lovely Lillian Gish, in a true classic masterpiece. Love your blog!

  4. This is indeed a masterpiece and unlike any other film in existence. Charles Laughton had such a magnificent vision of cinematic direction, inspired by his friend and colleague Alfred Hitchcock yet totally his own style. His efforts being rejected by critics and audiences alike remind me of how David Lean’s ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ was received; a film which ironically also starred Robert Mitchum.
    Whenever I watch ‘The Night of the Hunter’ and see the use of shadows, I immediately think of Tim Burton’s ‘Beetlejuice’ and wonder if Burton did not take a hefty amount of his own inspiration for that project. No matter how many times I see this film, it never fails to rouse my emotions.
    Speaking of underappreciated, I find that Lillian Gish is not given the credit she deserves for an amazing and very long career. No one else could have played the role of Rachel as she did.
    Thank you so much for writing such a divine article on one of Shelley’s most celebrated films and for joining our blogathon. 😀

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