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The Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton, who made his name as a wide-ranging character actor in Hollywood (famed for his roles in such films at Mutiny on the Bounty, Ruggles of Red Gap, and Jamaica Inn), made his lone directorial effort with the arty, moody, shimmering good-versus-evil morality play Night of the Hunter. In his most famous role, Robert Mitchum unforgettably stars as Harry Powell, a magnetic yet deeply treacherous serial-killer-cum-preacher who terrorizes a small-town family when he learns that $10,000 might be hidden in their house. The town in general is immediately taken by Powell, but the children of the house know better than to trust the obvious charlatan, and find an unlikely ally in the tough-as-nails Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish in an incredible late- career performance). Powell will stop at nothing to get his hands on the money—but will good prevail over his particular brand of evil? While Night of the Hunter was critically mauled upon release and deemed a failure with the public, history has shone a very bright light on the film, which is now routinely placed among the best films ever made and certainly one of the finest products to come out of the later stages of the Hollywood studio system. “If we were to measure a film’s achievement purely on the basis of the depth and the indelibility with which it has engraved an image (or images) on our minds, the winner might well be Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter.”—Francine Prose.

Genres: Film Noir