Matthew Brady's Movie Review of The Night of the Hunter

Rating of

The Night of the Hunter

“It’s a hard world for little things.”
Matthew Brady - wrote on 09/24/21

The story is about a religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid the $10,000, he’d stolen in a robbery.

‘The Night of the Hunter’ is a movie that perfectly encapsulates the spirit of dread in every frame. I went into this knowing only the small plot description (the same one above the paragraph), and certain shots that I have seen around on social media through film related sites. What surprised me the most is how uncomfortable and eerie the movie is, which at first, I wasn’t sure if it was just me that was experiencing this. But when it finally clicked with me, then I knew I was in for something...interesting.

The character Harry Powell, an evil charlatan preacher who takes advantage of anyone in his sight, played brilliantly by Robert Mitchum. Mitchum is terrifying and the whole “preacher” thing is just a character he puts on to trick people. He talks with a strong commanding southern voice that makes his preachy words easily take control of anyone in his presence. Powell would do anything to get his filthy hands onto some money, even going as far as marrying the children's mother, a naive widow (played by Shelley Winters) who was hoping for some happiness in her life with Powell, but she's only a part of his scheme of things. He is the big bad wolf with a hypnotizing singing voice. There’s no other way of describing him; he’s just an evil son of a bitch. I will never forget that terrifying Satanic roar from the monster called Harry Powell.

Even if people haven’t seen the movie, but some may recognise the famous tattoo of 'L-O-V-E' on his left hand & 'H-A-T-E' on his right hand, where he tells an animated story of love and hate through his hands. The most visual way of showing love and hate at war with each other and I can see where director Spike Lee got the idea for the Radio Raheem scene in ‘Do the Right Thing’.

A great supporting performance from Lillian Gish as Rachael Cooper, a religious woman, who unlike Harry Powell, practices what she preaches and has a hard as nails, no nonsense attitude, but also shows a loving and caring nature towards the already traumatise children. If you want a strong female character that shows you that they are strong rather than telling you, then this is it. If you come around looking for trouble, then you better kiss your ass goodbye and say hello to a barrel of a gun when it’s pointed at your face by Mrs. Cooper. The scenes between her and Powell were the most fascinating aspects of the movie.

This is the first and sadly only feature film directed by Charles Laughton, which is a tragedy that he never made another movie after this, because the fact this is his first stab at a motion picture, as he was mostly a stage and screen actor, is beyond impressive.

The cinematography by Stanley Cortez is excellent and Gothic, as he gets to play around with the lighting and shadows, especially one shot of a wheel of a car at the bottom of the river with a dead body in the vehicle, with the blonde wavy hair dancing gently in the water, which made it look like a painting of a Gothic fairy-tale, while it also feels strangely peaceful, but very Brother’s Grimm. I would imagine this must have been shocking for people back in 1955, the same how it’s still shocking today. The River Boat scene is another sequence that’s just candy to the eyes.

What the movie does so brilliantly is how it makes you feel the sense of danger, even from a distance. There were a couple of times when I said “wow” at certain details and how it was executed. Movie magic baby!

Overall rating: A marvellous mix of beauty and horror. Go check it out! It’s great!

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