On the 100th anniversary of his birth, Charles Laughton's sole directorial outing is being revived in a new 35mm print. Made in 1955, The Night Of The Hunter was savaged on its original release, yet is now rightfully considered one of the richest, most haunting films to emerge from the '50s.
Structured as a fairytale clash between good and evil, it follows travelling preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) around '30s America. Marrying and then murdering Willa Harper (Shelley Winters) for the $10,000 her late husband stole, Powell discovers her two offspring have escaped with the loot. The stepdad pursues the children down-river, where they've sheltered with godly Rachel (Lillian Gish).
Mitchum produces a towering performance; his pious and charismatic veneer masking a psychopathic brutality. But in a film suffused with Biblical and Freudian allusions, the most striking aspect is the superb black-and-white cinematography of Stanley Cortez. Highly recommended.