The Night Of The Hunter (1955)


A self-styled preacher and woman-hating murderer insinuates himself into the life of a young widow whose husband stashed his stolen loot somewhere at his home.

The Night Of The Hunter has a lot to commend it; Robert Mitchum’s creepy performance concretes his Cape Fear inspired reputation as Film Noir pyscho of choice, plus he is ably aided by a hollow-eyed Shelley Winters as the unfortunate victim of his attentions and Lillian Gish as the goodhearted, wily old bird who ultimately proves his undoing. As for the visuals, there are more stunning images to be seen in this single film than most directors manage in their entire career. Unfortunately, the performances of the children just don’t measure up and seeing as they are the lynch pin of the entire story, this harms the film’s effectiveness immeasurably. The constant Biblical references and hymn singing also wore on this confirmed atheist’s nerves and some of the imagery is very heavy handed. Maybe it was because I built this film up too much for myself, but as the story wore on and the suspense was replaced by saccharine I was left exasperated just as often as I was amazed.

I’m certainly not sorry I’ve seen it and the imagery is truly spectacular but this is one of those “classics” I couldn’t help feeling underwhelmed by.



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