The Night of the Hunter. Made in 1955, this film seems way ahead of its time and also references the past in equal measure. At times, like one of Grimm's fairy tales, it plays with all the over-acting of its age ; the "studio" setting and Black+White shots are reminders of how film "used" to be ; the nasties are kept off camera and the child actors are sweet and adorable.
But there is plenty of psychological suspense, threat and human observation, that we may take for granted these days, but back in the 50's psychology was a "new" science and that was resisted by most as babble. There is real grit here- hints at dark times and dark minds. The story was based on a real-life serial killer who murdered widows and orphans in the Great Depression for their savings, so it anticipated the rush of interest in that genre by some 35 years. It develops the simple biblical warning of "a wolf in sheep's clothing" into something much more modern- sounding. Robert Mitchum is the Rogue Preacher, a split person who preys on the vulnerable and prays to his own personal God to justify and sanctify his evil desires and deeds, by dressing them up in religious bigotry. Good stuff and so relevant to every age, where a "Higher Authority" (be it a religion, political ideology, cult of individualism, social mantra, etc) is used by an individual to write a story for themselves that justifies hateful, mean, exploitative acts, all without tarnishing or worrying their comfortable little ego-self.
Ok Mitchum's preacher is an extreme example, but we can see it around us, and become it if we are not careful and open to the truth and facts.
Great stuff, I enjoyed it full-screen at Bristol Watershed. Lovely to see a good old film, a
commercial failure at the time, reappraised and re-released.
The film has been cited among critics as one of the best of the 1950s, and has been selected by the United States National Film Registry for preservation in the Library of Congress. At the time of its original release, however, it was a critical and box-office failure, and CharlesLaughton never directed again.
So often, the man ahead of his time fails, but opens the door to so many others to succeed.