The Night of the Hunter Reviews
But the film's melodramatic plot plays second fiddle to some beautifully shot images. Director Charles Laughton & cinematographer Stanley Cortez incorporates a luminosity that recalls shots commonly found in great films from the silent era.
The novel and film draw on the true story of Harry Powers, hanged in 1932 for the murders of two widows and three children in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The film's lyric and expressionistic style with its leaning on the silent era sets it apart from other Hollywood films of the 1940s and 1950s, and it has influenced later directors such as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, and the Coen brothers.
In 1992, The Night of the Hunter was deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. The influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma selected The Night of the Hunter in 2008 as the second-best film of all time, only behind Citizen Kane.
This independently produced film was sadly promoted the wrong way by distributers United Artists, the film was a commercial flop which put off actor Charles Laughton from directing again.
I love everything about it.
The film begins with Harry Powell, one of the greatest villains of all time. He's a serial killer and a religious fanatic at the same time, and that rocks! Then, the film just gets better and better. The horror tale becomes creepier and darker. And it works flawlessly in black and white. I couldn't imagine watching The Night of the Hunter in Technicolor.
I love how the pace and the suspense grow to the final act where they hit the maximum. The same thing happens in Rear Window, which is my all time favorite film.
Charles Laughton sure knows how to use a great score and soundtrack to scare the shit out of the audience. Just listen to it!
The "Leaning" scene made me drop tears. It was so powerful and deep at the same time. It may be one of the greatest moments in the American cinema.
I also found the ending to be very satisfying. Perhaps it is the best ending that Harry Powell could ever get.
So I find this movie to be a masterpiece. The very definition of a film noir. It's a shame Charles Laughton didn't direct anything else.