Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Night of the Hunter. A

These days, if you ask the average young movie fan who Robert Mitchum is, they won't be able to give a good answer. If you ask the average movie fan, young or old, they won't be able to tell a thing about 'The Night of the Hunter.' Mitchum plays Harry Powell, a preacher who kills women and also steals automobiles. He is a pure man, but also a psychopathic nut case. His unsuspecting, calm demeanor early on could draw comparisons to Anton Chigurh, the great villain from the great 'No Country for Old Men.' At the beginning of the film, Powell is put in prison for stealing a car. While behind bars, he meets Ben Harper (Peter Graves) a man who is to soon be hung for stealing money from a bank. Before being imprisoned, Harper hides the money and makes his children, Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce) and John (Billy Chapin) to swear not to tell anyone where the money is. It is known to the public that the money is hidden, but no one knows that the children know where the money is. After being released, Powell comes to the children's house seeking the money. You'll have to watch the movie to see just how terrifying Powell is. He actually makes for one of the better movie villains of all time, thanks to Mitchum. 'The Night of the Hunter' reminded me of an old Edgar Allen Poe horror story. It has an eerie, haunted feel to it as do most of Poe's work, but it isn't quite depressing enough to be a story from him. The film is not only a showcase of great acting, but it is also brilliantly photographed by Stanley Cortez. Movies like these aren't made any more. I guess 'No Country for Old Men' would be the closest comparison, but unlike 'No Country,' 'The Night of the Hunter' gives us true terror: children in peril. Most people would not consider 'The Night of the Hunter,' directed by Charles Laughton, to be of paramount importance, but that is likely because they have never even seen it. Yes, this movie is under-appreciated, but that does not excuse you from seeing it. Watch 'Night of the Hunter,' for few terror/suspense films compare to it.

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