The Night Of The Hunter

Bisbee, Arizona has a population of just six thousand people, but this summer I have learned that the local public library is an invaluable resource. The Copper Queen Library, along with a good book collection, also has an extensive library of classic films on DVD.

Last night, as I ate freshly-made pesto with home-made bread, I watched a movie which impressed me deeply, the 1955 film The Night Of The Hunter. Charles Laughton directed this dark film, and the amazing cinematography of Stanley Cortez has the feel of German Expressionist movies of the 1920s.

Robert Mitchum’s performance as the evil and psychotic preacher is the role of a lifetime. Shelley Winters shines as a widow who falls under the preacher’s spell.

This review of the film effectively explains its power, even fifty-seven years later:

Noir of the Week article

You can watch the movie in seven parts on Youtube; here’s the first fourteen minutes.




Filed under Essays and Articles, Video, Visual Arts

8 responses to “The Night Of The Hunter

  1. ljfitz62

    Nice review, Larry. I’ll check it out. Robert Mitchum and Shelly Winters – ya can’t go wrong.

  2. Darrell

    I remember watching “Night of the Hunter” on the Hannibal/Quincy’s KHQA late show with my Mom in the very early ’60’s. Mitchum’s role gave her the shivering giggles . . . “He’s soo creepy!!” she kept repeating. I think the tension in the movie is knowing how bad the preacher is, while no one else except the children realize it; we keep waiting, but he keeps getting away with it . . . a rather good portrait of a sociopath morphing into a psychopath.

  3. Mitchum’s portrayl of a pseudo-religious psychopath is truly chilling. The film has a mythic character, and its setting along the Ohio River kept reminding me of Huckleberry Finn.

  4. Darrell

    Huck Finn for a later time maybe?
    I think one of my favorite characters was portrayed by Lillian Gish who saw right through the Preacher’s facade . . . she even took a shot at him too. When that happened both Mom and I chuckled . . . I still do when I think about it now.

  5. Joan

    Here’s a link to the story the movie was based on,

    This fellow was not a preacher. If you are looking for real preachers who kill their wives there are more current stories
    Matt Baker

    Following is a cut and paste from a small summary of religious/oriented murders.

    Matt Baker Convicted of Wife’s Murder (2006).
    Houston Pastor Tracy Benard Burleson murdered his wife along with his son and girl friend (2010)
    Pennslyvannia Pastor Arthur Schirmer murders 1st and 2nd wives (2010),
    Paul Boswell (Montgomery, 2010) .”

    It got too depressing to look them all up. Here in our St. Louis County area, our own example of monstrous Christian greed, Televangelist Joyce Meyer employed a golden haired body guard who killed his wife and two lovely little children so he could marry the mistress he had met while on tour with Joyce. Joyce claimed no knowledge of his situation but her rule, that she would employ no divorced people was the excuse he used for motive.

  6. Thanks for the depressing links, Joan! Next time I’m feeling overly ebullient I’ll check them out.

    Darrell, Lillian Gish was wonderful in that film. It indeed was gratifying to see someone confront Mitchum with what he was. Interesting that she was a star during the silent film era.

  7. Darrell

    what about women who murder preachers??
    Okay . . . maybe the Roman Catholic solution is the safest after: if you want to live a religious life, practice celibacy??

  8. Joan

    I left out the ones where the wives murdered their husbands. Too many murders. Too little time. Yeah, look how much good the Roman Catholic church’s celibacy rules have done the little altar boys.

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