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This Is No" Tales Of The Riverbank" As You Know It!
The Night Of The Hunter (DVD)
Member Name: Machair1
The Night Of The Hunter (DVD)
Date: 01/03/12, updated on 10/03/12 (70 review reads)
Advantages: Absolutely unique- you will never see anything like it again!
Disadvantages: Some parts need you to be a little forgiving.
Film only review.
Actors: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, James Gleason, Evelyn Varden
Directors: Robert Mitchum, Charles Laughton, Terry Sanders
Writers: Charles Laughton, Davis Grubb, James Agee
Producers: Paul Gregory
Number of discs: 1
Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
DVD Release Date: 19 Mar 2001
Run Time: 93 minutes
Year the film was made- 1955
I have been meaning to write about this movie for some time ever since the superb film reviewer on Dooyoo- "Gentle Genius" introduced me to it a while ago. I can honestly say that in all my years of watching films, and there have been many, I have never seen anything quite like this. I love it! So much so that every returning child that visits home has been subjected to it with mixed responses. One said- "Bazaar", the other- "Incredible." Whatever your opinion if you watch this you will witness a very unique series of events that makes the famous "Tales of The Riverbank" kiddies series look like its tame sister. I would describe this film as an evil fairy tale- a nightmare for children!
Brief outline of The Plot
The film is set in the deep south of the USA in the 1930s in West Virginia. Robert Mitchum plays a superb role as a wicked man who presents himself as a preacher (Harry Powell) and gains respect from all he encounters. With "HATE" tattooed on one set of knuckles and "LOVE" on the other he is somewhat strange. He worms his way into the arms of a recently widowed mother of two, in order to seek out the whereabouts of some stolen money. This was left behind by the late husband who committed a robbery before his subsequent conviction and untimely end. The fact that the so called preacher was prosecuted for car theft and landed in jail in the same cell as the husband is rather key to what happens as events unfold.
Oh my goodness does this set the scene for a bizarre set of circumstances as Mitchum seeks out the money at every turn. He is truly terrifying and in particular he seeks out information from the two children in the family - one of which is the most gorgeous pigtailed little girl who he terrorises at every opportunity.
Enough of the plot as there are twists and turns at every opportunity, and to discover what happens requires an inexpensive purchase- only £2.99 with free delivery from Amazon! Also it is important to state that the film scores 8.2 on IMDB, which is testament to its level of appreciation, and Amazon reviews are touching 4.5 out of 5. This is no surprise to me as I think it is being rewarded for its unique presentation. There is no doubt in the thriller genre we see today so many plots resemble others, there is nothing like this I can promise you!
I can tell you that love or hate the film you will witness a drama unfolding which is so unique in its presentation that it has left imprints in my mind and will yours. Some of the scenes are just so thought provoking and dark, and the acting is absolutely brilliant. Shelly Winters plays a superb role as the mother who falls for the preacher with considerable encouragement from the neighbours, who see him as God's representative, putting him on a pedestal way above the clouds!
You have to remember the era that this film represents, and the setting, which is also far from city life and modern times. The costumes are certainly chosen with the era, the geography, and the religious extremism that prevailed at the time. It's all high necks and smart attire, especially so in the children who represent almost a Victorian look. This adds to the atmosphere and the believability. The little girl - Pearl is a delightful four year old, curly locked and rosy cheeked, and who is a picturesque vision of innocence as she plays with her doll on the steps of her picket fenced home.
You have to take certain things at face value and refrain from being over-critical as it is what it is, and in today's fast moving and highly sophisticated film making world it would be ripped to shreds. However there is something so macabre and eerie about this film that really haunts you long after the drama is over.
The stand out scenes for me have to be the wedding night which was superbly acted, and certainly the children escaping from the clutches of the priest down the river is absolutely incredible, but here you must refrain from being overcritical and see it for what is it. It would be easy to say this lacks credibility, but you have to go with the flow to appreciate fully the message and the atmosphere. To some extent you have to transport yourself back in time before you even press play, as this is a film steeped in history, and to appreciate it you have to see the era in black and white. A simple time when transport was on horseback, and when religion was ingrained in every part of your being, preventing common sense from prevailing and replacing it with idolism and ridiculous hero worship.
The music is incredible and hauntingly beautiful and adds to the atmosphere. This is evident from the first moments of the film and carries through all the scenes building tension and imparting fear.
The images in this film are so picturesque, the actions dark and evil, and to some extent this reflects the love and hate tattooed on the knuckles of the wicked priest, The river is serene and home to wildlife, and yet beneath the dreamy ebb and flow of the current lies a dark secret. The houses are picket fenced and have cottage gardens and reflect days spent picking daisies and the innocence of childhood. It is all designed to frame horror and evil with a sugar coating.
I love this film. It sits in my top 10 without a doubt. It will leave a lasting impression- the night sky bathed in stars, the simple life, childhood days and simple pleasures all mixed up with greed and hate and criminal motives hidden behind a façade of holiness.
Final Point-There are no extras on this DVD but that matters not- the film doesn't need any explanation or elaboration. It leaves a trail of mystery in its wake.
This review is also published on Ciao under my user name Violet1278.
Summary: Well worth watching.