541. The Night of the Hunter

In a story that falls somewhere between horror film, family drama, and fable, Robert Mitchum plays a malevolent preacher who preys on a widow and her two children during the depression. This might be hyperbole, but THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER is one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in black and white. The lighting is extraordinary, painting everything in deep contrast, with menacing shadows and piercing moonlight. It makes the film feel a bit unreal and story-like—glossy, but still threatening. There is one particular underwater scene that’s simultaneously macabre and breathtaking, impossible to forget, and I think the entire stylized look of the film adds to its emotional weight rather than detracts. It’s a terrible shame that this is the only film actor Charles Laughton ever directed, and that it was so unsuccessful. I think I’m developing a real taste for 1950s bucking-against-the-system cinema.



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