Sunday, October 21, 2012

Film Review: The Night of the Hunter

As I've stated before, I often feel like I'm running out of current films that are worth watching and so I've begun going back and watching older films that have a pedigree of one sort or another.

My father had mentioned The Night of the Hunter in passing and I'd seen it appear on various "best" lists as well as heard how influential it had been.

With Robert Mitchum and Shelley Winters it had the acting chops to be a great film but would the rest of it hold up?

It certainly did.  Based upon true events (a serial killer in West Virginia) it was not until after the film did I find out that it took place near my wife's place of birth in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The 1955 film feels a bit older due to its black and white photography as well as its portrayal of 1930's, depression era West Virginia.

Mitchum is brilliant as Harry Powell the con-man reverend/serial killer who has issues with women of all kinds but particularly those who happen to be young and attractive.  The words "love" and "hate" are tattooed on Powell's fingers and represent the dichotomy of Powell's persona--kind man of god one minute and killer the next.

At only an hour and a half in length, the film moves along rapidly, sometimes jarringly as it cuts from one scene to the next but mixes interwoven storylines with skill and contains numerous moments that demand rewatching.  The film's critiques are wide and biting when dealing with religion, small town hypocrisy, and the male role in society amongst others.

Though more or less ignored in its day, The Night of the Hunter has grown in reputation and influence as time has gone on and deservedly so.  Its creation of a slick, creepy killer is one whose influence carries on some 50 years after its debut.

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