Danny- Oh dear readers, what a way to start off the countdown!! Charles Laughton, golden age Hollywood actor, directed only one movie in his life and this was it. The Night of the Hunter is a film the Joe has been telling me to watch for years. I’m here to say that I was a fool for not listening to him. This film is one of the best pieces of art I have ever had the pleasure to view in my entire life. I know what you’re thinking, “wow, really selling that shit aren’t you?” Yeah, Yeah I am. Rarely have I seen a film that’s aesthetic value is as great as the story and the social commentary. Let’s start with the visual style. If you are a frequent reader of our blog or a personal friend, you’ll know that both Joe and I are huge fans of the German Expressionism art movement of the 1920’s. These silent films use visual distortion of reality to convey mood. Notable films in the movement include Metropolis, Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and M. These achieve a very surreal distortion of reality by employing a few different methods including; asymmetrical and geometrically distorted set pieces, high contrast dark and light visuals (chiaroscuro, for all you art geeks), low key lighting, and dynamic use of shadows. All of these things are played with to convey various moods. German Expressionism directly gave rise to the American Gothic Horror films, (Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman ect.) and Film Noir (Double Indemnity, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon). I would always joke to Joe about making our own German Expressionism piece, and he would second the motion. We talked about giving new life to the art form and bringing it to the English Speaking world again (because we are that cool). I said all these things not knowing that Charles Loughton did that very thing in 1955. The Night of the Hunter was a box office flop and was not very well received by audiences or critics at the time. That’s all fine and good because it quite clear that this movie was either way ahead of its time or way behind. This film uses Expressionism to create what I can only describe as an American fairytale nightmare. It tells the story of a young boy whose father robbed and back and was hung for murdering two people in the process. While in prison he meets a mysterious man who claims himself to be a preacher. The Preacher finds out that only the man’s small children know the location of the stolen $10,000. When he is released from prison he sets out to reclaim the money. This film is really a scathing critic of American society, (which hasn’t changed as much as we like to think since the 1950’s in some respects) it challenges the roles of women, the way in which children are treated by society and also the way religion is used to control people in various ways.
I knew it was gonna be hard to not just write a paper on this movie instead of just a mini review and I was totally right. This is the best movie I have seen in a very long time. It speaks across the generations and delivers a message that is still relevant today. This is the only American art film from this particular area that I have seen that can stand toe to toe with it foreign contemporaries (Ingmar Bergman and the like). Not only does it have and amazing story and social commentary its visual style is downright breathtaking. During this film I said to Joe, “Every frame of this movie is like a painting that I would hang in my house.” Seriously see this fucking movie.
I am very proud to give this film a 10/10
The Night of the Hunter is one of the most unique films I’ve ever seen. It defies classification, but if pressed I’d call it a gothic horror fairy tale which owes a huge debt to German Expressionism. I could write a paper on the cinematography alone. It expertly blends realism and surrealism. At times buildings appear too long and obtuse, while shadows appear stretched and out of proportion. At the same time the essence of Night of the Hunter is very real and American. The story addresses and comments on religion, power, and gender roles in society. These are all themes that are very American at heart. This film was released in 1955 and was truly ahead of it’s time. The story is told through the eyes of two children, whose father leaves them stolen cash, before he is imprisoned and hung. The Hunter (Robert Mitchum) then enters the film and woos the newly widowed mother of the two children. He does this to try and get close to the children in order to figure out where their father’s money is. The world that is portrayed in this film is dark and twisted. As one character says, “It’s a hard world for little things”. The children try to get away from the Hunter, but are again and again chased down and forced to run again. Robert Mitchum’s character becomes the embodiment of evil as he continuously haunts the children. There is no safety in Night of the Hunter. Only temporary respite, before another nightmarish encounter. This is what really brings the horror to the movie. We see the world through the eyes of these children and see how helpless they are. The adults around them are either blind to the evil following them or completely helpless to stop it. The Hunter is religious to a fault and believes a woman’s job in this world is to bear children and that’s it. However, there is a hypocrisy that lies underneath these surface values. We soon realize that the Hunter doesn’t believe what he’s saying. He’s simply saying what he has to in order to empower himself further. The Hunter is a monolithic giant that embodies traditional American values and power structures. He is an unstoppable giant that steamrolls past everyone and everything. However, at the end of the film a confrontation takes place in which someone finally stands up to the Hunter. It is a powerful commentary on the power of the individual. Change can happen, but not if the people are blind to what needs to be changed. This review has barely touched upon the surface of what The Night of the Hunter has to offer and I strongly urge you to check it out for yourself! Sadly, this movie was a flop in 1955 and Charles Laughton (the film’s director) never made another movie again and died seven years later. The Night of the Hunter endures though and it still holds up as a unique masterpiece that was decades ahead of it’s time.