Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Night of the Hunter

Dir: Charles Laughton
Starring: Robert Mitchum
Year: 1955

I've wanted to see this film for a few years now as I heard the main character was quite off-beat (especially so for a 50's film). He is indeed scarily abnormal - Mitchum plays a preacher who funds his work with various heinous crimes, but still maintains his good relationship with 'the Lord'.

As he goes in pursuit of two children who he believes have $10k hidden in a doll, Mitchum gradually gets more and more psychotic until there is no question of his insanity. It's acted and directed with incredible subtlety.

If this were a modern film, Mitchum's character would have been foaming at the mouth and screaming obscenities. Instead he eerily sits around singing hymns, playing with a flick-knife. That's why I say Night of the Hunter is well ahead of its time.

The director was Charles Laughton. You all know Charles Laughton. He was in Spartacus, Witness for the Prosecution and some other rather big films of the 30's-60's. Night of the Hunter is the only major film that he directed, though. And he does a swell job. In fact, the direction is quite modern, and it is imaginatively made. Narry particularly liked the scene where the children are floating down the river on the boat - reminded him of his own childhood.

Night of the Hunter is not without its flaws. It's somewhat prone to the kind of over-acting and under-acting that plagues a lot of older films, but the lead actors more than make up for that deficiency. The southern setting was quite brilliant, showing backwater US with its conservative and quite frankly crazy population (hope I don't alienate my Alabama audience with that comment). The accents were simply darling - "Go look in mirror over yonder".

Top work!

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