Before CGI completely bastardized the art of filmmaking.There was actually a time when actors were actors, And films were films.1955’s ‘Night Of The Hunter” is no exception.While some people might not consider it a horror film, I certainly do.The only film directed by actor Charles Laughton, Who you might recognize from “Spartacus” and “Mutiny On The Bounty”, It’s utterly amazing how well this film holds up after all of these decades.Seeing that next year it turns 60, It’s an amazing testament to the American legacy of film.
Based on the novel of the same name by Davis Grubb about the “Lonely Hearts” killer, Who was executed in West Virginia in 1932.Laughton along with screenwriter James Agee brought the story to life.
When I discussed the remake of “Maniac” a while ago,I made a comment about how sometimes actors carry out a performance that makes a film.In hindsight I should have mentioned this film as well.Robert Mitchum was perfectly cast as Reverend Harry Powell.There are times he’s charismatic and sinister, And I’m not even exaggerating.You literally hang on his every word.Every scene he’s in you can’t help but feel intimidated and captivated by his performance.His first scene is him driving around in a stolen car talking to himself a southern drawl, reminiscing about a murder he’s just committed and referring to it as “God’s Work.”Another addition to the cast that seemed to be fit perfectly was silent film star Lillian Gish, Best remembered for her work in D.W. Griffith’s “Birth Of A Nation” as Rachel Cooper.And one cast member I still get a kick out of is a very young Peter Graves from “Mission Impossible” fame.
(Side note:I don’t think I’ll ever review Birth, but it’s worth a watch, despite it’s blatant racist overtones)
ALthough the film is now critically acclaimed, It was received poorly upon release.The reception was so poor Laughton threw on the towel on directing after just one film.And that’s something I’ve always been baffled by.Hunter is suspenseful from the first moment to the very last,Laughton knew how to adapt lessons he had learned from German expressionist filmmakers such as Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau. Using these techniques and adapting them to an American film with a mostly rural setting. I feel it sets it apart from a lot of other films being released around this time.
Give it a watch.