I was excited to see Clarky come with The Night of the Hunter this week. I had been meaning to bring this film to the table since the first season of Horror Club, but somehow it had been forgotten. I first saw it when I was a kid and I found it pretty terrifying. My Dad suggested that we watch it and I wasn’t up for it at all – I wasn’t exactly enamoured with those dusty old black and white movies. I was proven wrong and I’ve had a high opinion of this film ever since.
Firstly, I have to agree with Clarky, I’d question whether this can really be classified as a Horror movie. However, it doesn’t really matter either way – this is an even better film than I’d previously realised. I can’t find any significant flaw and it deserves to be included amongst the very best films ever made (regardless of genre).
Robert Mitchum creates one of the most sinister, magnetically charming, and endlessly watchable villains to ever grace the silver screen. When you hear him sing ‘Leaning on the everlasting arms’ there is a quality to it that is captivating: you understand his seductive powers. It’s up there with the greatest performances I’ve seen. There are plenty of other superb performances too. Lillian Gish is superb as Mrs Cooper, the antithesis of Harry Powell, who guards her flock against his evil pursuit. The performances by the children are also fantastic, the film wouldn’t work without them being believable.
Special mention has be given to the lighting in this film. In my youth, I foolishly used to think that there were no redeeming features of black & white films. However, I think that it’s actually a real strength of the movie. The way the film is lit is quite astonishing: it’s years ahead of its time. I don’t think a movie in full Technicolor glory could come close to achieving the effect. Watch the clip that Fin has included in his review, it’s quite remarkable. Perhaps it was too forward thinking for its time, hence the critical and box office mauling.
An absolutely superb film and a real change of pace after the double helping of Argento. Anyone, regardless of their interest in horror, should watch this classic.