The Night of the Hunter

The Night of the Hunter

Director: Charles Laughton
Running Time: 93 minutes


The first Nightlight Cinema Film Society Presentation premiers on November 25th in our brand new Lounge 237 area screening on our new 135" screen! Only 25 tickets available for this event.

"Not that you mind the killings! There's plenty of killings in your book, Lord..."

Charles Laughton's The Night of the Hunter (1955) is one of the greatest of all American films, but has never received the attention it deserves because of its lack of the proper trappings. Many “great movies” are by great directors, but Laughton directed only this one film, which was a critical and commercial failure long overshadowed by his acting career. Many great movies use actors who come draped in respectability and prestige, but Robert Mitchum has always been a raffish outsider. And many great movies are realistic, but “Night of the Hunter” is an expressionistic oddity, telling its chilling story through visual fantasy. People don't know how to categorize it, so they leave it off their lists.

Yet what a compelling, frightening and beautiful film it is! And how well it has survived its period. Many films from the mid-1950s, even the good ones, seem somewhat dated now, but by setting his story in an invented movie world outside conventional realism, Laughton gave it a timelessness. Yes, the movie takes place in a small town on the banks of a river. But the town looks as artificial as a Christmas card scene, the family's house with its strange angles inside and out looks too small to live in, and the river becomes a set so obviously artificial it could have been built for a completely stylized studio film like Kwaiden (1964).

Charles Laughton showed here that he had an original eye, and a taste for material that stretched the conventions of the movies. It is risky to combine horror and humor, and foolhardy to approach them through expressionism. For his first film, Laughton made a film like no other before or since, and with such confidence it seemed to draw on a lifetime of work. Critics were baffled by it and the public rejected it. But nobody who has seen The Night of the Hunter has forgotten it, or Mitchum's voice coiling down those basement stairs: "Chillll . . . dren?”

~~ Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com