Author Topic: Night of the Hunter (1955)  (Read 993 times)

Chedney Honks

  • When life gives u no hair, ball spin
Night of the Hunter (1955)
« on: March 16, 2021, 07:24:39 PM »


If you don't know, it's noirish fairy tale 'horror', of sorts. It was panned at the time and director (and actor) Charles Laughton never made another film. It's been critically reappraised over the years and is widely regarded as now as a work of rare magnificence. It's quite hard to categorise, but after watching it twice in succession, I'm certain it's one of the best films I've ever seen.

Robert Mitchum plays a murderous preacher whose bank robber cell mate is to be executed. Before this happens, he reveals that he's stashed the money and only his kids know the whereabouts. Yes, this leads to growing tension and so on which you would expect from a thriller but it's much more than that. It's genuinely horrific and sinister, at times, but the cinematography and score also make it feel like a dream (more than a nightmare).

I won't spoil anything but there's a passage where the children are trying to evade the preacher which is up there with Wong Kar Wai or Malick for me. Pure cinema. I had a lump in my throat but I was absolutely thrilled. I'm fascinated by the whole film, and can't wait to get stuck into all the extras and features.



Robert Mitchum is unforgettable. Simple as that. His voice, delivery, eyes, movement, dialogue - this is one of the great villains of moving pictures. No exaggeration. There's almost nothing more to say, although I could give countless (edit!) examples. Cinematography is equally brilliant. The use of light and shadow, I honestly don't know where to begin. There are so many reasons to watch it, just so happens that pretty much everything about it is fantastic.

I'd wanted to watch it for quite a while and read that the Criterion Blu-ray was one of their best releases, although it appears to be out of print and also only available in Region A (U.S.). Nevertheless, I eventually took the plunge and imported a copy from eBay, and I'm so glad I did. I'm aware there's also a very good Arrow Academy Blu-ray available over here, too, if you're interested.

Any other thoughts?
« Last Edit: March 16, 2021, 07:54:28 PM by Chedney Honks »

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #1 on: March 16, 2021, 07:31:35 PM »
Good, innit?
Tim Smith's favourite film by all accounts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AipXtRruGnk

kalowski

  • Maclunkey
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #2 on: March 16, 2021, 07:32:54 PM »
Incredible film. Think it did so badly on release Laughton never directed again.
One of Scorsese's favourites, too. Mitchum us magnificent.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #3 on: March 16, 2021, 07:40:22 PM »
I once saw a bloke who'd written HATE on both hands.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #4 on: March 16, 2021, 08:03:27 PM »
Anyone ever read the book?

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #5 on: March 16, 2021, 08:15:34 PM »

Outstanding film. It was in my Top Ten for a very long time.

Mitchum is superb.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2021, 08:44:20 PM »
I only saw this a few years ago when picked up in an Arrow Academy sale. Sublime viewing experience and one I’ve returned to several times since.

So many brilliant bits but my favourite is where Mitchum is pursuing the kids out of a cellar and he trips so the camera momentarily cuts away from him, then he all of a sudden lunges back into frame with arms outstretched. It has the exact feel and queasy physics of a bad dream and scares me every time.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2021, 08:51:36 PM »
Its astonishing and yeah a tragedy it bombed.

Del Toro raving about it below more much succinctly than I ever could.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJ4xpKwvI60&t=178s

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2021, 08:53:08 PM »
I noticed last Christmas that it has the same 'up in the heavens'-style beginning as It's A Wonderful Life. Wonder how many other films start with a twinkly-amongst-the-stars background?

Also, this book is great.

EDIT: Oh, forgot to say that Peter Graves once stood in my parents' front garden. That's my Night Of The Hunter claim to fame[1]
 1. And obviously my Airplane one as well.

Chedney Honks

  • When life gives u no hair, ball spin
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2021, 08:58:18 PM »
Good to read a lot of love for this one, and that scene you mention is almost sickeningly tense, frajer. That lunge, I know exactly what you mean, gave me a sinking feeling in my stomach. Likewise, the scene in the mud. The direction is perfect.

I also like how quickly he reveals himself to the children as a nasty bastard. There's no ruse there, just pure threat. He knows how much the balance of power is in his favour, so he doesn't hold back. From a pacing perspective, it's quite unusual in that respect. I love that choice. Likewise with the marriage. It's totally in service to his plans and he doesn't even go through the motions, just immediately starts psychologically breaking her down.


Glebe

  • It was just a bad fortnight.
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #10 on: March 16, 2021, 09:01:01 PM »
Only saw it once many years ago, must give it another watch. Apparently Laughton told Mitchum he needed somebody to play an "absolute shit" and Mitchum replied "Present," or something.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #11 on: March 16, 2021, 09:20:08 PM »
I noticed last Christmas that it has the same 'up in the heavens'-style beginning as It's A Wonderful Life. Wonder how many other films start with a twinkly-amongst-the-stars background?

The Elephant Man ends like that, dunnit? Does that count?

Yeah, it's a good 15 years or something since I saw it too so I can't bring much to the table, sorry.



Quote
Wind And Rains Is Cold

Wimping out for baby god
No grudge nothing not even fear
Only he was a lamb
Nurse his hate hand he cut it on a jag

Oh spotty Sallys army
All win they dared all sayed 'yeah'
Dashed back calling out alarms
Enough to wake the dead Freds
Dead Freds
With their hair waving all lazy and soft
Like meadow grass under the flood

Rains cold and the wind blows
All the rains is cold
All the rains is cold

Best thing gone did ever have
It was a good boy not bad
With whole body just a-quivering
With cleanliness
Hate hand take the soul through drizzle ditch
And the wormy garden vegetable garden bitch

Hide your hate hand in your secret place
Your hate hand hide your hand

Now you remember children
How blessed are the pure in heart
Want me to take 'em up and wash 'em good?
Them dead good?
Like the only fish in the river
Not safe 'cos they all had stones
All had stones

With rains cold and the wind blows
All the rains is cold
Wind and rains is cold

Hide your hair it's waving all lazy and soft
Like meadow grass under the flood

Rains cold and the wind blows
All the rains is cold
Wind and rains is cold

kalowski

  • Maclunkey
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #12 on: March 16, 2021, 09:48:05 PM »
I was haunted by the shot of Shelly Winters underwater.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #13 on: March 16, 2021, 11:05:20 PM »

The Mollusk

  • A number of deceased arachnids... and beans
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #14 on: March 16, 2021, 11:28:57 PM »
Masterpiece. I’m sure I read that the whole set is artificial, including all the outdoor scenes, is that right? I’m almost certain that the scene where the children are taking the boat down the river is artificial. This, and the gorgeous lighting throughout, definitely gives the film the feeling of a dark and unpleasant dream, the sad unreality of it all is truly remarkable cinematography. Not many films make me feel the way this does.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2021, 11:45:27 PM »
I was haunted by the shot of Shelly Winters underwater.

Getting to see that scene, during a screening at Brighton's Duke Of York, was one of the best things I've ever seen on the big screen.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #16 on: March 17, 2021, 01:11:28 AM »
Just to add to the love of that film. Rewatched it at Christmas and felt it was pretty much as Christmassy as It's a Wonderful Life; with other similarities named above.

Think Lillian Gish was magnificent and that "Leaning" duet scene is one of my absolute favourites. Feel that she epitomised the Love in the battle with Mitchum's Hate; although had to be a hard-ass bitch to the children to protect them while Mitchum tried to (at times clumsily) charm them.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #17 on: March 17, 2021, 09:17:54 AM »
Masterpiece. I’m sure I read that the whole set is artificial, including all the outdoor scenes, is that right? I’m almost certain that the scene where the children are taking the boat down the river is artificial. This, and the gorgeous lighting throughout, definitely gives the film the feeling of a dark and unpleasant dream, the sad unreality of it all is truly remarkable cinematography. Not many films make me feel the way this does.

Yeah it was all soundstages. Mitchum had to kneel down in the water because it was so shallow

I think it might be a bit of an urban legend that Laughton never directed a film again because of the reviews. I think I read somewhere that he just didn't like the process of directing films and much preferred the more organic and flexible direction that theatre allows

There are so many great shots and sequences in the film but my favourite I think is Lillian Gish on the rocking chair with the shotgun and Mitchum's silhouette through the window.

I saw it years ago and loved it and watched it the other day after hearing Pearl's Dream used in Promising Young Woman. It was one of those films where I didn't want to revisit it as I was worried it wouldn't live up to my memory of it but it absolutely does

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #18 on: March 17, 2021, 09:37:59 AM »
I saw this on the biggest cinema screen I've ever watched a film in in brilliant restoration back in 2014 in Istanbul. Love it and consider it in my top 100 if I have such a thing. Maybe the ending sort of spins out into nothingness, but hell of a ride on the way.

Chedney Honks

  • When life gives u no hair, ball spin
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #19 on: March 26, 2021, 09:08:12 AM »
UK Criterion release coming in June:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B08ZPQ5SKN?tag=bluraycom-21

Still well worth the fifty quid or whatever I spent to import it last month!

mothman

  • I don't know why
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #20 on: March 26, 2021, 09:44:24 AM »
There’s probably a thread to be done on one-time-only directors who produced masterpieces and thus have a 100% hit rate...

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #21 on: March 26, 2021, 03:10:13 PM »
Everyone is psyched for the new version?

Anyone ever read the book?

Yes - it's an incredible work. I've only read a few other things by Grubb (all short stories) but rated them all highly.

Recently, Talking Picture have shown the James Stewart and George Kennedy film, Fools' Parade a couple of times again, which is also adapted from one of Grubb's novels and have been meaning to read that.

Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #22 on: March 26, 2021, 03:13:42 PM »
I noticed last Christmas that it has the same 'up in the heavens'-style beginning as It's A Wonderful Life. Wonder how many other films start with a twinkly-amongst-the-stars background?

Also, this book is great

Yeah, that really is a great read. I don't suppose you've read Simon Callow's (slim) book?

Chedney Honks

  • When life gives u no hair, ball spin
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #23 on: March 26, 2021, 06:12:36 PM »
Everyone is psyched for the new version?

I assume it's the exact same release as the US one but great news either way, I'll get my mum a copy.

kalowski

  • Maclunkey
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #24 on: March 26, 2021, 06:15:00 PM »
I'm amazed there hasn't been a shit remake.

Chedney Honks

  • When life gives u no hair, ball spin
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #25 on: March 26, 2021, 06:35:57 PM »
You not seen Night of the GRAVERAPER?

kalowski

  • Maclunkey
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #26 on: March 26, 2021, 07:08:44 PM »
You not seen Night of the GRAVERAPER?
I've seen Night of the Graperaver, does that count?

FerriswheelBueller

  • CaB rear of the year 2020
  • Silver Member
  • ****
  • Take it easy, but take it.
    • I am antsy for baseball in the off-season.
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #27 on: March 26, 2021, 07:16:20 PM »
Dead good film. That’s all I have to add.

xxxx xxx x xxx

  • Can we have a quick burn, sir?
Re: Night of the Hunter (1955)
« Reply #28 on: March 26, 2021, 07:21:21 PM »
“It’s in my doll, it’s in my doll”

That’s another bit straight out of a fever dream. Wonderful, unique film.

Tags: