14th Nov2013

‘The Night of the Hunter’ Blu-ray Review (Arrow)

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish, Peter Graves | Written by James Agee | Directed by Charles Laughton

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My love of movies comes from watching them, obsessively and probably way too much.  No matter how many I manage to watch though, even starting from an early age I’ve still not seen some that are deemed as masterpieces and that annoys me.  There are classics out there that deserve to be seen and I do have a list in my head of ones that I will see no matter what it takes and one of these was The Night of the Hunter.  When I had the chance to review the Arrow release of the film on Blu-ray I jumped at the chance, there is no better way to see it other than on the big screen.  Now having seen it I feel very lucky I did, not just for the movie itself but for the extras that are included on the disc, this is a very special release indeed.

The Night of the Hunter is the tale of two children and a preacher Harry Powell, a preacher who travels around America marrying widows and stealing their money.  In a belief that he is helping God cleanse the world of evil (in his eyes women) he believes he is on a righteous mission.  When he is arrested on a case of auto theft he finds he has a cellmate in the form of Ben Harper, who refuses to reveal the whereabouts of $10,000 that he’s stolen.  On his release Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) makes his way to the hometown of Harper to find his widow (Shelley Winters) and her two children, to find the money he believes God has destined him to find.

The Night of the Hunter is a tale of depression era America and what people were pushed to, in order to survive.  Ben Harper (Peter Graves) is not a bad man, but he is pushed to evil deeds to provide for his father.  Harry Powell though is a “false prophet” in the biblical sense,  a man who preaches the good of God, but is in fact the most evil character in the film, evil to a level that would make him become one of the scariest characters ever put to screen.  This effective character is arguably all the work of Robert Mitchum who plays the part so well that you are drawn in by Powell who is charismatically evil.

The movie itself is arguably a masterpiece but we can’t ignore the release itself which Arrow have released under the “Arrow Academy” label.  Why this is comes to light when you look at the special features that are included, an interview with Stanley Cortez the cinematographer who worked on the movie and also a two and a half hour documentary called Charles Laughton Directs The Night of the Hunter.  Any fan of film who wants to see how movies are made should watch this as it shows just how The Night of the Hunter was filmed and what the director Charles Laughton had to do to get the level of perfectionism that he expected.

Although The Night of the Hunter may not be seen as a horror movie, I would argue that it fits perfectly into the genre, especially with the character of Harry Powell.  There are iconic characters that truly come across as evil, and Robert Mitchum does an almost perfect job with this character to show what true evil is. Although when it was first released The Night of the Hunter may have not been a success, but not it is a masterpiece, and deserves all praise it gets.

The Night of the Hunter is available on Blu-ray now.

Review originally posted at PissedOffGeek.com
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