A tall, handsome preacher his knuckles eerily tattooed with love and hate roams the countryside, spreading the gospel...and leaving a trail of murdered women in his wake. To Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), the work of the Lord has more to do with condemning souls than saving them,especially when his own interests are involved. Now his sights are set on $10,000and two little children are the only ones who know where it is. Chill...dren! the preacher croons to the terrified boy and girl hiding in the cold, dark cellar...innocent young lambs who refuse to be led astray. A finely acted, imaginatively directed chiller with brooding power (Variety), The Night of the Hunter stars Mitchum in the most daring and critically acclaimed performance of his career. Spellbinding, ominous, and hauntingly suspenseful, this extraordinary film noir classic remains one of the most frightening movies ever made (Pauline Kael).
The 2010 Criterion Collection release of The Night of the Hunter
includes extras that no fan of mid-century American film should be without. The Night of the Hunter
was the only film directed by actor Charles Laughton, and Laughton, in addition to being a splendid character actor and masterful director, was also a compulsive archivist, it turns out. The most compelling feature in the Criterion Collection package is an amazing two-and-a-half-hour "film diary" of the making of The Night of the Hunter
, culled from hundreds of hours of random footage shot during filming, and then stashed for years in the home of Laughton's widow, actress Elsa Lanchester. In the 1970s, film archivist Robert Gitt and many others tackled the laborious challenge of screening and matching the contents of the film canisters over the better part of two decades. The result is Charles Laughton Directs "The Night of the Hunter"
, as intimate and illuminating a piece of film history as anything in recent memory. Gitt himself speaks with film critic Leonard Maltin about the contents of the footage in an animated 20-minute introductory conversation that shows both men practically giddy with the riches revealed in the assembled outtakes. And giddy they should be. Charles Laughton Directs "The Night of the Hunter"
preserves Laughton's on- and off-camera coaching of all the actors, including Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters (with whom he clearly had a fractious relationship), and the two child actors, Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce (with whom he's very gentle and coaxing). The result is an even greater appreciation for the weird darkness and creepiness of The Night of the Hunter
, and for the brilliance of all the minds involved in making it. "Just lie there and be seraphic," Maltin quotes Laughton as saying in the intro chat, laughing. "That's got to be the first and only time that specific direction has ever
been given in Hollywood."
Other extras in this rich set include audio commentary; film bios and interviews of the talented cinematographer Stanley Cortez and others; footage of the actors on The Ed Sullivan Show performing a scene deleted from the final cut; and much more. Any fan of The Night of the Hunter will not want to miss this very special collector's edition. --A.T. Hurley
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.