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
The Night of the Hunter incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed is truly a standalone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear, The Friends of Eddie Coyle) as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters (A Place in the Sun, The Diary of Anne Frank) are uncovered by her terrified young children.
Graced by images of eerie beauty and a sneaky sense of humor, this ethereal, expressionistic American classic also featuring the contributions of actress Lillian Gish (Intolerance, Duel in the Sun) and writer James Agee is cinema's quirkiest rendering of the battle between good and evil.
SPECIAL EDITION FEATURES
* New, restored high-definition digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
* Audio commentary featuring assistant director Terry Sanders, film critic F. X. Feeney, archivist Robert Gitt, and author Preston Neal Jones
* Charles Laughton Directs "The Night of the Hunter," a two-and-a-half-hour archival treasure trove of outtakes from the film
* New documentary featuring interviews with producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Jones, and author Jeffrey Couchman
* New video interview with Simon Callow, author of Charles Laughton: A Difficult Actor
* Clip from the The Ed Sullivan Show, in which cast members perform live a scene that was deleted from the film
* Fifteen-minute episode of the BBC show Moving Pictures about the film
* Archival interview with cinematographer Stanley Cortez
* Gallery of sketches by author Davis Grubb
* New video conversation between Gitt and film critic Leonard Maltin about Charles Laughton Directs "The Night of the Hunter"
* Original theatrical trailer
* PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow