Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Night of the Hunter

First, I want thank all of you for the best-wishes yesterday.

I wish I could say Rian and I had some elaborate, amazing celebration, but unfortunately, lack of finances prevented us from doing so. We merely went out for dinner and a few drinks. We're saving up money to do something spectacular six months from now.

We did, however, cozy up on the couch and watch a fantastic movie.

Rian's friend, who is a film professor at a local university, suggested Night of the Hunter to us.

This 1955 sadistic fairytale is way ahead of its time. It focuses on religious hypocrisy, blind greed, and inexcusable ignorance.

Dashing cinema hunk Robert Mitchum plays the psychotic preacher Harry Powell. During a prison stint, he bunks with a bank robber, who is rumored to have stashed $10,000 somewhere. Upon his release, Harry goes to the robber's hometown and courts his grieving widow to obtain the money. Only her young children stand in the way between him and the fortune...

As the preacher, Robert Mitchum is without a doubt one of the most frightening villains in Hollywood history. His calm demeanor mixed with hollow, menacing eyes are enough to make your skin crawl. His haunting voice serenading the children with a sinister lullaby adds to the horror.

The film itself is a work of art. The cinematography is stunning, creating a surrealistic atmosphere. The striking symbolism sprinkled throughout the plot and the scenery make it seem almost magical.

The lighting in this film also steals the show. Shadows and moonlight are like actors in a way, setting the scene and hinting at danger. To put it simply, it is a beautiful film to watch.

I was astonished to learn that when this film came out, it was a critical failure. It was the first film of aspiring-director Charles Laughton. The reviews were so bad, Charles never directed another film again. He was so disappointed.

But 50-some years later, audiences are re-discovering the gem and calling it one of the greatest movies ever made. I believe movie-watchers in the 1950s simply were not ready for this film yet. Nothing like it had existed before. It was too creepy. The studio tried selling it as a horror-romance, when it was really a horror film about children. Which confused people.

If you enjoy old movies, crave suspense, and appreciate cinematic beauty, I highly recommend Night of the Hunter.

If you do end up watching it, let me know what you think!

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