Reel Classics

The Night of the Hunter: Criterion Collection (1955)

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The Night of the Hunter: Criterion Collection (1955)

A minister-turned-serial killer in one of the most beautiful films ever made by Hollywood?  Sure.  Why not?  When the results of exaggerated set designs and a directing style reminiscent of early silent cinema are as good as they are in The Night of the Hunter, no one is going to complain - which is why this film remains so highly esteemed.

"As towering of a figure that Mitchum is throughout this film, he is no match for the sheer brilliance of this unforgettable battle between those that are good and those that are pure evil"


Acclaimed actor Charles Laughton’s only directed film, The Night of the Hunter is the ultimate knife to the heart of romanticism.  It is fatalism at its most lyrical.  The thriller is rich in soul-stirring visuals which pit the individual against nature and these striking moments - thanks to characters which are larger-than-life - are equal parts Biblical and absolutely horrifying making it an unforgettable viewing experience as Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) travels the Ohio River looking for women to kill.

Even today, The Night of the Hunter leaves viewers shaking in their shoes.  It’s not just the children, John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), who are left shaking and shivering by the events of the film as they stare at the wrong end of a switchblade knife held in the “love” and “hate” tattooed knuckles of Powell.The Night of the Hunter: Criterion Collection (1955)

Thanks to James Agee’s adaption of Davis Grubb’s novel, the film tackles some pretty shady characters and - whether you be all-in for Mitchum’s charismatic pretender or Shelly Winter’s Willa - pits them against each other in a search for a convict’s fortune.  With Lillian Gish and James Gleason in supporting roles, the events of The Night of the Hunter are as disturbing as the characters, meaning that - yes - the children are in the gravest of danger when Powell, who shared a cell with their dead father, comes looking for the whereabouts of a stolen (and carefully hidden) $10,000.  

The Night of the Hunter is truly a REEL CLASSIC and it shows in every single frame of this American masterpiece.  As towering of a figure that Mitchum is throughout this film, he is no match for the sheer brilliance of this unforgettable battle between those that are good and those that are pure evil.

Restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc., The Night of the Hunter is now on blu-ray thanks to the efforts of the Criterion Collection.

5/5 stars

The Night of the Hunter: Criterion Collection (1955)

Blu-ray

Blu-ray Details:

The Night of the Hunter—incredibly, the only film the great actor Charles Laughton ever directed—is truly a stand-alone masterwork. A horror movie with qualities of a Grimm fairy tale, it stars a sublimely sinister Robert Mitchum as a traveling preacher named Harry Powell (he of the tattooed knuckles), whose nefarious motives for marrying a fragile widow, played by Shelley Winters, 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 and writer James Agee—is cinema’s most eccentric rendering of the battle between good and evil.

Video:

Framed in a 1.66:1 transfer, the new digital transfer is beyond immaculate.  Crackling with intensity and solid black-and-white images, the transfer is golden.  Minted from 35mm film elements restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive in cooperation with MGM Studios, with funding provided by the Film Foundation and Robert Sturm, this transfer is detailed with sharp edges and dynamic sets that absolutely pop against the background.  Unrealistic and spooky as hell, the horror elements are all in place for a memorable experience.

Audio:

The uncompressed monaural soundtrack included here makes the dialogue front and center, which is ought to be.

Supplements

Commentary:

  • There is an audio commentary featuring second-unit director Terry Sanders, film critic F. X. Feeney, archivist Robert Gitt, and author Preston Neal Jones included with the film.

Special Features:

Complete with a lengthy documentary, the bonus material here is simply incredible.  Fans get a two-and-a-half-hour treasure trove of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage, a NEW documentary featuring interviews with producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Feeney, Jones, and author Jeffrey Couchman, an excerpt from the The Ed Sullivan Show in which cast members perform a scene deleted from the film, Moving Pictures episode, an interview with the film’s cinematographer, sketches, among other rare finds.  There is also a booklet featuring new essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow.

  • Charles Laughton Directs “The Night of the Hunter”
  • New Documentary 
  • Simon Callow Interview
  • Ed Sullivan Clip
  • Moving Pictures Episode
  • Cinematographer Stanley Cortez Interview
  • Sketch Gallery
  • Leonard Maltin Conversation
  • Original Theatrical Trailer

Blu-ray Rating:

  Movie 5/5 stars
  Video  5/5 stars
  Audio 4/5 stars
  Extras 5/5 stars

Overall Blu-ray Experience

5/5 stars

The Night of the Hunter: Criterion Collection (1955)

MPAA Rating: not rated.
Runtime:
92 mins
Director
: Charles Laughton
Writer:
James Agee
Cast:
Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish
Genre
: Drama | Crime | noir
Tagline:
Towering above all others...a motion picture that will not easily matched or forgotten!
Memorable Movie Quote: "I'm a strong tree with branches for many birds. I'm good for something in this world, and I know it too."
Theatrical Distributor:
United Artists
Official Site:
Release Date:
September 29, 1955
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
April 8, 2010.
Synopsis: A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid the $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.

The Night of the Hunter: Criterion Collection (1955)

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