It's the Great Depression. In the process of robbing a bank of $10,000, the robbery because he is unable to provide for his family, Ben Harper kills two people. Before he is captured, he is able to convince his adolescent son John and his infant daughter Pearl not to tell anyone, including their mother Willa, who Ben believes is too idealistic, of where he hid the money, namely in Pearl's favorite toy, a doll that she carries everywhere with her. Ben, who is captured, tried and convicted, is sentenced to death. But before he is executed, Ben is in the state penitentiary with a cell mate, a man by the name of Harry Powell, a self-professed man of the cloth, who is really a con man and murderer, he who swindles lonely women, primarily rich widows, of their money before he kills them. The authorities are unaware of these crimes, Harry who is incarcerated on a thirty day sentence for car theft. Harry does whatever he can, unsuccessfully, to find out the location of the $10,000 from Ben. ... Written by
While the poor critical reviews are often cited as the reason Laughton never directed another feature, Laughton himself said that he much preferred directing in the theatre. In the theatre you could constantly change and amend the production - adding lines, changing lighting and sets - but with film once it was done it could never be changed. See more »
The film is set in the 1930s, but John wears 1950s sneakers See more »
Rev. Harry Powell:
[when he notices John staring at the words "love" and "hate" tattooed across his knuckles]
Ah, little lad, you're staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of right-hand/left-hand? The story of good and evil? H-A-T-E! It was with this left hand that old brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E! You see these fingers, dear hearts? These fingers has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends, the hand of love. Now watch, ...
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This film is way ahead of its time, not only in subject matter but also in cinematic style. The subject is a psychopathic preacher who believes that God is telling him to murder women, usually widowers, and take their money.
From the opening two shots and the first few lines of the preacher, the characters history and intent is laid down. As quickly, the first few scenes with the children show the circumstances that will bring about the main premise. After that you are allowed to wallow in Robert Mitchums role as the over acting preacher. Laughton directs very well, with some visually rich scenes and wonderful shots. However, there are a couple of cheesy moments of dialogue, and a few, almost laughable, scenes. Despite this it's a very good movie with some stunning acting from Robert Mitchum.
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