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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  24 November 1955 (Argentina)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 60,555 users   Metascore: 99/100
Reviews: 374 user | 168 critic | 8 from Metacritic.com

A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.


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(from the novel by), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Evelyn Varden ...
Sally Jane Bruce ...
Gloria Castillo ...
Ruby (as Gloria Castilo)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Emmett Lynn ...
Birdie Steptoe (scenes deleted)


It's the Great Depression. In the process of robbing a bank of $10,000, Ben Harper kills two people. Before he is captured, he is able to convince his adolescent son John and his daughter Pearl not to tell anyone, including their mother Willa, 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, swindling lonely women, primarily rich widows, of their money before he kills them. Harry does whatever he can, unsuccessfully, to find out the location of the $10,000 from Ben. After Ben's execution, Harry decides that Willa will be his next mark, figuring that someone in the family knows where the money is hidden. Despite vowing not to remarry, Willa ends up being easy prey for Harry's outward ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

widow | preacher | children | money | doll | See All (287) »


The scenes...the story...The stars BUT ABOVE ALL - THE SUSPENSE! See more »


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Release Date:

24 November 1955 (Argentina)  »

Also Known As:

Die Nacht des Jägers  »

Box Office


$795,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


(at around 8 mins) Reportedly it was Robert Mitchum himself who thought of the shot of hanging upside down in his bunk. Charles Laughton liked the idea, and it was shot that way. See more »


(at around 41 mins) After he drinks direct from the brandy bottle, Mr. Spoon changes the bottle to the left hand to put it in the sideboard. The next shot shows him finishing to set the bottle with his right hand. See more »


Rachel Cooper: Get your state troopers out here. I got something trapped in my barn.
See more »


Referenced in Raising Arizona (1987) See more »


Cresap's Landing Party
Composers unknown
Played on guitar and sung by James Gleason
See more »

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User Reviews

Very atmospheric thriller
17 November 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Just before John Harper's father is captured by police, he tells his son where he has hidden the money. While in prison for his crime, he sleep talks and betrays himself to the religiously unhinged Rev Harry Powell. Powell leaves jail with Harper dead in his cell and sets out to infiltrate the family and get the money. However, when he kills John's mother, he and his sister go on the run from him.

One of these `hindsight is 20/20' films that gains a reputation with time, this film deserves the praise in gets in many areas and deserve to be very fondly remembered, or at least a lot more fondly than it was received by critics and audiences of the time. The plot is basic but full of religious imagery that works very well, whether it's Powell's twisted preacher or the runs of scripture that many of the characters cling to. The film presents itself with a very strong tone of foreboding and darkness that makes the material (and characters) feel more dangerous.

Most of the credit for this belongs with Laughton as director, who uses shadow really well and frames the film with clever shots. Some that come to mind is the shadow of Powell on his horse on the horizon, or the woman in the car underwater and so on. It stills feels clever and inventive now so it must have been seen as very different in the fifties. How he didn't win an Oscar, I'm not sure – wonder what else was up in this year.

Mitchum is tremendous in the title role, his role is larger than life and was also slightly playing with fire in it's portrayal as a reverend as corrupt or evil. Chapin is really wonderful as young John and has a much better character than some of the others in the cast. Winters is good in her performance. The only downside of the film is the 10 minutes at the end which feel like they are a happy ending that has just been tacked on and doesn't fit with the tone of the film.

Other than that, this is a very strong film in terms of theme, plot, acting and cinematography. It deserves more than it got at the time and I'm glad that modern audiences are finding this film all the time.

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