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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

8.1
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 48,115 users   Metascore: 99/100
Reviews: 324 user | 152 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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, (uncredited) , 1 more credit »

Writers:

(from the novel by), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Title: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

The Night of the Hunter (1955) on IMDb 8.1/10

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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...
...
...
Evelyn Varden ...
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...
Billy Chapin ...
Sally Jane Bruce ...
Gloria Castillo ...
Ruby (as Gloria Castilo)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Emmett Lynn ...
Birdie Steptoe (scenes deleted)
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Storyline

Harry Powell marries and murders widows for their money, believing he is helping God do away with women who arouse men's carnal instincts. Arrested for auto theft, he shares a cell with condemned killer Ben Harper and tries to get him to reveal the whereabouts of the $10,000 he stole. Only Ben's nine-year-old son, John and four-year-old daughter, Pearl know the money is in Pearl's doll and they have sworn to their father to keep this secret. After Ben is executed, Preacher goes to Cresap's Landing to court Ben's widow, Willa. He overwhelms her with his Scripture quoting, sermons and hymns, and she agrees to marry him. On their wedding night he tells her they will never have sex because it is sinful. When the depressed, confused, guilty woman catches him trying to force Pearl to reveal the whereabouts of the money, she is resigned to her fate but the children manage to escape downriver, with Preacher following close behind. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

widow | money | children | preacher | doll | See more »

Taglines:

The wedding night, the anticipation, the kiss, the knife, BUT ABOVE ALL... THE SUSPENSE! See more »


Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

24 November 1955 (Argentina)  »

Also Known As:

The Night of the Hunter  »

Box Office

Budget:

$795,000 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

When John and Pearl are in the barn at dusk, there is a time-lapse sequence of the crescent moon rising. A crescent moon shortly after sunset is always setting and the lit portion should be tilted toward the point where the sun has recently set. See more »

Quotes

Icey Spoon: What could have possessed that girl?
Rev. Harry Powell: Satan.
Icey Spoon: Ah.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Big Lebowski (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Dream, Little One, Dream
(uncredited)
Composer unknown
Sung by a chorus during the opening credits
Reprised offscreen by an unidentified female when the chldren are on the run
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Breathtaking Imagery
16 December 2007 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Extraordinary, unparalleled, breathtaking ... that's how I would appraise the film's visuals, from DP Stanley Cortez. The images are all in B&W, and many have a noir design straight out of German Expressionism. Sharp angles, high-contrast "hard" lighting, and deep shadows amplify form, or rather distort reality, and as such project human experience as an exaggeration of the emotional.

Some of the images in "The Night Of The Hunter" are so enthralling that they will live on in the collective mind as long as cinema exists. Who can forget that famous underwater scene wherein a dead woman's body sits upright in a car with her hair flowing along the current like seaweed, accompanied by background music that is so dreamlike? One of my favorite images is the one wherein Willa Harper (Shelley Winters) lies in blissful repose on a bed as Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) stands by a window in an unadorned room with angular walls that slope upward, as if in a church.

One of the most haunting, and famous, sequences has the two children, John and Pearl, in a rowboat, as they make a Homeric odyssey down a river, lorded over by giant spider webs, frogs, and rabbits. And then there's that electrifying scene with Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) in silhouette, sitting in a chair, holding a shotgun, as Harry Powell sings "Leaning On The Everlasting Arms". Cinematic brilliance extraordinaire!

Consistent with its expressionistic visuals, the story is presented from the POV of a child's nightmare. John and Pearl symbolize innocence, and the bogeyman comes in the form of an adult, a godlike man who cons the gullible townsfolk including the children's mom. Our good reverend Powell is less interested in saving souls than he is in finding all that loot stashed away somewhere. Thus, the film's underlying theme is at least as relevant now as it was fifty years ago; the film has not aged one bit.

Production design is sparse, true to the film's visual style and to the setting in Depression era West Virginia. The casting is perfect. Robert Mitchum has just the right look and voice for the part of Harry Powell. I like how he calls to John and Pearl ... "chill-drenn?" Lillian Gish is well-suited to represent ... reality.

And those two kids likewise are ideally cast. Love the way Pearl, with her round face and those rag-a-muffin curls refers to herself, in that Southern drawl, as "Pell". And the film's horror combines with humor in many scenes, one of which has "Pell" sitting on the ground with scissors in hand nonchalantly cutting up paper currency into paper dolls.

Acting is generally exaggerated, again consistent with what one would expect in a nightmare. Evelyn Varden, as Icey Spoon (love that name), hams it up in a gossipy, mother hen sort of way. And Shelley Winters effectively jitters her way through the film, ghostlike, her character lost in delusion.

The film's original score is haunting and mournful, and could hardly set a more appropriate tone: "Dream little one, dream; dream my little one, dream; oh the hunter in the night fills your childish heart with fright; fear is only a dream; so little one dream".

With its brilliant photography, its unpopular but deeply truthful theme, and its nightmarish story, Charles Laughton's "The Night Of The Hunter" is high up on my list of twenty best films of all time.


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