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, he figuring that someone in the family knowing where the money is. Despite vowing not to get remarried, Willa ends up being easy prey for Harry's outward... Written by
When children are asleep in boat drifting down river, right after closeup of fox jumping out of a tree, cable pulling the boat is clearly visible in water. 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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