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The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The Night of the Blunder
First off, if you are watching this film because you loved the book, I am to understand it is a faithful and overall good adaptation and you should read no more of this review. Go ahead and watch the movie. I have not read the book, don't know/care about what's in it or how accurately it is brought to screen and will therefore only anger you seeing as how you will likely defend it. If you are a film buff and heard it was a classic, you have, as with most films, a 50% chance of liking it and will probably go ahead and watch it regardless of what I say. Have fun. If however, you read somewhere or thought, "Preacher stalks children " have I got news for you!
I read that line in a magazine and rented it. I have since regretted it. That excerpt ended up sending me on a crash course for disappointment. From the first oddity of the screen to the last yawn, I was not glued to this film for the movie itself. I just kept hoping it was about to get better. Don't get me wrong, it seems to be a great film in retrospect if you go into it thinking of it as a Grimm fairy tale or a nursery rhyme. If you SERIOUSLY think of the character of Harry Powell as the big bad wolf, the kids as Hansel and Gretel and the old lady as the old woman in the shoe, you will probably be thrilled with the results. If you were expecting terror or true film noir you might want to try Fritz Lang's "M" about a demented child murderer or "Cape Fear" with Robert Mitchum. One is a great example of social realism, the other a wonderful piece of film noir.
OK, I'll start by saying that the villain is a preacher named Harry Powell, played by Robert Mitchum. If you've seen "Home Alone," "The Villain" or "Wiley Coyote" cartoons and thought they were funny tune in. If however, you are expecting realism, tune way out! Mitchum looks evil. He's got tattoos, a scowl, and he carries a switch blade. He's after loot and has a habit of turning himself into the most eligible bachelor in town. He is smooth talking, suave looking and walks with a swagger like Mr. Blond in "Reservoir Dogs." He also has himself a habit of doing "the lord's work." Anybody who remembers Maggot in "The Dirty Dozen" knows what I'm getting at.
So he's a pretty cool sounding bad guy until he ends up taking pratfalls like Bruce Campbell. He quickly starts looking like a bumbling fool time after time. It makes me wonder how he even made it through the pain of getting his tattoos! I suppose having the villain be a weakling makes the viewer think that only cowards try to steal from/threaten children. Speaking of children, they're his arch rivals. That's right, the psycho is continuously thwarted by a couple of kids and when they're not the ones schooling him, it's a haggard old lady serving him. I was halfway expecting Dudley Du-Right to save the day and make him cry, "Blast, foiled again!"
The children have the spontaneity of Jake Lloyd, except with less talking. They act wooden the entire time until they're unhappy whereupon they decide to act like crying buffoons. Their lines are often cheesy and their reactions quite unbelievable. And yet, somehow they end up being a match for the evil preacher! The most interesting aspect of the film is that halfway through the movie, the gears are switched. The movie goes from being about some psycho "stalking" kids, to being about family values. It pulls a "From Dusk Till Dawn" twist and you'll be left saying when did this movie become about the importance of family? Of course then you'll have someone chime in and say something stupid like, "It was always about family if so and so would have paid more attention to so and so "
Many lines in this film are ridiculously hammy. Inspirational lines will leave a person trying not to laugh at the silly manner in which they are delivered. For instance, after the plot change, an old woman comes into the picture. In one scene, a rabbit is attacked by an owl. The old lady spouts the corny line, "It's a hard world for little things." I was like, "Wow, this could not get more melodramatic." The production values are there. It has its moments when you can appreciate the overall film. Good scenery and some decent lighting. For instance there is a scene that deals with an object under water and it's very good. I think if you go with the idea of it being a melodrama, the cast did a good job for the most part. If not, "Oh, the humanity!"
I think that the concept was excellent, the execution, for what I was hoping for at least, was heavily flawed. I believe it to be an OK movie, but not quite as good as people are making it out to be. As a melodrama I'd give it an A for being so cheesy/over-the-top. As a family movie, I'd say an A for lessons learned: "
don't talk to strangers," etc., as an "Army of Darkness" style comedy, a solid B. If you are expecting a film noir, a B at the most and if you were looking for horror look somewhere else! Overall I'd like to say, Laughton you fool! Sadly, I must admit if I would have watched it without having prior expectations, I'd probably have given it a yawning but stout *** out of *****. I would have found it boring but a well done melodrama, which is what I consider it to be. Bottom line: If you are enamored by its 'classic' status, just remember, "Plan 9 from Outer Space" is a 'classic' too, though not for the same reasons
or is it?
"We got one!"
The first thing that needs to be said is that Ghostbusters (1984) is possibly the funniest film ever. That's quite the bold statement to make but with good cause. This film holds up probably more than any other comedy in existence. You know how there are those movies that you see that are hysterical the first few times you see them? This one just keeps on coming. I remember when I was a kid, I wore our copy of Ghostbusters out. At the time, I thought it was a horror movie (I wasn't the brightest bulb) so I watched it constantly (Being that I am a horror buff) never realizing what it truly was. I hadn't yet caught on to a lot of the humor. About eight years later, I noticed that I hadn't seen the film for forever and a day. I popped it in and oh my God...I just about died with laughter.
This movie has something for everyone. Director Ivan Reitman said that he found a comedic formula for films...it works as follows: There's the brain, the heart, and the mouth. Ghostbusters scored with all of them. As the brain of the bunch, Egon Spengler's (Harold Ramis also co-wrote it) use of witty humor is hilarious. If you have the right mind set, almost everything Spengler says is laugh out loud funny. At the heart of the Ghostbusters is Dan Aykroyd's (Who created the idea for the film) lovable fool, Ray Stantz. Ray has a tenacity for saying simple minded things and using very little logic and yet somehow the man got a P.H.D. (Probably through studying habits, despite ignorance.) There's a line that he says involving a smell in the beginning of the movie that I am chuckling at just thinking about it. This of course leaves Bill Murray (He was nominated for a Gloden Globe) as the sarcastic Peter Venkman (The mouth of the beast.) Peter is likely the one that gets the most laughs because he, being the mouth that he is, never stops making fun of everything. It's like Rodney Dangerfield in the party scene in Caddyshack but a whole lot funnier and continues the rest of the movie. The film also produces some laughter out of the minor characters as well. The scatological humor toward the end of the film between Rick Moranis (In a role intended for John Candy) and Sigourney Weaver is quite laughter inducing. Ernie Hudson in one of his first big roles has a few good lines as the other Ghostbuster, Winston Zeddmore (The only one who's not a doctor) and William Atherton of Die Hard fame plays the ultimate annoyance as Walter Peck. Not to be forgotten in the mix is Annie Potts as Janine who has some rather memorable humorous lines, for instance the one I've written to summarize the movie. Numerous other well known faces are seen on screen too, which includes John Belushi (Or rather his continuation of the character Bluto, from Animal House) as the principal image used for the now famous 'Disgusting Blob,' Slimer. Like any good comic will tell you, good comedy is generally about setting up the other guys around you. Well, it just so happens that the characters all work well with each other to set the great comedic moments staged in this film.
Not to be forgotten however in all the funny one liners and set ups is the overall film. Ghostbusters was nominated for numerous awards including Oscars for best song (Courtesy of Ray Parker Jr.) and special effects, which are now slightly dated but possibly work even better with the wacky style being consistent with the rest of the movie. Along with Parker, there are numerous other great songs including a song by The Bus Boys that climbed charts and a rather creepy seeming song (But works well) by Mick Smiley. Another thing that should not be forgotten is the horror elements of the film. Though purposely outrageous, the effects do serve as some potential scare moments. Among the most frightening involve stop motion animated puppets called Terror Dogs. Though the scares are few, they do work fairly well (They had me convinced as a youngster) bringing enough threat to the ghosts that haunt New York City. The story itself is interesting as well, involving some intriguing mythology of Sommeria among other countries.
Where some films tend to only work a few times, Ghostbusters is consistent. Although, I've found movies such as CLUE, Dr. Strangelove or Airplane to be funnier at different times in my life, this one still makes me laugh even after seeing it hundreds of times. From the opening scares to the ending credits, it will almost surely reel you in. I've laughed harder at some moments in other films but it's rare that I find one that's funnier throughout. Even those films lose their edge after you see them a few times...this one just doesn't. If you haven't seen it, do so. You will almost certainly be glad you did. If you have seen it and didn't like it, try watching it again in a few years. It's almost sure to grow on you eventually. I dare anyone to sit through this movie and not laugh once, no matter how many times they've seen it. If you don't laugh, you're either trying really hard to hold back, have a very odd sense of humor or are dead! It's just that funny. Although I don't rate films, I would easily rate this one a five out of five, placed among the classics. Believe it or not, I think that it belongs alongside Citizen Kane and Lawrence of Arabia. It also spawned an entertaining sequel in 1989. Enjoy!