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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

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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.

Director:

Charles Laughton

Writers:

James Agee (screenplay by), Davis Grubb (based on the novel by)
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4,572 ( 413)
2 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Robert Mitchum ... Harry Powell
Shelley Winters ... Willa Harper
Lillian Gish ... Rachel Cooper
James Gleason ... Uncle Birdie Steptoe
Evelyn Varden ... Icey Spoon
Peter Graves ... Ben Harper
Don Beddoe ... Walt Spoon
Billy Chapin ... John Harper
Sally Jane Bruce ... Pearl Harper
Gloria Castillo ... Ruby (as Gloria Castilo)
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Storyline

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 | child | money | doll | See All (331) »

Taglines:

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


Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

24 November 1955 (Argentina) See more »

Also Known As:

The Night of the Hunter See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$795,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$654,000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was selected into the National Film Registry in 1992 for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". See more »

Goofs

When Powell chases the children up the cellar stairs and John slams the door on Powell's hand, the door had been opened toward the cellar. In the next scene, the door shows the closed door with the hinges on the kitchen side, such that the the door would have opened the opposite way, toward the kitchen (not toward the cellar). See more »

Quotes

Rachel Cooper: She'll be losing her mind to a tricky mouth and a full moon, and like as not, I'll be saddled with the consequences.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Dune (1984) See more »

Soundtracks

Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
(1887) (uncredited)
Music by Anthony J. Showalter
Text by Elisha A. Hoffman
Sung a cappella by Robert Mitchum often
Also sung a cappella by Lillian Gish
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

An Unusual Blend Of Film Noir & German Expressionism
19 May 2015 | by CinemaClownSee all my reviews

Veteran actor Charles Laughton's directional debut & perhaps the only feature film he ever directed is a rare breed that blends film-noir with German expressionism, resulting in a very unique looking cinema that unfolds its narrative in a lyrical manner but also makes up for some weird moments as the two styles are often at odds with each other.

Based on the novel of the same name, the story of The Night of the Hunter focuses on one corrupt reverend-turned-serial killer who uses his charm to woo rich widows before killing them & fleeing with their money. Jailed for driving a stolen car, he learns from his cell mate about the large sum of money he had stolen & goes after his family once he's out of prison.

Co-written & directed by Charles Laughton, The Night of the Hunter really benefits from the few elements it borrows from German expressionism of the silent era like eccentric camera angles, unconventional settings, surreal photography or silhouette figures but its inclusion of stylised dialogues & unrealistic acting in a Hollywood crime-drama is also unintentionally hilarious at times.

Production design work is excellent, Cinematography makes terrific use of lighting, contrast & shadows, camera placement is inventive & every frame is captured in crisp detail. Editing is brilliant for the most part but its final act also feels overstretched, and performances are a mixed bag for the kids do a pretty good job in their given roles while Robert Mitchum's expressionist act borders on hamming.

On an overall scale, The Night of the Hunter is experimental cinema at its finest for it tries to merge into film-noir what influenced the genre in the first place. From a technical standpoint, the film is influential in every manner, especially the way it uses its camera to set a disturbing mood or introduce its themes but its overstretched ending, excessively dramatic lead act & depicted stupidity (or innocence) of children never allowed me to take its premise seriously.


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