Friday, 9 October 2015

Night of the Hunter

Smell the Movies
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Country of origin:USA
Director:Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum
Genre:Proto-home invasion
Starring:Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters
IMDB link:

Tagline:The scenes...the story...The stars BUT ABOVE ALL - THE SUSPENSE!
Favourite line:"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?"

Oft hailed as the best film of all time, we’ve delved back into the archives here at Smell the Cult HQ to see what all the fuss is about.
It can’t be that good.
Can it?

The plot:
When a bank robbery goes wrong, father of two Ben Harper manages to get home with some of the money before the police arrive to take him in. Hiding the money, the father is alarmed when he notices his son watching him, and instructs the boy to never reveal the location of the cash, not even to his mother, to which the boy agrees.
In prison, Harper meets a maniacal Reverend called Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) and inadvertently reveals that he has money hidden on his property though, luckily, he fails to give the precise location.
Upon release, Reverend Powell heads straight for the house and, slowly, over time, inveigles his way into the lives of Harper’s family, the whole time intent solely on stealing the money.

At time of writing, this film-noir chiller sits at number 235 on the IMDB Top 250 Movies list.
An early horror movie, effectively, we see the embryonic stages of what would, some two or three decades later, flourish into both the slasher genre and the home invasion flick, for that is what we have here, really, once the film-noir trappings are removed, a slow-burn home invasion film, the twist being that the invasion is done in broad daylight and over a great deal of time, rather than the sudden, violent intrusions of films such as You’re Next, Last House on the Left and House on the Edge of the Park.
Mitchum excels as the religious zealot turned would-be thief, hiding behind the mask of civility that being a man of the cloth affords but, every so often, the mask slips, especially when alone with the young boy who knows the whereabouts of the loot. Being a child, from time to time the boy accidentally gives hints that he knows precisely where the money is, which simply serves to infuriate the Powell character even more, Mitchum’s eyes narrowing further and further into slits as his rage bubbles up.
Shocking at times, especially in the intensity of the scenes between Mitchum and the boy, the film is somewhat badly dated by some of the minor players, whose acting style is very much of the time, stilted and wooden and more suited to theatre than the big screen but, thankfully, these moments are infrequent.
A film that struggles a little, pace-wise, albeit at only 90 minutes, the second act flagging slightly, but this is more than made up for by the closing sequences and, again, can be easily forgiven bearing in mind the age of the piece.
Unbearably stressful at times, masterfully plotted, and with a pay-off that will satisfy all but the most ardent old-movie haters, this one’s a bit of a belter, though not quite the be-all-and-end-all-of-movies-ever-ever-ever that some would have you believe.

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