One of the great film noirs is The Night of the Hunter from 1955, starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish. This reading by director Charles Laughton features some of the film’s hauntingly beautiful cinematography and music as the children flee down the river. I needed a break from current affairs yesterday, and this artistry from a dark film was restorative. Evil can be overcome.
The Night of the Hunter was not a success with either audiences or critics at its initial release, and Laughton never directed another film. Nevertheless, the film has found a wider audience over the years, and Mitchum’s performance, in particular, has been praised.
The film was shot in black and white in the styles and motifs of German Expressionism (bizarre shadows, stylized dialogue, distorted perspectives, surrealistic sets, odd camera angles) to create a simplified and disturbing mood that reflects the sinister character of Powell, the nightmarish fears of the children, and the sweetness of their savior Rachel.