Amoeblog

Love and Hate—The Night of the Hunter

Posted by Chuck, March 30, 2011 05:00pm | Post a Comment

There’s an overriding feeling to 1950s films that everything is happy to the point of sedation. The men have fine posture and slick hair; the women are always starched, enthusiastic and dressed for appearance; the children are trite Osh Kosh cutouts. Such play-acting is a perfect backdrop for something leery, an underexposed set-up that precious few directors back then made use of. Yet, that’s why Charles Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter (1955) can’t help but slip into our times as a cult classic.

As with such forgotten films that warrant recirculation, Criterion has brought the film back out on DVD and Blu-ray, and it’s a good thing (one of our staff's fave picks in this issue of Music We Like). There are remarkable things at play, such as it being the only time Laughton (an actor) sat in the director’s chair. As sometimes happens with one-offs, he made it count by forever parting ways with ordinary. It was no small feat. He got Robert Mitchum—the kingpin of film noir—to deliver one of his best performances. Some might argue it was his best work. It’s one of the reasons the film was protected by the National Film Registry.

The movie is an adaptation of Davis Grubb’s book of the same name, published two years earlier. Mitchum plays Reverend Harry Powell, a minister of divine word and adage who yet has a criminally black heart. While spending time in the clink, he learns that a cellmate, set to be hung for murdering two people in the act of a bank robbery, has a stash of $10K hidden back at home. With the slithery suave of a seasoned conman, Powell goes about pursuing this treasure upon his release by moving in on the freshly executed man’s family. What he encounters is a guilt-riddled widow, Willa—played excellently by Shelley Winters—and two children who alone share the secret of the money’s whereabouts (sworn to secrecy by their dead father). Enter darkness.

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The Late, Great Sally Menke

Posted by Charles Reece, September 28, 2010 08:55am | Post a Comment
From Pulp Fiction, for which Menke received an Oscar nomination.

It's goddamn hot in Los Angeles right now, and it appears that heat was the cause of death for Tarantino's long-time collaborator, film editor Sally Menke. She was too good to have ever actually won an Oscar, of course.