Rating: NNNNNTHE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton, 1955) is one of the most remarkable directorial one-offs in movie history..
THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Charles Laughton, 1955) is one of the most remarkable directorial one-offs in movie history. Actor Laughton’s sole film from behind the camera, it’s both an exercise in southern gothic noir and one of the most striking films ever made about the perils of childhood. It’s capped by Robert Mitchum’s magnificently malevolent performance as a jackleg preacher who makes his way by comforting and murdering widows for “a few bills tucked in the sugar bowl.” What’s most compelling is his grasp of the truly evil man who believes he’s doing God’s work. While the switchblade in his pocket may be too obvious a symbol today, it was audacious at the time. This is also one of the most beautiful black-and-white movies of an era marked by great black-and-white filmmaking. Cinematographer Stanley Cortez’s long and largely uncelebrated career also included The Magnificent Ambersons, Sam Fuller’s Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss — enough milestones for most careers. NNNNN (Friday to Tuesday, November 30-December 4, at Cinematheque Ontario)