Do you want to hear the story of the battle between Good and Evil?

3 Feb

As this is my 50th post on Medium Fries I’d like to mark the occasion by writing a post on one of my all-time favourite movies. If you’re going to watch anything on my COTW, watch this one. Unfortunately my dvd isn’t playing nicely with my screencap program so I’ve had to google-fu the shit out of this.

Cult of the Week 5- The Night of the Hunter

I've got a copy of this on my wall.

The Night Of The Hunter is not an easy film to pigeonhole, which may explain its poor performance when it was released in 1955. A fairytale noir-musical about a serial killer with the visual stylings of 1920’s German Expressionism is not an easy sell in any age, but it’s the combination of these elements that makes it so remarkable. In 1992 it was selected as part of the U.S National Film Registry, and it’s my hope that visiting aliens would get a kick out of it.

The Hunter is Harry Powell(Robert Mitchum) , a psychotic priest who believes in a religion ‘worked out ‘twixt the lord and myself’.  He travels around the countryside, charming the dim-witted locals with folk stories and the word of god- the most popular his story of Good and Evil played out on his tattooed hands. This is probably the films most potent (and most often replicated) image, with tributes showing up from Rocky Horror to Spike Lee.  In each town he looks for widows who’ve been left money and offers to marry them, then kills the women for their supposed wicked ways and skips town. Enter John and Pearl.

This is exactly as creepy as it looks.

John and Pearl are found playing outside when their father appears, bloody and scared. He’s robbed a bank to feed his family, but the police are in pursuit. He needs somewhere to hide the money, so in his last breath he hides and money and makes the children swear to keep it secret. They watch as their father is taken away to prison, where he meets one Reverend Powell who’s serving a sentence for a minor crime. It’s there that he hears about their father’s stolen money, and Powell sets out to find the children and steal the money.  What follows are some of the most tense and creepy scenes in all of cinema, a cat and mouse game between the monstrous Reverend (who in a clever use of expressionist lighting appears with a 10 foot shadow) and the innocent children, sworn to protect their father’s secret. Fearing for their lives, the children run away by sailing down the river in a hallucinatory dreamlike sequence, where afterwards they follow the riverbank, indistinguishable from so many other homeless children of the time.

The two are saved by the kindly Rachel Cooper (played by silent cinema legend Lilian Gish), who teaches the children the stories of the bible and the being to understand the true evil of Harry Powell. He soon learns of their location, and travels to Rachel’s farm for the final confrontation.

Entire books have been written on The Night Of The Hunter , and it would take thousands more words to give even a cursory analysis of the subtext of repressed sexuality, the use of hymns and other religious music, the biblical imagery, the list goes on. Of course, just because you can doesn’t mean you should so I’ll leave you with the most important part. See this. It’s brilliant. Go. Do it now.


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