Night of the Hunter

Night of the Hunter

4.3 21
Director: Charles Laughton

Cast: Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish


View All Available Formats & Editions

Adapted by James Agee from a novel by Davis Grubb, The Night of the Hunter represented legendary actor Charles Laughton's only film directing effort. Combining stark realism with Germanic expressionism, the movie is a brilliant good-and-evil parable, with "good" represented by a couple of farm kids and a pious old lady, and "evil" literally in the hands of aSee more details below

  • Checkmark Criterion Collection  Shop Now


Adapted by James Agee from a novel by Davis Grubb, The Night of the Hunter represented legendary actor Charles Laughton's only film directing effort. Combining stark realism with Germanic expressionism, the movie is a brilliant good-and-evil parable, with "good" represented by a couple of farm kids and a pious old lady, and "evil" literally in the hands of a posturing psychopath. Imprisoned with thief Ben Harper (Peter Graves), phony preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) learns that Ben has hidden a huge sum of money somewhere near his home. Upon his release, the murderously misogynistic Powell insinuates himself into Ben's home, eventually marrying his widow Willa (Shelley Winters). Eventually all that stands between Powell and the money are Ben's son (Billy Chapin) and daughter (Sally Jane Bruce), who take refuge in a home for abandoned children presided over by the indomitable, scripture-quoting Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish). The war of wills between Mitchum and Gish is the heart of the film's final third, a masterful blend of horror and lyricism. Laughton's tight, disciplined direction is superb -- and all the more impressive when one realizes that he intensely disliked all child actors. The music by Walter Schumann and the cinematography of Stanley Cortez are every bit as brilliant as the contributions by Laughton and Agee. Overlooked on its first release, The Night of the Hunter is now regarded as a classic.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Kryssa Schemmerling
Part melodrama, part horror movie, part fairy tale, Night of the Hunter unfolds like a fever dream in an American landscape both nightmarish and magical. This almost unbearably suspenseful tale -- the only solo screenplay that critic James Agee ever wrote and the only film that actor Charles Laughton (Ruggles of Redgap) ever directed -- is a cinematic experience unlike any other. Robert Mitchum gives his most indelible performance here as a psychotic preacher with "love" and "hate" tattooed on each of his hands. After charming a small-town widow into marrying him, he proceeds to terrorize her children in order to get hold of the money left to them by their dead father. The peerless Lillian Gish is moving and magnificent as the elderly woman who becomes the children's physical and spiritual guardian. Photographed by Stanley Cortez (The Magnificent Ambersons) with shimmering light and deep shadows that eloquently express the story's themes of good and evil, sin and redemption, Night of the Hunter is a beautiful, startling, and unforgettable film.
All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
Actor Charles Laughton directed only one movie during his 36 years in show business, and he certainly made his lone effort memorable; The Night of the Hunter is a strange, chilling, and uniquely compelling work that resembles no other American film of its era. Superbly shot by ace cinematographer Stanley Cortez, the film was obviously influenced by the look of German expressionist cinema, but Cortez and Laughton took the style's visual devices and reshaped them for their own purposes. The result is a film that resembles a reflected dream of childhood, foreign and troubling yet also very beautiful. Laughton drew a stunning performance from Robert Mitchum, who drops his usual veneer of casual cool and becomes disquietingly psychotic man of the cloth Harry Powell; his rapt sermon about the battle between love and hatred, and his murder of his new bride (Shelley Winters), rank with the most powerful and deeply etched moments of Mitchum's career. Legend has it that Laughton, who didn't care for children, instructed Mitchum to direct Billy Chapin and Sally Jane Bruce as the luckless Harper siblings, and, if it's true, Mitchum coaxed a pair of unusually naturalistic and affecting performances from his youthful co-stars, who never play "cute." Lillian Gish is a tower of both strength and compassion as Rachel Cooper, the saintly flip side to Mitchum's dark perversity; in a world where even the most loving and honorable adults have gone astray, Rachel alone offers love and protection without judgment to young people who need it, and Powell's venal, misogynist brutality are no match for her spiritual courage. It's a pity that Laughton never followed up on this remarkable debut; many long and successful careers have been launched by movies not half as impressive as The Night of the Hunter.

Read More

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Region Code:
[B&W, Wide Screen]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Disc One: New Documentary featuring interviews with Producer Paul Gregory, Sanders, Feeney, Jones, and Author Jeffrey Couchman; New Video Interview with Laughton Biographer Simon Callow; Clip from The Ed Sullivan Show in which cast members perform a scene deleted from the film; Fifteen-Minute archival documentary about the film, featuring Robert Mitchum; Archival Interview with Cinematographer Stanley Cortez; Gallery of Sketches by Davis Grubb, author of the source novel; Original Theatrical Trailer; ; Disc Two: Charles Laughton Directs "The Night of the Hunter," a two-and-half-hour treasure trove of outtakes and behind-the-scenes footage; New Video Conversation Gitt and Film Critic Leonard Maltin about Charles Laughton Directs; ; Plus a Booklet featuring essays by critics Terrence Rafferty and Michael Sragow

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Robert Mitchum Preacher Harry Powell
Shelley Winters Willa Harper
Lillian Gish Rachel Cooper
Billy Chapin John Harper
Evelyn Varden Icey Spoon
Peter Graves Ben Harper
James Gleason Uncle Birdie
Sally Jane Bruce Pearl Harper
Don Beddoe Walt Spoon
Gloria Castillo Ruby
Mary Ellen Clemons Clary
Cheryl Callaway Mary
Corey Allen Young Man in Town
Paul Bryar Hangman Bart
Walter Schumann Conductor

Technical Credits
Charles Laughton Director
James Agee Screenwriter
Jerry Bos Costumes/Costume Designer
Hilyard M. Brown Art Director
Evelyn Carruth Costumes/Costume Designer
Don L. Cash Makeup
Stanley Cortez Cinematographer
Louis de Witt Special Effects
Robert Golden Editor
Paul Gregory Producer
Jack R. Rabin Special Effects
Ruby Rosenberg Production Manager
Walter Schumann Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Alfred E. Spencer Set Decoration/Design

Read More

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Night of the Hunter
1. Opening Credits [1:54]
2. "Beware Of False Prophets" [3:45]
3. "You're Bleedin', Dad!" [2:34]
4. Cell Mates [4:20]
5. Cresap's Landing [3:26]
6. Uncle Birdie [2:13]
7. "The Little Story of Right Hand, Left Hand" [2:48]
8. Sunday Picnic [3:58]
9. "You'll Never Be My Dad!" [3:22]
10. Wedding Night [4:10]
11. Revival Meeting [:57]
12. Secrets [7:47]
13. "Willa Has Run Away" [3:49]
14. Life with the Preacher [8:58]
15. Escape Down the River [7:16]
16. "Don't He Never Sleep?" [6:05]
17. Miz Cooper [6:46]
18. Ruby Meets a Man in Town [3:07]
19. Harry Powell Arrives [3:02]
20. "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" [2:10]
21. "I Got Somethin' Trapped in My Barn" [3:32]
22. "Lynch him? Lynch him!" [2:52]
23. Christmas with Miz Cooper [4:12]
1. Color Bars [:00]
1. Introductions [1:54]
2. Mitchum's Unease [3:45]
3. Rhyming Effects [2:34]
4. Humorous Villainy [4:20]
5. Schumann's Themes [3:26]
6. The Other Uncle Birdie [2:13]
7. A Delayed Battle [2:48]
8. Gary Cooper/Paul Gregory [3:58]
9. The Boy's Point of View [3:22]
10. "Valse Triste" [4:10]
11. A Hunk of Muslin [:57]
12. Laughton and the Children [7:47]
13. Dummies and Masks [3:49]
14. The Cellar Set [8:58]
15. The Heart of the Film [7:16]
16. Forced Perspective [6:05]
17. Mother Goose [6:46]
18. Production at Dinner [3:07]
19. Mitchum Comes Back [3:02]
20. Mitchum and Gregory [2:10]
21. Laughton's Decisions [3:32]
22. The Lynch Mob [2:52]
23. The Film's Demise [4:12]
1. Color Bars [:00]
Disc #2 -- Night Of The Hunter
1. Laughton Reads the Sermon on the Mount [3:02]
2. The Players [6:51]
3. Robert Mitchum [3:09]
4. The Children and Peter Graves [17:00]
5. Shelley Winters [6:27]
6. Evelyn Varden [1:45]
7. Don Beddoe [6:12]
8. Wedding Night [10:21]
9. Two Uncles [18:50]
10. One Line [12:51]
11. Underwater [:52]
12. Secrets [19:37]
13. Escape Down the River [8:15]
14. Lillian Gish [10:54]
15. Gloria Castilo [2:49]
16. Harry Powell Arrives [5:50]
17. "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms" [2:42]
18. "I Got Somethin' Trapped in my Barn" [5:47]
19. "Lynch Him! Lynch Him!" [2:51]
20. Christmas with Miz Cooper [3:16]
21. Filming the Introduction [1:27]
22. After the Film [8:01]

Read More


Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >