Classic Film Guide

Night of the Hunter, The (1955)

A chilling film directed by Charles Laughton (his only effort?) with Robert Mitchum (his best role?), Shelley Winters, and Lillian Gish! James Gleason and Peter Graves also appear. The screenplay was written by James Agee (The African Queen (1951)) from the novel by Davis Grubb. The film was added to the National Film Registry in 1992. #34 on AFI's Most Heart-Pounding Movies list. Mitchum's Reverend Harry Powell is AFI's #29 villain.

Ben Harper (Graves) has been caught and sentenced to death for murder, but not before he had hidden the $10,000 he received for the crime. In prison, Harry Powell, a faux Reverend (Mitchum), learns of this before Harper is executed. When he's released, he goes to Harper's home town and courts Harper's ex-wife (Winters) to gain access to the house and hunt for the hidden stash. He is an unusual, frightening character who has L O V E tattooed on the knuckles of one hand, and H A T E on the other. Harper's children, befriended by a kindly riverboat captain (Gleason), don't trust the Reverend, who kills their mother. After a harrowing chase, they are protected by an old woman (Gish).

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