Movie Review: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Starring: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Evelyn Varden

Directed by: Charles Laughton

Harry Powell is a religious fanatic who marries gullible women and murders them for their money. Believing he’s doing the work of God he meets a killer in prison by the name of Ben Harper who fails to reveal the whereabouts of the $10,000 he has hidden away. Powell, once released from prison, from a grand theft auto charge, he is on a mission to find the money and will stop at nothing to get his hands on it.

The movie takes a no nonsense approach within the first few opening scenes. You get introduced to Harry Powell, a religious preacher whose intent is revealed from the get go. Then you witness Ben Harper stash his stolen money before being arrested which sets up the premise for the rest of the movie. Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell is disturbingly brilliant, the delivery of his lines is especially superb. The director does very well too and some scenes are visually rich and wonderful to watch. The score does a very good job at setting up the tense atmosphere throughout the movie and the film is also aided by being black and white as this adds to the dark nature of the psychopathic preacher’s intent. Despite all of this there are some poor displays of acting from some of the supporting cast and some scenes are borderline laughable. Bits and pieces of the dialogue is quite cheesy at times and given the nature of the movie I felt it was unnecessarily included.

The Night of the Hunter is considered an absolute classic by many film critics but not many people my age, unless really fanatical about movies have either seen or even heard of this movie. This is a real shame as it really does a tremendous job building an eerie atmosphere and Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell is truly superb. I personally wouldn’t call it a classic, but it’s a very good watch and I’d recommend you to check it out especially if you enjoy old school black and white movies.


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