Monday, November 29, 2010

The story of good and evil

I just got Criterion's Blu-ray edition of The Night of the Hunter — one of my favorite films. It is about menacing evil and human fallibility redeemed by genuine goodness. This review of the DVD from a very good DVD site explains some of the reasons I like it:
Laughton's The Night of the Hunter is something of a marvel considering its timing and history. The 1950s are not remembered as a time of complexity or darkness—in fact, the '50s are often recalled as a moment of joy, simplicity and fun. It's this contrast that makes The Night of the Hunter stand out from most thrillers of the time. Laughton's film features a dreamlike quality that wrestles unease from the viewer's grasp. Robert Mitchum is so evil and engrossing as the manipulative Harry Powell that he's almost impossible to forget, even days after the film's credits have closed. Mitchum had been arrested for possession of marijuana a few years before The Night of the Hunter was made and his time in prison served him well—we believe that Powell is capable of doing whatever is necessary to get Ben Harper's money. Forty-five years later and Mitchum's Harry Powell is still one of the most powerful and disturbing villains ever to grace the silver screen. ....

One of the best things about The Night of the Hunter is the set decoration. Not content to feature just darkness and light, Laughton took special care to craft scenes of dread and menace out of silhouette, shape and contrast. Grassy hills and jagged houses often take on a looming quality that seems almost Tim Burton-esque in their shape. One famous scene involving Powell's search for the children in the basement is so stark and specific—only a portion of the screen is used—that it can be seen as a precursor to many other future horror movies.

As I'm writing this review I'm realizing that I only have praise for Night of the Hunter—it is in almost every way a perfect film (and that's not something I say very often as a critic). The writing is taught and fluid; the performances are striking and memorable; the set design, music and cinematography are all wonderfully realized and evocative. .... [more]
DVD Verdict Review - The Night Of The Hunter (Blu-Ray) Criterion Collection