The Night of the Hunter (1955)


World cinematography, and Hollywood itself, had several great and very strong losses that they may never have managed to overcome, and here I am thinking primarily of the premature death of the American pop icon James Dean, then the premature departure of the German and world film legend F.V. Murnau at the age of 42, and the not so tragic situation around Charles Laughton, who made only one film, and could have made more of them, could become one of the best in the history of film. Unfortunately, it is now all in the domain of theories and assumptions, and if he could become one of the best, he could and unfortunately will be remembered only as one of the best actors of his time, and not as someone who directed one of the best debut films in the history of cinema. : “Hunter’s Night”.

“Hunter’s Night” is one of those films from Hollywood in the middle of the 20th century, which at first glance was not so original, unique and special, since it took a lot of things from already established forms, but was among the first to fit all these elements into one phenomenal one. an interesting and beautiful whole, which perhaps for that reason is not at all well accepted either by the critics or by the audience itself. Simply, almost everyone expected a completely different film, perhaps even in line with the previous roles of Robert Mitchum, and that can often cause an account effect, that is, for this film to be so poorly received, and that cost Charles Lawton his career as a director. .

By the way, this is a film based on the novel of the same name by Davis Grub, whose story begins with Ben Harper, the father of two wonderful children: young John and little Pearl, robbing a bank, but unfortunately he is arrested and sentenced to death, but before that act he hides the money he shows to his children, with their promise not to tell anyone, not even his mother. Then, quite by chance, a religious fanatic and a priest named Harry Powell, who sees this act as a sign of God from heaven after learning about it in the cell he shared with Ben Harper, after his release from prison prepares a plan to take that money and thus make it worse. already a pretty bad life for the Harper family. Although the rough plot is mostly reminiscent of a crime thriller that has been done several times, even during that time, it is not, because this is actually a typical fairy tale that is just put in a darker and more modern version of a crime thriller, which works best. like a fairy tale, and much less like something else, even a thriller itself.

As with most fairy tales, the characters are what make those same fairy tales good, interesting and always pleasant to read, or in this case to watch, and that is exactly the great feature of this film. At the center of the film are two completely different types of characters: on the one hand two young, naive and sad children John and Pearl, and on the other a fanatical, cruel, dark and above all, evil Harry Powell, and they all interbreed with individual people , which we cannot say with absolute certainty, that they are 100% good or bad, except for one person, about whom I will not write anything, so as not to ruin the experience of those who have not yet seen the film, because it belongs to a larger spoiler. This first side of the person represents the personification of goodness, naivety and God himself, and the second is a typical embodiment of evil and everything bad in the world, or simply the Devil himself. Perhaps this situation is best described by the hands of Robert Micham, ie. Harry Powell, one with a motif of love and the other with a motif of hatred.

When I first read the news that the main role was rejected by the legendary Gary Cooper, whom I adore, mostly because of the role in the movie “Exactly at noon”, where he plays the man I wanted to become when I grow up, I was a little disappointed, but from today’s perspective I’m absolutely happy, because I’m 100% sure that Robert Mitcham is the right man for a role like this and no one else could be this good, so maybe I’m not Jack Nicholson. Simply, at one point he was terrible, cruel, violent, the true ideal of a psychopath and a serial killer, and then at one point he jumped into his mask of a good, religious and just priest. In addition to Robert Mitch, it is worth mentioning the legend of the silent American film Lillian Gish, which I was very glad to see in such a good film, as well as the nice James Gleason who played a character you have to cook right away. , although his role was totally irrelevant.

Like any other fairy tale, this “Night of the Hunter” is not perfect at all, because the children’s acting was not so impressive, good and in place, although that is the beauty of this film, because no fairy tale is perfect, because it always has the same beginning ( “Once upon a time”) and almost always the same and happy ending. Maybe that’s where the overall quality of this film lies.