Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Sight & Sound Challenge: The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Film: The Night of the Hunter (29/250) 
Critics Poll: 63rd 
Directors Poll: 26th 
First Time/Rewatch: Rewatch 

I absolutely love this one, and watch it almost annually. Robert Mitchum stars as a crazed and murderous preacher stalking two children who know the whereabouts of a large sum of money hidden by their father before he died. It's told through the eyes of a child, with shadows looming and their fears taking center stage, larger than life. There are some gorgeous shots in this film, including Shelley Winters underwater (spoiler!) and Lillian Gish in silhouette (above), keeping guard over her children. Visually, this film is a masterpiece in black and white. The suspense is there too; I watched it this time with my mother, who had never seen it and really gets into whatever she's watching. She shrieked every time Mitchum appeared (and disappeared!) and she called out guesses of what she thought would happen next ("Oh NO! Now he's gonna get killed!") I love that a 60 year old movie can still get a jump out of an audience.

I was unexpectedly moved for the first time watching this, nearly to tears. As a prospective foster parent, the words spoken by Lillian Gish's character (an older woman who takes in local kids with no homes) really touched me: "Lord, save little children. You'd think the world would be ashamed to name such a day as Christmas for one of them and then go on in the same old way. My soul is humble when I see the way little ones accept their lot. Lord, save little children. The wind blows and the rain's a-cold. Yet they abide...They abide and they endure." The original movie foster mom, she plays such a special part in this film of childhood terror, a protecting and loving force against evil. I just love her, and this film, so much.

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