Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Night of the Hunter


Even though I love watching and writing about things that are scary, like zombies, aliens and vampires; there are a few movies that can spook even a horror aficionado like myself. One of these movies is the 1955 hit, The Night of the Hunter.
Directed by Charles Laughton and starred Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish, this movie is taken from the book of the same name by Davis Grubb. Now here is the freaking scary part. The book and movie are based on a true story.

A man named Harry Powers was responsible for wooing, marrying, and then killing two widows and three children. He did it for the money and because he’s a sick bastard that got what he justly deserved; hanging. But, let’s review the movie, which is sometimes shown on TCM.
Ben Harper (Peter Graves commits a robbery in which two men are killed. Before he’s caught, he has a chance to hide the money where no one will ever find it. Only his young son, John (Billy Chapin) knows the secret. While awaiting his execution, Ben Harper makes friends with another prisoner, Reverend Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum). Powell is trying to find out where the stolen money is, but the only thing Ben will tell him is “A child shall lead them.”

It’s not much of a clue, but Powell knows that the children are part of the secret. Robert Mitchum is a wonderfully talented actor, but he scares the shit out of me. He outdid himself in this movie, giving me nightmares whenever I watch this movie. His character is a sickie alright with his tattoos of ‘Love’ on one hand and ‘Hate’ on the other hand and his smooth talking ways. He searches out Willa Harper (Shelley Winters) and woos her. Blind to the Reverend’s evil ways, Willa marries Rev. Powell.
John and Pearl
John Harper (Billy Chapin) can see right through the guise of Rev. Powell. Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce) is a wee one and doesn’t understand why her brother doesn’t trust the new daddy.

John is a survivor and very protective of his little sister. When the Reverend questions and threatens the children on the whereabouts of the money, Willa overhears him. That night, she pays with her life.
But John and his sister, along with her doll, escape the Reverend’s clutches and take off in the boat, floating down the river until they come to the river’s edge and sanctuary.

Rachael Cooper
Rachael Cooper is played by the marvelous Lillian Gish. She gracefully moved from silent films into talkies. Rachael is a good soul, a tough old soul, who takes in the lost children of the world. She feeds, heals wounds; seen and unseen, and she protects like a mother grizzly bear. When John and Pearl come to her half-starving and fearful of their lives, she opens her home, arms and heart to them. Before long John and Pearl are part of the growing family that Rachael has gathered to herself.

When the Reverend tracks the children to Rachael’s farm, he mistakenly takes Rachael for a weak woman. He’s mistaken, big time. Shotgun in hand, Rachael sends Reverend Powell running with his tail between his legs and the police in close pursuit. Rachael sums up the whole horrible events that John, Pearl and the other lost children had survived before reaching her protective arms with this message, “Children, they abide and they endure.”

Watch this movie if you get a chance and tell me if Robert Mitchum wasn’t scary as hell.



  1. One of the more chilling things about this classic flick are the LOVE and HATE tattoos Mitchum has on his knuckles.

    1. You're right about that and his eyes. They remind me of shark eyes.