‘Would you like me to tell you the story of right hand, left hand? The story of good and evil?’ It’s hard to think of a film which cuts so clear a line between innocence and depravity as 1955’s ‘The Night of the Hunter’, British actor Charles Laughton’s sole film as director. Robert Mitchum is the heart of absolute darkness as Reverend Harry Powell, a preacher and killer of women whose lust for gold leads him to little Pearl Harper (Sally Jane Bruce) and her older brother John (Billy Chapin), who are guardians of their jailed dad’s stolen loot. Driven by the starkness of German expressionism and shot by legendary Orson Welles collaborator Stanley Cortez, Laughton’s film makes the average film noir look like afterschool kids’ TV. Every shot is a masterclass in contrast, in looming blacks and piercing whites. It’s the most haunted and dreamlike of all American films, a gothic backwoods ramble with the Devil at its heels.
Cast and crew
Sally Ann Bruce