Film of the day: Night of the Hunter

Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton’s exquisite 1955 expressionistic adult fairy tale is full of psychological menace, brilliant composition and a cracking story.

Robert Mitchum plays a lag who learns of a hidden stash of booty while sharing a cell in jail and resolves to make it his own upon his release. Adopting the guise of an evangelical travelling preacher, he inveigles himself into the lives of the gullible widow Willa Harper (the wife of his dearly departed cellmate) and her two young children John and Pearl.

Willa sees only good in the man of God and her naivety leads her to the altar and a sticky end when she fails to reveal the location of the loot. Even as guardian to the children, Mitchum is wonderfully malevolent trying to wheedle out the information that he needs through lies and threats from his Love and Hate tattooed knuckles.

Night of the Hunter is an excellent tale, which in parts plays like a silhouette storybook while in others it is an unsettling, surreal little nightmare.

Film of the day: Night of the Hunter – Wednesday at 5.55pm on TCM.