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Remembering Robert Mitchum on His Birthday: The Night of the Hunter


Robert Mitchum would have been ninety nine years old today. Born on August 6, 1917 the film-noir star passed away in 1997. Seems like a perfect candidate for a #ThrowbackThursday film classic.  Based on the novel by David Grubb, The Night of the Hunter was a critical and commercial failure when the movie was released in 1955. Today, it's generally considered to be one of the great films of the American cinema. Mitchum starred as a religious fanatic who marries a widow only to get at the ten grand her first husband stole and hid somewhere on their property. The kids see right through the preacher, clear through to his evil soul, and as much as he tries to get it out of them, they're not giving. 

The great Shelly Winters stars as the gullible widow — she was a genius at playing needy women like her character in Lolita. You can't help but pity her but you hate her too, for being so pitiful. It's the kind of movie that has you screaming at the screen, No! Telling her Don't do it. Don't marry him. Screaming at the kids to run while they can. Very creepy flick!

I watched The Night of the Hunter several months back and besides being terrified for the kids, I was struck by the strength of the black and white visuals. The deep darkness, the occasional dapples of light serves to intensify the terrifying journey the kids make down the river. It's heart-popping. All I can say is thank God for Lillian Gish!

Directed by the actor Charles Laughton, the stunning cinematography is by Stanley Cortez. A Criterion Collection offering, The Night of the Hunter is available to stream on Amazon, Google-Play, YouTube and Vudu.