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Review wanted: Night of the Hunter

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Review wanted: Night of the Hunter

Old 04-05-01, 10:50 AM
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I loved the movie on the big screen. Has anyone seen the DVD?
Old 04-06-01, 12:56 AM
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I would say if you love the movie it's a good DVD. If you haven't seen the film it's actually a very good dark film that ages remarkably well. It hasn't lost a bit of the horror. It's a nice clean print and good audio. It has no extras really except a trailer. But it's a good barebones DVD.

Video: 8 (7 +1 considering the age of the film)
Audio: 7
Story: 9 Classic!
Extras: 3

Shawn

[Edited by TheV on 04-05-01 at 09:59 PM]
Old 04-06-01, 03:58 PM
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I recently purchased this movie on DVD and it does not lose 1 ounce of the initial horror I felt when the preacher is looking for the kids ... "Children" ... *shudder*

I also suggest if you love this movie on the big screen it is worth it to add to your collection ...
Old 05-14-05, 10:52 PM
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Does anyone else have any views to share on this disk? I was surprised to see no dvdtalk review on it, of from any other review sites. Would it be recommended as a blind buy? Is there any news of a new edition coming out? Thanks.
Old 05-15-05, 09:35 AM
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If you like dark suspense, get it. That's my review, and I think it sums it up ; )

I haven't heard of a new version coming, but it's a classic film and the current DVD looks/sounds great, better than the Criterion Laserdisc.
Old 05-15-05, 04:38 PM
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I think it's one of Mitchum's defining roles. The photography is absolutely amazing in this film. The lighting in the bedroom scene, the silhouettes of Mitchum on the horse and of the barn...that whole set is just beautiful. And the scene of the kids on the river is so surreal with the singing and the amazing angles. That's not to even mention all the great themes of religion and spiritual battle, and the psychology of Mitchum's character. Man I love this film!

And the DVD is really great quality also - crystal clear picture and sound. I strongly recommend buying it, and the price is nice too.

BTW if you're really into this movie seek out Taschen's film noir book with Mitchum's love/hate hands on the front and back, it makes for a very nice coffee table piece.
Old 05-16-05, 06:09 PM
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I just seen this on dvd yesterday. Good movie! Good transfer! Loved the lighting, etc. and Mitchums performance. It has inspired to me to finally see the original Cape Fear.

The one question I have about the dvd is this:

Before the film starts..its says.."formatted to fit this screen" Was this done in 1:85 or 1:77? I didnt notice any loss of picture...

Charles Laughten was a kick ass director!
Old 05-20-05, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by AeroStone
The one question I have about the dvd is this:

Before the film starts..its says.."formatted to fit this screen" Was this done in 1:85 or 1:77? I didnt notice any loss of picture...
No it's 1.37:1, MGM is just retarded.

Always wondered why Charles Laughton didn't direct more either. Just watched Witness for the Prosecution the other night (again MGM, why isn't this anamorphic? ), and he was a really fine actor. Even though I always picture him as Quasimodo.

The next thing I need to finally see with him is The Old Dark House.
Old 05-20-05, 11:15 PM
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the dvd



the book



I own both and have enjoyed both. If they re-released a new dvd i would buy it in an instant for commentaries or special features, but the disc is good just the same. Get it now.

The book is good, but not the most defining for the night of the hunter. it has a lot of great pictures and some good blurbs.
Old 05-21-05, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by naitram
Always wondered why Charles Laughton didn't direct more either.
Mainly because the movie was a flop when released. Apparently, Laughton also felt a little in over his head, as he wasn't very comfortable directing the two children. Basically, he'd tell Robert Mitchum what he wanted the kids to do, and Mitchum would direct them personally. (Kinda weird to think about the fact that, in reality, Mitchum must have had a pretty good relationship with the kids he's trying to kill on-screen.)
Old 05-30-05, 01:03 PM
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Sat down to watch this DVD with anticipation and was incredibly disappointed. This movie was made in 1955? Seemed like a movie made 20 years earlier. I'll give props to some interesting camera shots and lighting, but this was camp all the way. Watching Mitchum have to purposefully slow down while chasing the kids was hilarious.
Over the top scenes come at you left and right and there wasn't one moment in this movie that was in the least scary or thrilling.

I realize sometimes you have to look at classic movies and try and siphon out all that has come since, but I couldn't. This is one of the most overrated movies I've ever seen.
Old 05-31-05, 01:00 PM
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Here's an old review of mine from years past, which you can find archived at: http://www.bargainflix.com/search/sh...sec=RR&rid=106

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Review by: Eric Billingsley

Slowly but most surely, I am making my way through about a bazillion old movies of which I've heard much raving. I was recently inspired to seek out a selection of titles culled primarily from A PERSONAL WITH MARTIN SCORSESE THROUGH AMERICAN MOVIES. One featured film which I knew by reputation but had never seen was NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (1955) starring Robert Mitchum and Shelly Winters.

Thanks to a recent membership with Netflix, I was able to rent NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and watched it only a few nights ago...and the imagery is still haunting me three days later. It seems that many of the films I admire most successfully "ride the fence" between genres and expectations. In fact, defying expectations - while maintaining plausibility - is one of the watermarks of a truly superior film. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in Charles Laughton's genre bending film, NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.

The story concerns a homicidally demented preacher who we are told in the opening moments of the film marries widows, kills them, and takes whatever assets he can grab in the name of performing "God's work". The film is set during the depression when a widowed mother could scarcely care for children alone which makes this man's transgressions all that more grievous and despicable. Reverend Harry Powell converses with "God" frequently, and in his mind he really is doing "God's work". Yet Laughton makes no attempt to blur Powell's lack of morality or to incur sympathy for the man. As is implied in the opening bible scripture, Powell is a wolf and not to be trusted. He is irredeemably twisted and wholly representative (in what is a highly representative film) of pure evil. Iconically, the man has tattooed "L-O-V-E" on one hand and "H-A-T-E" on the other with each letter printed on a single knuckle. This is probably the first film where a killer is personified as a virtually unstoppable force of nature. At one point during his terrified flight from Powell, little John Harper wakes in the middle of the night to the ever-present intonations of Powell's "Leaning on Jesus", to which an exasperated John exclaims "Doesn't he ever sleep?".

The story leaves Powell only long enough to reveal a bit of important exposition in which we are introduced to the Harper family. Young John and his little sister Pearl watch stunned as their father, Ben, is taken away by the police after shooting and killing two people in a botched robbery attempt - but not before we see Ben hurry offscreen to stash the stolen loot prior to the arrival of the police. Ben is sentenced to death by hanging, but prior to his execution is celled with Powell (in on some "minor" charge) to whom he reveals his crime as well as the fact that the money was never recovered. Powell takes a keen interest in Harper's story and is caught trying to extract the location of the money from his cellmate while Ben is sleeping.

Harper is executed and Powell is soon released - and makes a beeline for widow Willa Harper and her two unsuspecting children. Though we never saw Harper stashing the stolen loot, it is implied that the children did, and Ben makes his children swear that no matter what happens that they will under no circumstances reveal where the money has been hidden. Powell shows up and immediately the town's busybodies (particularly local nosey-nellie, Mrs. Spoon) start to goad Willa into finding a man - any man - who will help her take care of her two young children. Though one cannot help but feel some sympathy for Willa's plight, her emotional instability and gullibility are nearly the demise of her children. She marries the preacher who wastes no time in hounding the children for the location of the hidden money. Before long, Willa has met her fate (but not before recognizing Powell as a monster) and the two orphaned children are forced to flee into the night. The rest of the film follows the kids' exodus down the river (in their father's skiff, which plays a significant thematic role in the story) with the unnaturally determined Powell nipping at their heels the entire time. The children are fatefully brought to the homestead of a crusty but angelic Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish), who - with her natural children grown - has taken it upon herself to care for any orphan who happens upon her property. Rachel, in contrast to Willa, is nobody's fool, and immediately suspects something is wrong with John and Pearl's story. Rachel provides what appears to be sanctuary for John and Pearl, yet we know instinctively that it will only be a matter of time before wolf Harry Powell comes sniffing around the henhouse.

Initially, I was struck by the theatricality of the film. I completed my bachelor's degree in theatre and over the years have appeared in dozens of stage productions. NIGHT OF THE HUNTER could not only be easily adapted for the stage (is anyone aware of such an effort?), but is presented on film in a manner that is almost as theatrically stylized as Sam Wood's production of OUR TOWN (1940). Yet, there are several key scenes which were ostensibly shot on outdoor locations. Considering the careful and purposeful construction of NOTH, I would tend to believe that there is a significant method to the selection of location/studio shots, but I am unable to nail anything down thusfar. However, I would postulate that perhaps Laughton used location shooting to represent the "natural" (i.e. - the picnic by the river) and studio shots to emphasize the "unnatural" (most major scenes involving Mitchum). Most effective and memorable was the scene where John is awaken in the middle of the night by the dreadful and iconic sound of Powell's "Leaning on Jesus" after he and his sister have only just laid down their exhausted heads in a riverside barn's upper hayloft. We see (in heavily stylized shadows) a horseback Powell slowly crossing in front of a full moon. The shot is deliberately artificial, but effectively conveys a sense of terror and isolation that could not have been as effectively portrayed in a more realistic setting. Yet in spite of such deliberate artifice (or perhaps because of), our concern for the children and our emotional involvement could not be greater.

There is also evidence of noir-ish conventions present throughout the film. Shadows are not only omnipresent but overdrawn and heavily emphasized (except in a few daylight scenes). However, I doubt that NIGHT OF THE HUNTER could ever be categorized as true noir. Ultimately, I would classify NOTH as a "thriller" which I consider to be a bastard brother to "horror" - only minus most of the superficial trimmings commonly associated with horror. In any case, I found NIGHT to be unrelentingly savage in it's portrayal of the children's terrifying ordeal - not what I would expect from a 1955 film AT ALL! I noticed at the IMDB site that the film was originally banned in Finland, which does not surprise me at all. I am actually surprised that it was released in post-code Hollywood intact. Most likely this is because there are very few elements that - in and of themselves - could be considered "offensive", yet the film as a whole creates an oppressive atmosphere far more intense than any other movie of it's day. Even by today's standards, one would be hard pressed to come up with many modern films that are as thoroughly disturbing as NIGHT OF THE HUNTER.

Now that I've built up massive expectations among some of you who may not have seen the film, I should temper my enthusiasm by stating that NIGHT OF THE HUNTER is not without it's flaws. I was a little put-off by Billy Chapin's performance as young John Harper, but am willing to cut him some slack as he was merely a child (although actors such as Haley Joe Osment prove that convincing performances are not purely the domain of adult actors). There were at least a couple of scenes which should have elicited terror from the young man, but closeups reveal an unworried smile upon the boy's face. I suppose it could be possible that this was an intentional decision on Laughton's part, but I think that one would be hard-pressed to support such a claim. There are also a few aspects of the film which might be considered a bit dated by today's standards. Sometimes Laughton goes too far with the sentiment and a scene goes from touching to a bit laughable, but these spots are few and easy to overlook when considered in the context of the film.

The MGM DVD is very clean and sharp with little or no signs of age on the source print. Sound is a clear monaural presentation. The only extras are a theatrical trailer and some production notes (I think - can't remember for certain). However, I was disappointed to see a disclaimer at the beginning of the film stating that NIGHT OF THE HUNTER has been "reformatted to fit your television"! Baa! I thought the studios had finally learned that the majority of film buffs (who are also the majority of DVD consumers) prefer to see the ENTIRE image composed by the director. It's a real shame that NOTH was given such a flawless (yet definitively incomplete) presentation. In particular, a film with such notable art direction and shot composition calls out for a widescreen format. Why MGM dropped the ball on this one, I do not know.

If you've never seen NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, and weren't dissuaded by my inclusion of some spoilers in the story synopsis, I highly encourage you to check this one out as soon as possible. I regret having not seen this one years ago.
Old 05-31-05, 04:59 PM
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Originally Posted by atlantamoi
Sat down to watch this DVD with anticipation and was incredibly disappointed. This movie was made in 1955? Seemed like a movie made 20 years earlier. I'll give props to some interesting camera shots and lighting, but this was camp all the way. Watching Mitchum have to purposefully slow down while chasing the kids was hilarious.
Over the top scenes come at you left and right and there wasn't one moment in this movie that was in the least scary or thrilling.

I realize sometimes you have to look at classic movies and try and siphon out all that has come since, but I couldn't. This is one of the most overrated movies I've ever seen.
I finally got to see this last week on TCM. I admit there were a few scenes that definitely don't make it by today's standards, but I think they can be overlooked. When you look at what the story is driving to do, and not the simple actions like the boy running away from Mitchum, you can see that it really is a scary film. Especially scary for 1955. A film like this definitely wouldn't be made 20 years prior. I would think that a bogus, murderous preacher chasing after some kids was met with disdain even when the film was released. I'm willing to bet that this is one of those movies that you grow to appreciate after multiple viewings-- I can't say I was amazed when I first saw it either, but now that i've had time to reflect on it I think it is worthy of all its praise.

edit: I found a fantastic article by Ebert that is worth a read

Last edited by DVD King; 05-31-05 at 05:24 PM.
Old 06-01-05, 02:27 AM
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good stuff from ebert
Old 06-01-05, 09:49 AM
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Yeah, if you look at Rotten Tomatoes you'll notice every single review is glowing in praise for this film. I finally rented it after a co-worker was telling me how cool the movie is. I just couldn't get past the wooden tone. I realize you have to try and see older movies in the context of when they were released, but I couldn't get past it for this particular film.
Old 06-01-05, 09:51 AM
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Originally Posted by EricBill
Initially, I was struck by the theatricality of the film.
I turned to my wife during the movie and asked her if this was based on a play. It definitely had that feeling.
Old 06-04-05, 08:26 PM
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This is one of my favorite films, and those who feel it seems dated or stagey should keep in mind that this is not meant to be real - it is like the grimmest of the Grimms Brothers, told in a highly stylized manner, about children in jeopardy from a fairy-tale ogre.

Anyone wanting a more naturalistic approach should see UNDERTOW, another terrific film but completely different in its use of cinematic language.
Old 06-05-05, 07:08 PM
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This is a favorite film of mine mainly for the cinematography and one of the most captivating performances in the history of film I think by the unforgettably charismatic Robert Mitchum. I had a really hard time taking on Undertow even though I adore David Gordon Green because even if I didn't read about how Undertow shared similar elements to The Night of the Hunter I would have had a problem with it anyways. I had seen Night of the Hunter so many times now that it would've been obviously apparent and it seemed like an extreme retread mixing in DGG's appreciation for Malick (the creatively made spaceship/house in the junkyard reminiscent to Badlands treehouse construction) and completely lacked Green's knack for compelling dialogue. I just felt like I'd rather be watching Night of the Hunter and it was unfortunate because I wanted to like it. Misfire by Green in my opinion.

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