Loaned me the Criterion bluray of The Night of the Hunter. I was v excited to see a film that many consider a masterpiece, and a film that I should have seen by now, but still had not.
I wish I could report better news.
Sure, the Shelley Winters underwater scene is absolutely breathtaking, the absolute finest moment of the entire picture. And there are many lovely moments in the photography by Stanley Cortez, notably, also, the silhouette of Mitchum on his horse on the hill, singing, in pursuit of the children.
But, as far as this critic is concerned, anyone who proclaims that Robert Mitchum's performance is stunning, amazing, moving, whathaveyou, has got to be out of their mind. Mitchum's performance has got to be one of the campiest, faux-fey, appalling things I have ever seen. I am not buying this tortured, damaged Preacher Man for one second.
I am almost tempted to suggest that Mitchum was playing this as a closeted gay man. What the heck, maybe that is what Charles Laughton, in the only film he ever directed -- the film was a flop upon release in 1955, and Laughton never directed again -- asked him to do. And, Mitchum wanted Laughton, and put money in to the picture.
I also had serious problems with the Lillian Gish (Mama Sunshine -- h/t Todd Solondz' masterpiece, Palindromes) character. Here we are showing the evils of organized religion, and sure enough, then we witness a true Christian wielding a shotgun and saving the children for Jesus, and what is right.
No thanks, Sir.
My favorite part of the story was Ruby and her Suitor. But, that took up about five minutes of the entire picture. My next favorite part was when Gish shot Mitchum, and he squealed like an infant and went and ran in to the barn, where he stayed, a crying child, until the troopers rounded him up.
There is some great art direction and photography but the story and performances were major letdowns for me.
(The Wife was savvy enough -- she is so smart -- to pick up on the debt films like Cape Fear owe to this picture. But, I would much rather see the original Cape Fear again than The Night of the Hunter.)
All my love,