“Ah, little lad, you’re staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of right-hand/left-hand? The story of good and evil?” Do tell! Do tell! Join this episode’s Grue-Crew – Whitney Collazo, Chad Hunt, Daphne Monary-Ernsdorff, and Jeff Mohr, along with guest host Bill Gabriel – as they geek out on Lillian Gish’s, Shelley Winters’s, and Robert Mitchum’s performances in the only film directed by Charles Laughton, The Night of the Hunter (1955).
Decades of Horror: The Classic Era
Episode 114 – The Night of the Hunter (1955)
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A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid the $10,000 he’d stolen in a robbery.IMDb
- Director: Charles Laughton
- Writers: Davis Grubb (from the novel by); James Agee (screenplay by); Charles Laughton (screenplay contributor) (uncredited)
- Cinematographer: Stanley Cortez
- Music: Walter Schumann
- Editor: Robert Golden
- Art Direction: Hilyard M. Brown
- Producer: Paul Gregory
- Selected Cast
- Robert Mitchum as Reverend Harry Powell
- Shelley Winters as Willa Harper
- Lillian Gish as Rachel Cooper
- Billy Chapin as John Harper
- Sally Jane Bruce as Pearl Harper
- James Gleason as Uncle “Birdie” Steptoe
- Evelyn Varden as Icey Spoon, Willa’s employer
- Don Beddoe as Walt Spoon, Icey’s husband
- Peter Graves as Ben Harper
- Gloria Castillo as Ruby, one of Rachel’s girls
- Paul Bryar as Bart the Hangman
- Cheryl Callaway as Mary (uncredited)
- Mary Ellen Clemons as Clary (uncredited)
- Michael Chapin as Ruby’s Boyfriend (uncredited)
You’ll find no hate for The Night of the Hunter from the Classic Era Grue-Crew except on Chad’s fingers. This is Daphne’s pick and she loves The Night of the Hunter, calling it a beautiful piece of art. For Bill, the film has been in his DNA as far back as he can remember. He was scared out of his wits by Mitchum’s performance while other scenes were tear-inducing. Whitney sees the bond of siblings amidst the trauma the two children are dealing with in the real-life horror of The Night of the Hunter. This is one of Chad’s favorite films, referring to it as a beautiful, fairy tale of a movie with a dreamlike quality. He also tells a heartfelt story about watching The Night of the Hunter for the first time with his dad. Jeff found The Night of the Hunter to be a bit strange until he learned to view the exaggerations and eccentricities as seen through the eyes of young John. He now believes he must watch the movie much more often.
During the podcast, the Grue-Crew members refer several times to two videos. The first one is a 159-minute documentary, Charles Laughton Directs “The Night of the Hunter.” In the manner of silent film directors, Laughton almost never called “cut” to a scene, filming continuously through an entire reel while giving repeated direction to the actors to get the performance for which he was looking. IMDb describes the documentary as “an assembled compilation of footage from rushes, outtakes, and behind-the-scenes moments featuring Charles Laughton directing ‘The Night of the Hunter.’ The second video is a 5-minute video of Guillermo del Toro commenting on the importance to him of The Night of the Hunter. Links to the two videos are included below.
- Charles Laughton Directs “The Night of the Hunter” (2002)
- Guillermo del Toro on The Night of the Hunter:
At the time of this writing, The Night of the Hunter is available to stream from The Criterion Channel and various PPV services, and on physical media as a Criterion Blu-ray.
Gruesome Magazine’s Decades of Horror: The Classic Era records a new episode every two weeks. Up next on their very flexible schedule is one chosen by Whitney: Macario (1960), an acclaimed, Mexican, supernatural drama directed by Roberto Gavaldón. You will not want to miss that one!
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