Night of the Hunter (1955)
The performance of Robert Mitchum’s career… and that’s saying something.
Magnificent Bastard sez:
#42, February 10th, 2011
Last month, I decided to try the Vudu streaming pay-per-view service. There’s an app for it on my Blu-Ray player, but I had avoided checking it out because… well, mostly because I’m lazy.
That was before the Pootie Tang incident. Netflix didn’t have it, but Vudu did. And they would give me $5.99 in credit just to try their service out. That meant I could watch Pootie Tang for free, and still have credit left over. Sounded like a no-brainer to me.
My experience with the Vudu service was actually very positive. They have a good selection, including movies that Netflix doesn’thave, and one very nice little feature… a daily 99¢ movie, often a classic. And although most of their rental prices are only for 24 hours, if you rent the daily deal, it’s a 30 day rental, which makes it convenient if you see the deal but don’t have time to watch it that day. And that’s just what I did with Night of the Hunter… and of course, I promptly forgot I had done it. My brain is like a Swiss cheese… complex and piquant, but full of holes.
Cut to about 3 weeks later. I skipped out on work due to the worst head cold I’ve had since the last one I had, which of course I can’t remember… but that doesn’t matter. I decide to see what’s new on the Vudu and realize I only have three days left to watch Night of the Hunter.
It’s as if the universe is conspiring to ensure I watch this movie. Who am I to argue? I brewed a nice hot cup of ginger tea and honey (it’s good for the throat pains) and settled in to watch Robert Mitchum, playing one of the most iconic villains in film history, terrorize women and children… and it was good. Harry Powell, as played by Mitchum, is the very incarnation of Matthew 7:15 (Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves)… he almost reeks of danger, but his guise of an itinerant preacher leads people to mistake that danger for an air of righteousness. And that’s where Mitchum triumphs. He makes Powell… seductive.
I couldn’t help it, I was rooting for him the whole time… right up to the point where he rejected the sexual advances of his new wife, the former widow Harper (Shelly Winters). That was just plain crazy… and as both a former minister and a former psychologist, I’m allowed to make that diagnosis.
Night of the Hunter makes me long for the days when a man could travel across the country, reinventing himself as he went along, with no one the wiser. Oh for the days where there no national databases and no “permanent record”. The days when two kids could ride a boat down river and stop off in any old town they choose without having to answer a bunch of silly questions. The days when a man with LOVE tattooed on the fingers of one hand and HATE tattooed on the other could drive into town and within a few days the owners of the ice cream parlour were marrying him off to an attractive blond widow woman.
You know, the good old days, during The Great Depression.