Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments:#90-Night of the Hunter(1955)

By Eric Polk-
Hi Reaplings! Remember me? No? That's ok. I don't like to remember myself sometimes either,lol! This Eric and when Brandon isn't teaching Junior High English or while Rhonda is busy in the morgue dissecting cadavers, I'm up here at DBH Eastern Ohio/Western Pennsylvania Command reviewing Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments films.

Anyway, we're at numero 90, a film from the bygone age where (gasp!) great acting was a requisite to a great film career. Enter legendary actor Robert Mitchum and his perfomance as a jackleg preacher in 1955's  Night of the Hunter.  Based on the novel written by Davis Grubb, the movie takes place in a Depression-era Northern West Virginia town in which Ben Harper (Peter Graves) is sentenced to hang for his part in a robbery in which two men were killed. Before he is caught he hides the stolen money, trusting only his son John (Billy Chapin), the main character of the story, with the money's location. John has a much younger sister, Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce). Harry Powel (Robert Mitchum), a serial killer and self-appointed preacher with the words "LOVE" and "HATE" tattooed on the knuckles of his right and left hands, shares a prison cell with Harper. He tries to get Harper to tell him the hiding place before his execution, but the only clue he gets is a bible verse Harper mutters in his sleep: "And a little child shall lead them."

Convinced that Harper told his children the secret, Powell woos and marries Harper's widow, Willa (Shelly Winters). Willa does not know her new husband's motive and believes her marriage will lead to her salvation. Powell asks the children about the money when they are alone, but they reveal nothing. John is suspicious of Powell and protective of his sister. One night Willa overhears her husband questioning the children and she realizes the truth. As she lies in bed that night in their attic bedroom, Powell leans over her and slits her throat.

Powell dumps her body in the river. He finally learns the money's location from Pearl by threatening John, but the children flee with the money down the river. They eventually find sanctuary with Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) a tough old woman who looks after stray children. Powell eventually tracks them down, but Rachel sees through his false virtue.

No, there is no blood, nothing visceral in this movie. What makes up for that deficiency(sorry, I wanted to use a different word for weakness...gotta love my handy thesaurus) is the downright eeriness of the preacher. He is so convincing as an evil entity, he could induce nightmares in younger folk. This might not be a weighty opinion,but I'm not quite ready to place Powell on par with psychologically(whoops! an adverb!) great villains such as Dr. Hannibal Lecter or Norman Bates, but he's not a half-wit by any means!

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