I saw the classic 1955 movie, The Night of the Hunter, for the first time a few months ago. Charles Laughton directed Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish in a highly stylized parable set along the Ohio River during the Depression. The Night of the Hunter, filmed in black and white with dream like sets and lighting, is populated by Norman Rockwell characters with serious Freudian complexes. Laughton used these quirks to slip a few laughs into the grim plot. The cinematography style brought to mind the photographs of Baltimore pictorialist A. Aubrey Bodine. The movie was based on a novel by Davis Grubb, which was loosely based on the case of a real serial killer named Harry Powers.
Robert Mitchum’s creepy character, “Preacher” Harry Powell, dispatches his lonely female victim with a switchblade knife, then terrorizes and pursues her children with a chilling calm. The film’s climax, a showdown between Mitchum’s murderous con man and Lillian Gish’s resolute, shotgun wielding maternal protector of orphans, who cannot be conned or cowed, caps a great film.
In The Night of the Hunter, a mother hen brings down a jackal.