Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “The Night of the Hunter”
By: Brian Cotnoir
I actually find it quite difficult to express how I feel about this film. Even though this film is a Classic, I must admit I did not like it the first time I saw it, and then I watched it a second time and my opinion about it didn’t change much, but as I thought about the film more as the days passed, I started to realize that I actually did sort of like it. With that being said, I think this is probably one of the harder reviews I have ever written, because as of this exact moment, I still don’t know whether or not I thought it was a good film.
The film is based off of a novel of the same name and is about the Reverend Harry Powell (who is played by Hollywood Legend Robert Mitchum). The Reverend travels through the Ohio River Valley during the Great Depression, and he pretty much lures poor, lonely, unsuspecting women into marriage before killing and robbing them. The Reverend is eventually caught and arrested--for Grand Theft Auto; NOT MURDER) and is sentenced to 30 Days in Prison. While in prison he shares a cell with a thief and murderer named Ben Harper. Harper is awaiting death row, and the Reverend finds out that Harper stole more than $10,000 dollars and hid it somewhere that only he and his two young children know where it’s hidden. So shortly after Ben Harper is executed, the Reverend is set free and sets off to find Harper’s widow and children, in hopes that he can steal the money for himself, but Ben Harper’s son, John, has his suspicions about the Good Reverend, and has to find a way to protect the promise he made to his father to protect the money and his little sister.
So let me first discuss the things I liked about this film. The film has some really great cinematography. It’s a film noir so the combination of great camera angles and the correct lighting makes for some really cool shots in the film. I also really like the two child actors in the film especially the actor who played John Harper, because I admire his commitment to the role and how innocent, strong, and loyal he appears throughout this film. While everyone else is blinded by the charm and charisma of the Reverend Harry Powell, John remains cautious and sees right through the Reverend’s scheme. This is definitely one of the better child roles I’ve seen in a film.
|Lillian Gish Plays one Bad A$$ B!tch|
Another great acting performance in the film came from another Hollywood legend, actress Lillian Gish. Gish’s character appears towards the end of the film. She plays a character named Mrs. Cooper who rescues and protects the two children from the Reverend. She is just a 100% bad ass in the film, who does things her way and does her best to help the less fortunate.
|The Good Reverend contemplates his options|
Now, Robert Mitchum may be the biggest star in this film, but his character is just your typical movie bad guy, who hides behind the mask of sanity in public and goes full on psycho the second he gets behind a closed door. There was just nothing surprising or mysterious about his character. Every time he enters a scene they play that same musical score that lets you know Robert Mitchum’s on screen and he’s the baddy. I’m surprised the films music producer just didn’t play a siren blaring “BAD GUY! BAD GUY!” every time he walked on screen because his music was so obnoxious that it was pretty hard for the audience to not realize that Robert Mitchum’s character was bad.
|Spoutin` Exposition in the Name of the Lord!|
Another thing that I didn’t like about this film/Robert Mitchum’s character was the pacing of the film. It appears that in an effort to cut down the films run-time and condense a good chunk of the novels plot into the film, much of Robert Mitchum’s dialogue is him spewing out exposition in the form of a soliloquy. I hate when a films character tries to explain the plot through expositional dialogue. In my opinion it is a sign of poor writing and I find it to be an annoying and distracting part of any film. I also didn’t like the character of Mrs. Spoon. Mrs. Spoon is the boss of Ben Harper’s wife and she’s constantly budding into the widow’s personal life and tells her a month after her husband is executed that she needs to re-marry soon because she is incapable of raising two young children on her own. She is just a pestilent and judgmental bitch, who needs to mind her own damn business.
So after all this I wish I could tell you whether or not I like this film, but I don’t think I can. I think you should just watch the film yourself and decide on your own whether or not you like “The Night of the Hunter”.