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The Night of the Hunter
14A, 100 minutes
Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish
The great actor Charles Laughton (Mutiny on the Bounty) directed only one movie and it was thirty years ahead of its time. This Southern Gothic melodrama baffled audiences and critics alike with bravura camera moves, Expressionistic sets and a fairy-tale playfulness that predicts the murky ego of David Lynch and shadowed id of Tim Burton. Best of all, he found a kindred spirit (and drinking buddy) in Mitchum, casting him as the murderous Reverend Harry Powell, an ex-con with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his knuckles who, in pursuit of a stash of stolen cash, stalks a clueless widow (Winters) and then moves in on her kids. Mitchum balances feral ferocity with instinctive charisma, laying a path for Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet and Heath Ledger in Dark Knight. The movie failed commercially, and Laughton never directed again. Our loss. But watch this and imagine what he and Mitch could have done next.