The Night of the Hunter
Dir.: Charles Laughton | USA 1955 | 93 min
The relatively unknown actor Charles Laughton directed only this one film, but it has achieved a cult status. A sombre and expressionistic thriller in the 'Southern Gothic' tradition, but set around the muddy banks of the Ohio river in West Virginia. Two small children are visited by a psychotic priest, who is convinced that they know where their father hid the spoils from a robbery before he was executed in prison. The brother and sister escape up along the river with death at their heels, until they think they have found refuge with a nice old lady (played by the silent film star Lillian Gish). But in the shadows outside, the unknown still looms. 'Night of the Hunter' is a strange and inscrutable film, which has fascinated directors from David Lynch to the Coen brothers during their formative years. Robert Mitchum is terrifying in the role of the priest, who has the words 'Love' and 'Hate' respectively tattooed on his knuckles. With its unique and inventive mix of psychological thriller, expressionism and adventure, Charles Laughton's only film as a director stands out in a film-historical context, and 'Night of the Hunter' is therefore a typical example of how paternalist film censorship in the name of moralism prevented Danish audiences from seeing great film art. A similar fate had previously befallen better known Hollywood classics such as 'Scarface' (1932), 'The Big Sleep' (1946) and 'White Heat' (1949). It took four whole years, before the film made it past the censors in 1959, and made it to the Danish cinema screens.