1955’s The Night of the Hunter was the first and sadly last film to be directed by famed theatre and screen actor Charles Laughton. Though panned by audiences and critics on its theatrical release, the film has grown in statue over the years and is now widely regarded as a great work. Featuring expressionistic touches and unsettling themes, the film stands apart from the safer, noir tinted thrillers of its day. The plot features a villain so wicked that he scared me, an adult used to modern horror, nearly sixty years after he first appeared.
Robert Mitchum plays Reverend Harry Powell; a preacher turned serial killer who learns of a hidden fortune. While in prison on a minor charge, Powell shares a cell with Ben Harper (Peter Graves), a man serving a long sentence for robbery and murder. Before his arrest, Harper was able to hide his loot of $10,000, telling his children but no one else where the money was. Powell is able to track down the fatherless family and attempts to get the secret from the children while hiding his intent behind his squeaky clean, ministerial front.