Fort Augustus
Night of the Hunter

Charles Laughton, USA, 1955, 92 mins, Cert 12

Screening at: Dores, Tue 4th August, 9pm   |   Nairn, Sat 8th August 7:30pm

Still from the movieIt’s a starry Night in the American deep south in the 1930s. The stars are out. A little girl. Pearl, and her brother, John, are in a boat, drifting on a river. They’ve just been chased by an Old Testament preacher, but have escaped to the fairy tale tranquility of the gliding boat. Pearl sings “Once upon a time there was a pretty fly.” Spiders, a frog and two rabbits watch from the river bank.

It’s scenes like this that makes Charles Laughton’s film the greatest haunted lullaby in American cinema. Robert Mitchum plays the murderous preacher. Shelly Winters, the kids mother, will come to cinema’s most poetic demise. At times the movie looks like a Victorian silhouette cutting. Throughout, it feels like an impossible collaboration between David Lynch and silent master director DW Griffith. It was shot by brilliant, notoriously slow, Stanley Cortez, who filmed Orson Welles’ Magnificent Ambersons. A famous French film magazine voted it the second most beautiful film ever made.

Night of the Hunter was a flop and a critical failure, which robbed us of the future films of Charles Laughton, but its influence can be seen in the work of the Coen brothers, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese and David Lynch. It is a denunciation of Old Testament fundamentalism, and a masterpiece about “Such times when young’uns run the roads”. It makes us want to run the roads, and so we do…

The film was originally given an X certificate in the UK, but is now Cert 12.

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